I. What You Need to Know about Anxiety and Essential Oils
Calming anxiety and lifting mood is probably the most common application of essential oils. In fact, it’s what most people think that aromatherapy is all about.
There’s good reason for this. Essential oils and fragrances have long been known to relax and uplift. Much of this probably has to do with the direct effect that essential oils have on the limbic system, or the emotional part of the brain.
Modern science is finding out that there are also many physical components that are associated with anxiety and depression. In particular, the inability to effectively clear certain hormones such as cortisol from the body, or insufficient neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, might play a part in making us feel nervous, overwrought, or hopeless.
I believe that some essential oils also have a direct effect on these biological processes. Unfortunately, due to the focus that medical research has on pharmaceuticals instead of alternative medicine, it might be a while before such connections can be scientifically proven or explained. Nonetheless, thanks to thousands of testimonials already, it’s apparent that essential oils do work to ease anxiety and depression.
There’s one important thing I want to mention before we jump into the heart of this book. Anxiety and depression are often connected with a feeling of lack of control. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and negative emotions can often create problems even where there were no problems initially.
On the other hand, when people regain even a small feeling of control over their emotions and their life, their anxiety and depression often become much less intense.
By researching essential oils as a way of helping with your anxiety and depression, you are taking a step towards regaining control of your life. This very act will probably give you a positive and optimistic outlook for a while.
What I want to emphasize is that this attitude of proactively working to solve your problems is just as important as the effect that essential oils will have on your mind and body.
Don’t get disappointed if the first essential oil you try doesn’t seem to have much effect on your mood, and don’t conclude that you are beyond help or that this is another magic pill that didn’t work.
Instead, take the attitude that you will change your approach a bit and try again, because you are determined in making your life better. Over time, you will find that this is coming true.
Now, let’s get started.
II. Best Essential Oils for Overcoming Anxiety and Depression
Bergamot, or Citrus bergamia, is a citrus tree grown in Italy, France, and Turkey. It has long been used in perfumes, as well as for flavoring – it is actually the key ingredient used to flavor Earl Grey tea. The essential oil is extracted from the rind of the fruit by cold pressing.
Bergamot essential oil has been a key oil for treating depression, improving mood, and creating a relaxed and happy feeling. It also offers pain relief. In addition, it is useful in treating various infections and skin conditions.
Bergamot essential oil can be very photosensitizing, so do not use it on your skin if you will be exposed to sunlight in the next several hours. The FDA classifies bergamot essential oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic. Aromatherapy, bergamot essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
Petitgrain is one of several essential oils that are extracted from the bitter orange tree, or Citrus aurantium. Petitgrain is steam distilled from the stems of the flowers of the plant. It has long been popular in perfumes, and is often used as a less expensive substitute for neroli essential oil.
Petitgrain essential oil can calm anxieties and prevent insomnia. It relieves fatigue, tension, and nervousness. In addition, it can help in overcoming addictions and compulsions. Finally, it is also used for clearing greasy skin and preventing acne.
Unlike most other citrus oils, petitgrain is not considered photosensitizing, so you can use it on your skin even if you plan to go outside into the sunshine. The FDA classifies petitgrain as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, petitgrain essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
Geranium is a name applied to two distinct families of flowers, but the species used for the essential oil is Pelargonium graveolens. Geranium essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves of the plant.
Geranium essential oil helps balance the adrenal cortex, which is responsible for the hormones that are secreted during times of stress. Geranium oil is also a relaxant, and helps rid the body of toxins. In addition, it is used to treat a range of skin conditions.
The FDA classifies geranium essential oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, geranium essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
Like petitgrain, neroli is another essential oil produced from the bitter orange, or Citrus aurantium. Neroli is water or steam distilled from the blossoms of the tree. Due to the large amounts of blossoms that are required to produce even small amounts of the essential oil. neroli is very expensive. Nonetheless, it has long been one of the most widely used essential oils in perfumery.
Neroli relieves tension and anxiety, and has a soothing effect on the nervous system. It acts as a natural tranquilizer, and can be used to induce sleep in cases of insomnia. In addition, neroli helps heal scars on the skin.
Neroli essential oil should not be exposed to light since this will quickly reduce its therapeutic effects. Also, make sure you are buying neroli from a reputable producer, as it is rumored that neroli essential oil is often diluted with less expensive oils or other substances. The FDA classifies neroli as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, neroli should be safe to use during pregnancy.
05. Ylang Ylang
Ylang ylang, or Cananga odorata, is a tropical tree originally found in the Philippines. Ylang ylang essential oil, extracted by steam distillation from the flowers of the tree, has long been used as a key ingredient in the perfume industry, including being a part of such iconic perfumes as Chanel No. 5.
