Essential oils for stress relief

LavenderEssential oils have long been used for aromatherapy, and evidence for their usefulness for all kinds of health conditions continues to mount up. Not only can they make the room smell great and create a beautiful addition to massage oils, but they can help to treat stress, insomnia, sore and aching joints, lift the spirit or help calm an overactive mind after a difficult day.

The applications of essential oils are evident particularly when examining the widespread overuse of sedatives, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Essential oils have a ‘tonic’ effect; that is, they can either be calming or stimulating, depending on what the body and mind require to restore balance.

Listed below are some of the great oils that can be used to reduce stress, restore clarity and calm an anxious mind.

Bergamot – (Citrus bergamia)

Bergamot has calming effects. It can be applied topically or diffused. It can also be applied as a deodorant or added to food and water as a supplement. It enhances, modifies and equalises.
Safety data: May cause photosensitivity when applied to the skin

Cedarwood – (Cedrus atlantica)

Known for its calming properties, cedarwood has been found in clinical tests to be of benefit to children suffering ADD and ADHD. Native Americans used cedarwood to communicate with spirit. Cedarwood stimulates the limbic region of the brain (centre of emotions) and the pineal gland, which releases melatonin (melatonin plays an important role in establishing sleep cycles). Can be diffused or applied topically. The best place for application is on the skin just below the skull, on the back of the neck.
Safety data: Use with caution during pregnancy.

Frankincense – (Boswellia carterii or Boswellia Sacra)

Frankincense is rich in sesquiterpenes, which are molecules that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. This enables this precious oil to carry much-needed oxygen into the brain, as well as stimulating the limbic area of the brain, which includes the hypothalamus, pineal and pituitary glands.

Lavender – (Lavendula angustifolia)

Lavender is regarded as the ultimate adaptogen essential oil as it can balance any personality. Several studies have been undertaken to examine the effects of inhaling Lavender essential oil. One in particular discovered that Lavender oil was found to reduce job-related stress levels quite significantly. [1] Lavender is very useful for the treatment of headaches and migraines.

Marjoram – (Origanum majorana)

In folklore, Marjoram was known as the “herb of happiness” to the ancient Romans and the “joy of the mountains” to the Greeks. A muscle relaxant, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory, it has properties that promote sleep.  It is also useful for migraine headaches. This oil is best diffused.
Safety data: Avoid during pregnancy.

Rosemary – (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is a fantastic oil for lifting the spirits, promoting concentration and improving mental clarity. As an inhalant, it can help to clear the respiratory tract, improve circulation and has an affinity for the liver and gallbladder. Rosemary has cleansing, clearing and renewing properties.                                                                                                                Safety data: Avoid during pregnancy. Skin sensitivity may be present.

Sandalwood – (Santalum album)

Sandalwood is used as an aid in yoga and meditation and in many cultures, it is regarded as a sacred oil. Like a number of other oils it has an effect on the brain’s limbic systems. It works well to balance both the emotions and the immune system. May be applied topically or diffused.
Safety data: To be used with caution during pregnancy.

Adulteration of essential oils

It ‘s becoming increasingly common these days for essential oils to be combined with other less expensive oils that smell very similar. This has the effect of modifying the oil so it is without its full therapeutic benefit. This is known as “adulteration”. Beware of cheaper essential oils for this reason.

Essential oils are a natural way to relieve stress and create a more positive state of mind. They can create a welcoming, comforting environment when used in a diffuser, particularly after a long hard day. Conversely, they can also be used to stimulate and energise the energy in the home or office. However you choose to use them, essential oils can be a fantastic addition to your lifestyle!

Source:  Zappia, A. 15 Essential Oils For Stress Relief. 01.05.13


[1]Chen, M.C et al. The effects of relieving symptoms related to job related stress among nurses. Int J Nurs Pract. 2013 Nov 15

Photo credit: scott mills. / Foter / CC BY