Essential Oils for Anxiety

It is thought that around 40 million American people are currently suffering from anxiety. It is one of the most common mental health disorders and affects approximately 30% of us at some point. There can be several causes and risk factors, but high up there is stress, and aromatherapy can be a wonderful support to wellbeing. For International Wellbeing Day, we have done a deep project to look at essential oils for anxiety from as many angles as possible. 

Anxiety can take many forms, and I think that, as a mental condition, it is unusual because we can all imagine, to a certain degree, what it must be like to live with it. Unlike PTSD or depression, which seem intangible if you haven't experienced them, we have all felt anxiety at some point in our lives, even for a few moments.

Anxiety disorders can range from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is intense worrying you feel you can't control, to panic disorder — sudden episodes of fear, trembling, palpitations, shaking, and sweating.

The first thing to say is how sorry I am that you are feeling this way. To be afraid is so debilitating, stealing such color from our lives. I have seen essential oils for anxiety do wonderful things, and I hope you can summon the courage and the resilience to try them. To have the persistence to keep moving forward on the days you suffer setbacks, and that you too fall in love with how empowering and liberating essential oils can be.

What To Expect From These Essential Oils for Anxiety Post

When we assessed other posts about essential oils for anxiety, most simply focused on telling you which oils to use. That is helpful, in its way, but to grasp the beauty of essential oils and to understand the changes you feel happening in your body, it helps to have a grounding in science.

Written and empathetically, this book takes you through the latest discoveries of how aromatherapy can affect neurotransmission. Then, as the chemistry changes, how that feels within your physical, emotional, and mental bodies.

Then, we look at fifteen calming essential oils for anxiety. 

We'll look at how to blend them safely, what other oils blend nicely with them, any safety concerns you might have with each, and even which ones are safe around your pets.

Finally, I have included some very basic essential oils for anxiety recipes to help you on your way.

Know That You Are Not Alone

Even though you might feel isolated, disempowered, and afraid, others know how you feel. They know because they have been there, and many found ways to reach the other side.

Statistically, 19.1% of the US population has an anxiety disorder yearly. That's approximately one in five people. In all probability, even within your close social circle, someone else might feel just like you. If not one of those, 40 million other adults in the US certainly do, also experiencing symptoms of anxiety yearly. According to the World Health Authority, anxiety disorders are the sixth biggest driver of disability.

There are many different types of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common are Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder with or without agoraphobia, and specific phobias.

There is Hope From Medications and Essential Oils for Anxiety

There is good news, though, because anxiety disorders are highly treatable. There are lots that the doctor can do. There are lots of talking and thinking strategies that have proven to be invaluable. Most conditions can be successfully treated with both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.

The first-line medications that are most frequently recommended are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (NRIs). Their popularity can be attributed to the good balance between benefit and risk, but they are well known for sometimes not performing as well as the doctor may have hoped for because they deliver a raft of side effects too. Sadly, perhaps because they are afraid, frustratingly, few people seek help, and less than 37% of those suffering ever receive treatment.

Of course, on the flip side, there are those whose fear crosses over into panic about their health too. People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to visit the doctor, and it is six times more likely that they may be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than someone who does not live with an anxiety disorder. Often anxiety is not a stand-alone condition (and there are many different types of anxiety disorders, of course). Still, it will also manifest with other conditions, such as depression. Who wouldn't feel down if they felt too scared to go out? It's? a cruel and difficult cocktail. At the same time, suicidal thoughts and self-harm are not mental conditions in their own right. Their prevalence is alarming, with one in five people's minds wandering into those territories. 

If your thoughts have become so dark that you are considering harming yourself, please do not rely on essential oils for anxiety alone. You must seek medical support.

Anxiety is Undiscriminating

I'm sure, too, you are probably wondering, "Why me?" and if you are, I can most certainly empathize with that. It must feel so unfair. It's a cruel and complicated cocktail that creates an anxiety disorder, developing from complex risk factors, including brain chemistry, genetics, personality, and life events. In a world where we can put someone on the moon and fly tourists into space, it seems so strange that we understand the mind so poorly. But alas, that fact is true. Luckily, one of the main ways the boffins are researching how the brain reacts to things is through studies using essential oils for anxiety.

The Anatomy of The Nervous System

Fundamentally, anxiety affects a part of the brain we call the limbic system. An extremely ancient part of us, this primordial system processes learning, memory, appetite, emotions, and cognition.

Without making too many spoilers, essential oils for anxiety can be so helpful in taking the edge off mood disorders because olfaction- our sense of smell - is processed through this limbic system. It directly interfaces with the part of our mind that governs our mood.

