Essential oils have been around for centuries, dating back as far as Biblical days when Jesus was anointed with frankincense and myrrh upon his birth. They’ve been utilized since ancient times in various cultures, including China, Egypt, India and Southern Europe.
Some essential oils have even been applied to the dead as part of the embalming process. We know this because residues have been found in tombs dating over 2,000 years old! Essential oils are also prevalent in aromatherapy, which was advanced by French surgeon Jean Valnet, who learned that essential oils could help treat soldiers during World War II — a time when medications were scarce.
The beauty of essential oils is that they are natural, extracted from flowers, leaves, bark or roots of plants. While it’s best to make sure you use pure essential oils, meaning oils that have not been diluted with chemicals or additives, they can provide much needed relief and healing for a variety of ailments, including as a natural remedy for anxiety.
Top Essential Oils for Anxiety
Anxiety is a tough battle to face day in and day out, which makes having a natural solution, such as an essential oil blend, important.
In a recent 2014 study by the American College of Healthcare Sciences, 58 hospice patients were given hand massages once a day for one week with an essential oil blend in 1.5 percent dilution with fractionated Coconut oil. The essential oil blend consisted of these essential oils in equal ratios of bergamot, frankincense and lavender. All patients who received the aromatherapy hand massage reported less pain and depression, concluding that aromatherapy massage with this essential oil blend is more effective for pain and depression management than massage alone.
Here are some of the best essentials oils for anxiety:
1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Considered the most common essential oil, lavender oil benefits include having a calming, relaxing effect. It’s considered a nervous system restorative and helps with inner peace, sleep, restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous stomach and general nervous tension.
“The Handbook of Essential Oils: Science, Technology, and Applications, Second Edition” states that there have been a number of clinical trials involving the inhalation of lavender essential oil that indicate a reduction in stress and anxiety. One study using oral lavender essential oil via capsules found that heart rate variation significantly increased compared to the placebo while watching an anxiety-provoking film. This suggested that lavender had anxiolytic effects.
Further research demonstrates lavender’s ability to lower anxiety in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery and in people visiting the dentist.
2. Rose (Rosa damascena)
One of the benefits of rose essential oil is it’s very settling to the emotional heart and perhaps the second most popular after lavender for relieving anxiety and depression, helping with panic attacks, grieving and shock. In study of women who were pregnant for the first time published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, one group of women was received a 10-minute inhalation and footbath with oil rose, another group received a 10-minute warm-water footbath, and they were compared to a control group. The findings showed “aromatherapy and footbath reduces anxiety in active phase in nulliparous women.”
3. Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides)
Vetiver oil has a tranquil, grounding and reassuring energy, often used in trauma helping with self-awareness, calmness and stabilization. A nervous system tonic, it decreases jitteriness and hypersensitivity and is also useful in panic attacks and shock. A study published in Natural Product Research examining the anxiety-like behavior in rats concluded that vetiver oil may be useful in lowering anxiety effects, though more research is needed to confirm this finding.
4. Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
This popular essential oil can treat anxiety and depression due to its calming and uplifting effects. Ylang ylang helps with cheerfulness, courage, optimism and soothes fearfulness. It may calm heart agitation and nervous palpitations and is a moderately strong sedative, which can help with insomnia.
In a 2006 study conducted by Geochang Provincial College in Korea, using ylang ylang oil, along with bergamot and lavender oils, once a day for four weeks reduced “psychological stress responses and serum cortisol levels, as well as the blood pressure of clients with essential hypertension.”
Be careful when using ylang ylang, as it can be sensitizing or irritating to the skin; avoid using in conditions of low blood pressure.
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