Ylang ylang essential oil has been used in aromatherapy for its antidepressant and calming properties. Like lavender, ylang ylang is useful for reducing stress. It has been used to relieve high blood pressure, and has long served as an aphrodisiac as well. Finally, it reduces oiliness of the skin, and it is believed to also promotes hair growth.
The FDA classifies ylang ylang essential oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, ylang ylang essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
06. Clary Sage
Clary sage, or Salvia sclarea, is a biennial shrub native to the northern Mediterranean. It has a long history both as a fragrance and for its medicinal properties. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and the flowers of the plant.
Clary sage essential oil primarily has calming and sedating influences. It is useful in alleviating pains and stress, as well as reducing anxiety and fear.
The FDA classifies clary sage essential oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, clary sage essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy; however, other sources say it should be avoided. Furthermore, due to its sedating effects, it should not be used while drinking alcohol or while driving.
Basil, or Ocimum basilicum, is a culinary herb originally native to India, but spread throughout the world for a long time. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and the flowering tops of the basil plant.
Basil essential oil has calming and uplifting effects. It is useful against headaches, and as a muscle relaxant. Basil essential oil is also used for weight loss, as it can control appetite through inhalation.
The FDA classifies basil essential oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, basil essential oil should not be used during pregnancy.
Sandalwood, or Santalum album, is a small tropical tree, originally native to India, but now cultivated in several other regions as well. It has long been prized for both its fragrance and its medicinal properties. Sandalwood essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the heartwood (the center of the trunk of the tree).
Sandalwood essential oil reduces tension, confusion, stress, and depression. It is also used for treating chest infections, and helps with calming irritated or inflamed skin.
The FDA does not classify sandalwood as GRAS, and it should not be ingested. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, sandalwood essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
Jasmine is a family of shrubs and vines that have been cultivated worldwide for their pleasant aroma. The species used for essential oils is Jcisminum officinale or Jasminum grandiflorum. Jasmine oil is extracted from the flowers of the plant by solvents rather than by distillation. This means that jasmine oil is really a different kind of substance, called an absolute. Nonetheless, it is often marketed and used as an essential oil.
Jasmine oil has calming effects and helps migraines. It has been used to help treat depression and restore confidence. In addition, it is helpful in curing a range of skin conditions.
Some people might be allergic to jasmine oil. Before you use the oil topically, make sure you test out a small amount with a skin patch test. The FDA classifies jasmine oil as GRAS. However, due to the likelihood of trace amounts of solvents being left over in the oil, I would advise you not to ingest it. Jasmine oil should not be used during pregnancy.
Rose oil is extracted from various species of rose, most commonly Rosa Damascena. It is probably the most popular oil used in perfumes.
Because it is very expensive to produce, there are several variants, based on the method of production. Rose essential oil is obtained by steam distillation, it is more expensive but also more suitable for therapeutic purposes. Rose absolute is obtained by solvent extraction. It is less expensive, and may be suitable for diffusion.
Rose oil has sedative and aphrodisiac effects. It fights depression, sadness, and fear. It is also one of the best oils to use on the skin, and can help with a range of skin conditions.
The FDA has classified rose oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, rose oil should be safe to use during pregnancy; however, other sources say it is best to avoid it if you are pregnant.
11. Roman Chamomile
Chamomile is a family of daisy-like flowers, found worldwide. There are two main varieties used for essential oils: Roman chamomile and German chamomile. For dealing with anxiety and depression, it is Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), also known as English or garden chamomile, that is most frequently used. The essential oil is extracted from the flowers of Roman chamomile.
Chamomile soothes pains and calms the nervous system. It also helps with menstrual problems, and has analgesic and anti-allergic properties.
Chamomile is generally safe to use undiluted on skin. The FDA has certified it as GRAS, so it should be safe ingest. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, Roman chamomile is not safe to ingest during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as it may cause miscarriages. Not enough is known about safety during pregnancy if used topically, but it seems reasonable to stay away from Roman chamomile altogether if you are pregnant.
The sweet orange, or Citrus sinensis, is a citrus tree cultivated all over the world. It is a different species of orange than is used for neroli and petitgrain essential oils, which are made from the bitter orange. Sweet orange essential oil is produced by cold pressing the rind of the orange fruit.
Orange essential oil is a tonic for the nervous system. It has been used to relieve depression and anxiety in different environments, as well as to reduce dependence on anti-depressant drugs. It is particularly good for the skin, and can reduce wrinkles. It is also a diuretic and helps the body get rid of excess water weight.
Orange essential oil is photosensitizing, so you should not use it on your skin if you will be exposed to sunlight in the next several hours. The FDA classifies orange essential oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, orange essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
Lavender is a family of shrubs that can be found throughout Europe, and particularly in the Mediterranean. Lavender essential oil is extracted from the flowering tops of the Lavandula angustifolia variety of the plant by steam distillation. Today, the largest producers of lavender used for essential oils are France and Bulgaria.