The key players in anxiety are the Amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VmPFC), and the adrenals. But in truth, anxiety washes right through our physical body - think of how it can disturb our digestion, for example, or put us off sex - and our consciousness. Anxiety can change our very perception of who we are, our identity, personality, and character.

But before we look at the longer-term issues - those psychological changes and physiological effects that the essential oils for anxiety seek to resolve, let's familiarize ourselves with these parts of the brain that are pulling the strings. If we drill down on which essential oils can do what, it will better help you visualize their capabilities. Since we have some scientific data about which essential oils can help various parts of the brain, a small grounding in anatomy and physiology will empower you here.

Let's begin with the autonomic nervous system regulating involuntary physiologic processes. You might think of how you blush when embarrassed; here is a great example of how the mind and body connect. For the most part, the nervous system is that bridge. Actions of the system include heart rate, blood pressure, sexual arousal, digestion, respiration, and digestion.

Three Divisions 

The Sympathetic System

Responsible for fight and flight, it gears up our body to react and respond to stress. Should we face it or get out of its way?

When the sympathetic system kicks into gear, it changes how the body works by proportioning energy to different centers. Anything that is not immediately useful to get you out of the way of the danger is rendered defunct. You may have noticed your skin condition suffering, for example, as the body moves its nutrition and processing power to make glycogen. This chemical makes your muscles work stronger, harder, and faster.

At this point, It's worth doing a mental inventory. Have you noticed any of your other systems needing to be fixed? Sex? Spotty skin? Upset tummy? Essential anxiety oils may help simply by settling the root stress.

Parasympathetic System

A long word for what is the opposite function. Where the sympathetic system switches us up a gear and puts us on high alert for invasion, the parasympathetic stand us down.

It is responsible for rest and restoration and explains what happens essentially when we sleep. Many of the essential oils for anxiety work by ensuring this part of the nervous system can still switch on.

One of my favorite facts is that we have a predominantly parasympathetic tone as babies, but as we age, the sympathetic system takes over. So, when we're tiny, most of the processing goes into helping us grow, assimilate information, and gather strength. Still, as we get older, we start to have issues with blood pressure and an obsession with telling kids to get off the grass.

Older people are crotchety old, so, and so's because nature designed them that way.

Good job, most of them give up work, really, isn't it, or where would the communal temper of the planet be, eh?

Enteric System

If your anxiety manifests in hours sitting on the toilet, this may be the seat of your disturbance. The enteric nervous system meshes digestion and the brain. It's a funny old thing, though, because where most nerves send information back and forth across the body, the enteric system relies on the vagus nerve, which only sends information backward.

In other words, the feedback to the brain is continuous from your belly. Consistently, it transmits information about what it reads about metabolism and a neurotransmitter called serotonin. I'll leave that there for a moment, so we don't get bogged down in neurotransmission, but don't worry, I will return to it later. (To cut to the chase, of all the essential oils for anxiety, chamomile will likely be your best friend here.)

The Stars of The Mind Games


The name of the Amygdala comes from the Greek word for almond and describes the shape of two tiny regions close to the hippocampus. If you look at its location on a map, you can instantly perceive how the Amygdala would closely interact with the smell. From a cognitive point of view, it connects with our perception of fear.

We can take that deeper. It's commonly thought to form the core of a neural system that processes threatening and fearful stimuli. These include the initial detection of threats and the related activation of fear-related behaviors in response. We might think of how our face registers alarm, how our eyes seem to jump out of our heads. The hairs stand on our necks, and our body changes how it processes moisture. We might sweat or, in some cases, lose control of our bowels or bladders.

Sensory Database

This interaction with smell is very useful in using essential oils for anxiety. It's believed that the average person has an internal database of recognition of three million different scents. Some pleasant, others not so much. We might connect these with foods or perfume, but more subtle background smells like pheromones that trigger attraction and may signal fear.

So we can imagine how the mind collates information about our surroundings. Fascinatingly, people who have endured damage to their Amygdala often struggle to read other people's emotional facial expressions, especially fearful ones. So that gives us another layer of understanding of the kinds of information it is picking up.

Think about how the mind registers smoke. We smell it; we can taste it. It makes breathing harder and stings our eyes…all these contribute to the Amygdala sensing danger and signaling the body to prepare for "fight and flight."

Conversely, the brain also remembers that certain essential oils for anxiety- like lavender, for example, are probably related to more relaxed times…afternoons off, weekends, etc.

The Amygdala also Seems to Play a Part in Encoding Memory

Research shows that if a patient undergoes deep brain stimulation of the Amygdala, they can remember things that happened the day before.

