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Essential Oils for Stress

January 04, 2018

Essential oils are some of the most interesting tools in the natural health world. They are potent, portable, and very effective. They are so effective that they are now used in hospitals around the world.

I love to use essential oils to help deal with and overcome daily stress. They work fast and are a pleasure to use. I will share with you the top oils for stress as well as how to use them.


How Essential Oils Help Stress

Essential oils contain chemical compounds that have a quick effect on the nervous system and the emotions. They work by calming or sedating the nervous system, uplifting the mood, or by affecting the endocrine system. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of essential oils on stress, anxiety, nervousness, and depression.

You can use an essential oil alone or in a blend for a synergistic effect.

How to Use Essential Oils for Stress

The best way to use essential oils for stress reduction is either through inhalation or dermal application. I would not suggest internal use with essential oils unless you are working with a certified aromatherapist. They are just as effective externally and much safer.

Inhalation with essential oils

essential-oils-sleepThere are a couple of different ways you can use inhalation with essential oils:

  • Diffuser – you can diffuse the essential oils using a diffuser
  • Cotton ball – you can add a couple of drops of the essential oil to a cotton ball and put it in your pocket (careful oils can stain)
  • Aromastick – these inhalation sticks are great for using anywhere at anytime. They keep your aromatherapy session private as others will not be able to smell your oils. Perfect for a plane or the workplace.

Dermal application with essential oils

Basically a fancy way of saying putting essential oils on your skin. Here are the various ways:

  • Roller ball stick –  using a roller ball stick is a quick and easy way to use essential oils on the go. Just roll on to the various acupressure points of the body and you are ready to go.
  • Massage oil – you can add essential oils to a massage oil such as grapeseed, almond or my favorite, jojoba oil. You then apply this to various areas of the body. I like to use acupressure points to apply essential oils for rapid results.
  • Lotion – lotion is a nice way to apply essential oils that you want to absorb quickly.
  • Bath salts –  adding your essential oils to salts and pouring them into a bath is a very relaxing way to have an aromatherapy treatment.

Ideas for Getting Started Using Essential Oils for Stress

There are many ways you can begin to incorporate essential oils into your day to help reduce stress. Here are a few of my favorites that I use frequently…

  1. Diffuse essential oils into the room. I love diffusers and have one in almost every room in my house on a timer. In my bedroom I have two. One for waking up that turns on 10 minutes before wake-up time and another that runs 15 minutes before my bedtime. They automatically turn on and off. All I have to do is fill them once or twice a week. You could use a diffuser in many ways for stress. Diffuse at the beginning of your day as you are getting ready or try putting one in your office. Also, coming home to a home filled with essential oils is a wonderful way to decompress from the day.
  2. Use an essential oil roller. Rollers are one of the easiest ways to use essential oils on the go. You just take the lid off of the bottle and roll the diluted essential oil blend onto your body. I like to use the roller directly on specific acupressure points for stress for increased benefit.
  3. Personal inhaler. I like this method for acute situations. It is a plastic tube filled with an essential oil blend that you stick in your nose and inhale. This allows you to get a therapeutic dose of the essential oils without everyone having to smell the essential oils themselves. Perfect for the plane or your workplace. Just make sure to not share your personal inhaler since it has been up your nose!
  4. Essential Oil Bath SaltsEssential oil bath. Add some of your essential oils to salts (I like Himalayan pink salt) and add them to your hot bath before you get in. This is a wonderful way to destress and let the day melt off of you. You only need to add 5-10 drops of essential oil to the salts.
  5. Essential oil Body Rub. Rub diluted essential oils onto your feet or body. This is a great way to start or end the day. I like to use an uplifting or stress reducing blend at the start of the day and a sleeping blend on my feet at night as part of my evening ritual.

Essential Oil Quality & Safety

I am so so glad that essential oils are becoming more and more popular but along with this popularity there is a lot of miss-information on the safety and quality of essential oils. As an aromatherapist I want to make sure you are using the highest quality essential oils and using them properly. That is the only way you will be getting the results you seek.

Essential Oil SafetyEssential oils that have been adulterated will not have a therapeutic effect, no matter how good they smell. If you want to learn more about essential oil quality and safety you can read my article about it here, but for a quick learn you want to make sure you are using 100% pure essential oils. The only way to know if the oils you are using are 100% pure is through gas chromatography analysis. All of the essential oils I use in my blends have been analyzed for purity and the levels of active compounds. Ask your oil provider if they can provide you an analysis.

A quick guide to essential oil safety

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using essential oils on a daily basis:

  • Dilute your essential oils – While some oils can be used neat (directly without dilution), it is best to dilute your essential oils. They are just as effective, will be safer and easier to use as well as lasting longer.
  • Do not take internally – Ingesting essential oils is one way to use them, but it is something that should only be done under the guidance of an aromatherapist or once you have really studied the therapy. Many oils should never be ingested internally as they are highly concentrated.
  • Keep away from children – Make sure to keep all essential oils away from little hands and mouths.
  • If you have an allergic reaction  – Discontinue the use of that oil. Easy peasy. It does not mean you are ‘detoxing’ or that you ‘need the oil’ since you are having a reaction to it. There are many oils to work with, skip any that give you a rash.