Lavender is probably the most popular essential oil, and there are literally hundreds of uses for it. It soothes nerves and muscle pains. Also, due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, it is useful in healing cuts, burns, and skin irritations, as well as fighting other skin problems such as acne and bug bites.
Lavender oil is one of the few oils that can be used undiluted on the skin. As always, I recommend you test a small amount first to see how your own body reacts. The FDA has classified lavender oil as GRAS. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy states that lavender oil is safe to use during pregnancy.
Grapefruit, or Citrus Paradisi, is a sub-tropical tree bearing the familiar fruits found in every supermarket. The tree is actually a hybrid of two related plants, the shaddock and the sweet orange, first bred together in the 18th century in Barbados.
Grapefruit essential oil is extracted from the peel of the fruit using cold pressing. It has an uplifting effect on mood, and it is useful in boosting the immune system. It is often used in massage oils to combat cellulite, and it is believed to increase metabolism and aid in fat burning.
Unlike many other citrus essential oils, grapefruit essential oil does not generally cause sensitivity to light, though it might irritate your skin if you use it in larger quantities before exposing the area to bright sunlight. The FDA has classified grapefruit essential oil as GRAS, so it should be safe to ingest. Also, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, grapefruit essential oil is safe to use during pregnancy.
Please be aware that some prescription drugs are not to be used while consuming grapefruit in any form – check this with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Frankincense comes from the resin of a family of trees native to the Middle East. The bark of the tree is slashed, and the resin that seeps out hardens to form solid drops called tears, which are processed to produce the essential oil. The species of tree used for producing frankincense essential oil is Boswellia carteri.
Frankincense has had medical and religious significance for thousands of years. It has antidepressant properties, and it has been used to soothe skin conditions such as acne, cuts, inflammations, and burns.
Frankincense essential oil can be applied undiluted in most cases, though it is common to make a blend using a carrier oil. The FDA does not categorize frankincense as GRAS, so you should not ingest the oil. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, frankincense essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
The lemon tree (Citrus Union) was originally native to India, but it has long spread all across the world, and is used in cooking, flavoring, as well as a range of cleaning products. Unlike the majority of essential oils, lemon essential oil is extracted by cold pressing the peel of the lemon fruit. Today, Italy is one of the main sources for lemons used for essential oils.
Lemon essential oil has strong antioxidant and antiseptic properties. It has been found to improve mood and concentration, as well as to cut down acidity in the body. Lemon oil helps clear greasy skin and hair, as well ease cold sores, irritated skin, and insect bites. Like grapefruit essential oil, is also used as a diuretic and is helpful in reducing appetite.
You should dilute lemon oil in a carrier oil before you use it topically in order to avoid irritating your skin. In addition, lemon oil may cause light sensitivity in the areas where it has been applied topically, so do not use it before being exposed to sunlight. The FDA rates lemon oil as GRAS, and according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, lemon oil should be safe to use during pregnancy.
17. Sweet Marjoram
Sweet marjoram is an herb in the oregano family. Its scientific name is Origanum majorana, though it is also known as Majorana hortensis. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and the flowers of the plant.
Sweet marjoram essential oil calms emotions and is known to boost circulation. It also acts as a muscle relaxant and pain killer. Because of this, sweet marjoram essential oil is often used for treating migraines, headaches, and insomnia.
The FDA classifies sweet marjoram essential oil as GRAS. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, sweet marjoram essential oil should be safe to use during pregnancy; however, other sources say it should be avoided.
Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, is a perennial shrub originally native to the Mediterranean region. Rosemary essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the fresh flowering tops of the rosemary plant.
Rosemary essential oil stimulates the brain, improving memory and mental clarity. It helps with headaches and migraines and has a range of other uses, from reducing acne and eczema to improving respiratory problems.
According to the FDA, rosemary essential oil is GRAS. I haven’t been able to find reliable information on whether it is safe to use rosemary essential oil during pregnancy, so my recommendation is to stay away from it in case you are pregnant.
Patchouli, or Pogostemon cablin, is a member of the mint family that was originally native to tropical regions of Asia. It has long been used as an incense, but it also has therapeutic properties. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves of the plant.
Patchouli essential oil is great for fighting depression and anxiety. It is calming and grounding, and removes feelings of lethargy. In addition, it is useful for a range of skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis.
Unlike most essential oils, patchouli matures well with age, and if you do not like its aroma initially, you might find that it grows on you as time passes. The FDA does not classify patchouli essential oil as GRAS, so it should not be ingested. I have not been able to find any definitive information whether patchouli essential oil is safe to use during pregnancy, so I recommend that you stay away from it during this important time.