Essential oils are everywhere these days. In recent years, a friend might have raved about how they’ve changed her life or a co-worker might have added you to her private Facebook group of oil enthusiasts.
But essential oils are nothing new: These plant extracts have been used for ages, used in alternative and folk medicine to treat skin conditions, improve hair quality, and even address digestive and other health concerns. They have also been used for aromatherapy as mood-enhancing scents that can calm you or energize you, depending on the scent and your needs.
Essential Oil Basics
Essential oils come from plants, extracted through a process called distillation, which lets the oils retain the properties of the plant source, right down to the scent. The highly concentrated oils are very potent and can thus cause irritation when used in large quantities, so it’s recommended that essential oils be blended with carrier oils (like coconut oil and olive oil) when used on the skin or hair.
How to Use Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety
Scientific studies and anecdotal evidence have demonstrated the promising effects of essential oils for stress and anxiety. When you inhale the scents, the particles go to your brain—which regulates things like your heart rate and blood pressure—and your lungs, which are connected to your bloodstream and endocrine system, which regulate the hormones and your stress response.
You can get these mood-enhancing effects in a number of ways:
If you’re at home, you can place them in a diffuser, scent your pillows, make a room spray by mixing a few drops with water, or add it to a relaxing bath. You can also mix them with a carrier oil to make a massage oil.
If you’re on the go, you can dab a drop or two onto your fingertips and rub onto your temples or the area between your eyebrows. You can also rub them into your palms, cup your nose with your scented hands, and breathe. Remember that a little goes a long way—if your skin is extra sensitive, it’s best to mix essential oils with a carrier oil, even if you’re just using a drop or two.
Your Go-to Essential Oils to Life Mood
Some of the best essential oils to lift mood are:
Lavender. The thought of being transported to the lavender fields of France can be relaxing enough, but according to a study, the scent of lavender has been found to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, and also changed brain waves to a more relaxing state. Other studies have found that lavender is linked to better sleep quality and reduced anxiety. A small study in 2005 found that lavender improved sleep quality in the participants.
Bergamot. Citrus-scented bergamot has been linked to reduced anxiety and stress effects, according to a review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology. Just make sure you avoid it within 12 hours of sun exposure; as bergamot is photosynthesizing, it can increase the risk of sun damage.
Ylang Ylang. This sweet floral essential oil has been linked to a lower heart rate and blood pressure and is said to have mood-boosting effects.
Clary sage. In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, women undergoing urodynamic assessment were found to be more relaxed with the use of clary sage oil.
Jasmine. Instead of popping a pill to calm down or get some sleep, go natural: Research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that jasmine can soothe, relieve anxiety, and promote sleep with the same efficacy as a sleeping pill or mood enhancer.
Valerian. This plant has been used as a sleep aid for centuries.
Sandalwood. Sandalwood can have different effects on different people: For some it can be a sedative that reduces anxiety, while for others, it can increase alertness. Give it a try and see how your body reacts, and from there you can determine whether you can use it when you need more sleep or more energy.
Visit Healthy Options to find a range of mood-enhancing essential oils. It’s important to note that if you’re suffering from depression, you should see a professional and only use essential oils to enhance proper treatment.