Best Oils for Stress

Now to the fun part! Which oils can you use to help reduce stress and smell pretty  This list shares with you the top oils for stress reduction, many have been shown to be very effective through scientific studies.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – This warming oil is beneficial in relieving intellectual fatigue and nervous exhaustion, bringing strength and clarity to the mind. It works quickly to bring relaxation in the moment and assists with digestive issues due to stress.

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – Bergamot is a lively, fresh smelling oil that aids those who are feeling tense, anxious and depressed. Bergamot has been found to be phototoxic so avoid sun exposure after using bergamot on the skin.

Chamomile, Roman (Anthemis nobilis) – Chamomile is a wonderfully sweet and soothing oil to smell. It has a noticeable affect on the nervous system by calming and easing depression. It is very effective for stress, anxiety and insomnia.

Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) – This beautiful plant and flower has a noticeable euphoric action on the body. It can be used to help with anxiety, stress, nervous tension and depression. It works as a tonic for nervous fatigue and mental exhaustion. The scent is loved by most but some may find it too strong.

Frankincense (Boswellia ssp.) – Frankincense has a powerful affect on the mind and spirit the moment it is used. Great for anxiety, stress and nervousness, frankincense brings a spiritual balance to the moment at hand. Used in meditation and prayer, frankincense brings a peace and warm energy to the user. Frankincense also have immunostimulating benefits helping to support the immune system.

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) – Geranium has an uplifting and sedating effect on the nervous system. It can be used to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and tension.

Grapefruit Essential Oil for StressGrapefruit (Citrus paradisi Macf.) – This cooling and uplifting oil is a must go-to for stress, burnout and depression. It is like sunshine in a bottle. Very useful for those who are affected by ‘winter depression’ due to the decrease of light in the winter.

Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) – Hand picked in the early light of the morning, jasmine is one of the most effective oils for the nervous system. Supportive for anxiety, depression and emotional dilemmas. It works quickly to change our mood towards optimism.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – Otherwise known as ‘true lavender’, this is one of those oils that does it all. Lavender is very calming and relaxing AND has a harmonizing effect on the nervous system without being sedative. Wonderful for insomnia, mental stress and anxiety. It is also helpful for migraines and headaches.

Lemon (Citrus limon) – One smell of lemon essential oil and you can’t help but feel better. Lemon oil can lift the spirits and helps one to  overcome mental fatigue and burnout. It can be used to help the brain with decision making in a calming matter.

Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) – Calming and nutritive to the nervous system, Sweet Marjoram can be used to help with stress, anxiety and insomnia.  It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers the sympathetic function. Wonderful for sleep issues caused by stress.

Sweet Melissa (Melissa officinalis) – This sweet sedating oil can be used for overstimulation of the nervous system, stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression. It is also helpful when one is feeling anger.

Neroli (Citrus aurantium) – Neroili is a powerful sedative and antidepressant. Useful for insomnia, anxiety and depression. This oil is one of the most beutiful oils you can smell. Distilled from the flowers of the blooming orange, neroli makes you feel better within minutes of smelling it.

Sweet Orange – Sweet orange is a cheerful oil that helps to life ones spirits. It is also wonderful for sleep and immune system blends for children. Mildly sedative and antidepressant. Wonderful for anxiety, insomnia and nervousness.

Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini) – A calming and uplifting oil, palmasrosa can help to alleviate stress and anxiety. It is also good for the digestive system and has impressive antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Patchouli (Pogostemom cablin) – Wonderful for calming anxiety, alleviating stress and aiding with depression, patchouli is a grounding oil, helping one to feel more centered and in our bodies. Useful for overthinking and feeling spacey.

Rose (Rosa damascena)  Uplifting to the spirit and mind, rose is a wonderful essential oil for stress, anxiety and depression.

Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) – Balancing to the nervous system, rosewood is great for anxiety, stress and feeling overwhelmed. I like to use rosewood to help me feel more grounded when working with others as a healthcare practitioner.

Sandalwood  – Sandalwood is a calming and grounding oil. It has a wonderful smell that brings about a special moment when it is smelled. I like to use sandalwood as a perfume or for meditation.

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoids) – One of my favorite essential oils at the moment, vetiver is relaxing and useful for stress, anxiety, insomnia or depression. One of my go-to oils for emotional burnout and exhaustion. Vetiver is also good to use for grounding and feeling more connected with the earth.

Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) – Ylang ylang is a wonderful oil used in small amounts to overcome anxiety and anger. It is also useful for gaining confidence in those feeling nervous and tense all of the time.


  • Battaglia, Salvatore. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. 2011
  • Buckle, Jane. Clinical Aromatherapy. 2015