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Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety

Using essential oils for stress and anxiety matters because as they influence your limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for regulating mood, memory, and behavior also affects your entire body.

Several ways essential oils quiet and soothe thoughts and emotions while uplifting and improving self-awareness and attention:

1. Essential oils can help calm anxiety, stress, and nervousness by inducing relaxation and promoting a sense of well-being. Some of the best essential oils for anxiety are:

  • lavender: there are a couple problems with Lavender: 1) which lavender are we talking about? There are a number of variables that alter the chemistry.. some of which can trigger seizures in those prone to them with long term use. And 2) again depending on the variety, lavender is estrogenic and prolongs the activation of the stress response with long term use even though it’s initially calming. Not the best recommendation for stress or anxiety

  • roman chamomile: there are several types of chamomile; roman, moroccan, german and cape, with the chemistry of each one being very unique. Roman chamomile influences the production of GABA which promotes self soothing as well as oxytocin, needed for emotional and physical reactions to stress. Because of the systemic effects of this chamomile, it assists with the full metabolism of estrogen, a large factor in anxiety. Safe to use with medications.

  • ylang ylang complete: there are 4 varieties of ylang with ylang 1, 2 or 3 being derivatives and ylang ylang complete being a fully intact oil. The chemistry of this oil has a strong anti-inflammatory influence on the hormonal system and must be used cautiously when combined with high blood pressure medications. It also supports the endocannabinoid system as well as being very neuroprotective. Helps to override the effects of stress on the corpus callosum, improving communication between the hemispheres.

  • sandalwood mysore: improves the brain and body’s use of estrogen making it unsafe to use with certain estrogen blocking medications and at the same time very calming, improving the use of estrogen as a neuroprotective hormones as well as the production of melatonin, another anti-inflammatory brain chemical.

2. Essential oils can help balance depression, sadness, and grief by uplifting the mood and stimulating the production of serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters responsible for feeling good. Some of the best essential oils for feeling low include:

  • bergamot: supports the Krebs cycle and the assimilation of fats and sugars for cellular energy and brain health. Do not combine with SSRI or SNRI antidepressant medications like Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Prozac, Cymbalta, Pristiq, Effexor

  • clary sage: supports the use of dopamine as an anti-inflammatory neurotransmitter. Every neurochemical is both inflammatory as well as anti-inflammatory … it just depends on whether or not the brain is signaling fight or flight OR rest and digest. Do not combine with Wellbutrin

  • petitgrain: promotes the use of serotonin and not recommended when an SSRI or SNRI antidepressant medication is being taken or if you are prone to migraines or IBS

  • neroli: from the same plant as petitgrain, just from the flower and is highly recommended for use at bedtime. It not only promotes the use of serotonin it deepens the sleep cycle by prolonging the delta waves. Do not combine with an SSRI, SNRI or CNS depressant.


3. Essential oils can help enhance focus, concentration, and memory by stimulating the brain and improving cognitive function. Some of the best essential oils for focus are:

  • peppermint: not recommended for children under the age of 3, with cardiac fibrillation, G6PD deficiency, cigarette smoking due to its ability to increase lung tissue permeability (to name a few). I don’t encourage it’s use at all in people with respiratory problems or highly susceptible respiratory infections. One additional concern: it supports the body’s production of interleukin 6 meaning excessive use sets a body up for inflammation making it a poor choice with autoimmune disorders

  • rosemary verbenone: a gentler choice for all ages that promotes the production of anti-inflammatory hormones, helping to clear brain fog and nasal congestion which is frequently due to systemic candida (click here to register for the ‘office hours’ Q&A on candida)

  • basil linalool: linalool is a constituent found in a number of oils and has proven to provide neuroprotective benefits. When found in basil, the synergy also improves the oxygen supply to the brain, helping with focus and memory. There are several types of basil essential oils. You want the one with the highest concentration of linalool.

  • vetiver: helps regulate memory and emotions, making it easier to think, focus and remember without emotional dysregulation

4. Essential oils can help increase self-awareness, intuition, and creativity by activating the pineal gland and opening the third eye chakra. Some of the best essential oils for self-awareness include:

  • cedarwood atlas or texas: regulates vagus nerve activity prolonging the rest and digest state, harmonizing the system promoting a clearer mind

  • frankincense: supports visual cortex processes

  • sandalwood: enhances the function of the pineal gland

  • marjoram sweet: promotes communication between the left and right hemispheres, heightens mental clarity and is neuroprotective

The best way to use essential oils for slowing down thoughts and emotions is to inhale them as discussed in a recent Zoom workshop (email me for the link) either directly from the bottle or by placing a drop or two under your nose. Diffusing them is mildly helpful but not nearly as impactful as having them up close and personal. Your sense of smell is the only sense directly linked to your brain and has the ability to improve your healing ability when integrated with other modalities. Make sure to use high-quality essential oils from reputable sources and contact me if you’d like a downloadable copy my safety precautions and dilution guidelines


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