We can see how this would happen to someone with PTSD and how people with lovely childhoods remember the entire time as if they played in the sun. Strong emotions fix memories, so fear causes them to get stuck, just as joy makes them seem bigger and more vibrant. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. It trains us to keep doing things that make us feel happy, and we avoid dangerous places and situations.

It's also very helpful how acute its behavior can be. It's fast. Fast. So if a snake were to dart the grass at you, you should be well equipped to jump out of its way at speed.

It's probably not surprising that researchers think that hyperactivity in the Amygdala may have something to do with anxiety. It's certainly only part of the story since many other systems are included, but we can see how this might be a major player.


The hypothalamus is a busy old thing. Controlling the hormonal system, it also monitors and controls: 

    • Body temperature
    • Hunger
    • Thirst
    • Weight
    • Salt and water balance
    • Breast milk production
    • Circadian rhythm, or your sleep-wake cycle
    • Childbirth

Remembering that stress chemicals are hormones…

The hypothalamus instructs the Amygdala about whether it should inform the pituitary gland that you might be in danger. 

If it does, it starts a cascade of hormonal signaling called the HPA axis. 

Like glandular Chinese whispers, the hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland to tell the adrenals what they need to secrete.


The pituitary gland is like the foreman of the hormonal factory, secreting sex hormones, bits and bobs to do with growth, etc. While it doesn't play a huge part in stress signaling, we can see how extra pressure in your life might start to affect stress.

When libido drops or sexual dysfunction rears its ugly head, it is at this point on the HPA axis that we can isolate stress as a possible cause.


The hippocampus has a large role in regulating our stress response, but it is also very prone to being stressed. It becomes "dis-eased" by repeated stressful episodes. (Sala, 2004). In particular, stress impedes the hippocampus's ability to carry out memory-related tasks. (Kim, 2015)


The start of the anxiety and stress show, and where essential oils for anxiety start to do clever things.

The adrenals take instruction from many places but particularly from the HPA axis. They take their direction from when the Amygdala perceives the body may be threatened. If they do, they secrete three main chemicals—adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. You might know it by its medical name, epinephrine. Its job is to increase cardiac output and raise glucose levels in the blood, to be converted to glycogen and feed the muscles to run from saber tooth tigers.

Noradrenaline increases skeletal muscle contractions and how fast and rigorously our heart muscles contract. Again, please think of how it thumps away in your ears when you feel fear and how we relate that to waiting for the parachute to eject.

Cortisol is a bad boy in serious need of some good PR.

We'll tell you the good stuff first because no one ever does that.

In its true form, cortisol is an anti-inflammatory agent.

Think about being chased by that saber-tooth tiger again, and this time imagine you are being slowed down because you have a wound.

You're at the bottom of a tree; you could leap up, but your body wants to allocate energy reserves.

It wants to know "wound healing or muscle power? Muscle power or wound healing?" trying to weigh the pros and cons of each.


Cortisol is an incredibly decisive agent and puts its foot down sharply.

"Enough of this already! I'm going to decide for you." 

It removes the energy the body has been using to create inflammation the body has been using to warn you to be careful around your wound, then reallocates it to make glycogen to fuel you to be able to Spiderman leap into the tree.

Anti-inflammatory…which is fine if the tiger doesn't stay there too long. So, you're grateful when Fred Flintstone comes out from next door, clubs the brute, and you can finally get your feet back on terra firma.

With the threat removed, the sympathetic system's "Fight and Flight" response can switch off, and the body then activates the parasympathetic system to drive "Rest and Restore."

This process has served us well for eons. In fact, in 50,000 BCE, it was a fairly faultless system. Today's threats very rarely come from big-fanged cats. The present-day monsters are deadlines, targets, work hours, commuting, college, kids, money problems, arguments, sexual politics, and games…

Not one problem, but many. All are coming from different directions.

The onslaught never stops.

For most twenty-first-century Western people, stress is relentless. Exhaustion is their default setting. Cortisol secretion never gets switched off, which causes the next problem. Cortisol turns upon its axis and changes from being anti-inflammatory to inflammatory.

It inflames the muscles, joints, and heart, perpetuating chronic pain conditions and coronary illness and keeping those churning sensations of anxiety running through our body.

I want to address just one final bit of brain wizardry before we move on, if only because it's got the coolest name and nobody ever talks about it.  

Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (VmPFC) 

This part of the brain is rarely spoken of in textbooks, but it has a huge bearing on how controlling the Amygdala is at any time.

To make it easier to understand, I'll use the example I always use when training aromatherapists: The tale of my husband and I visiting the zoo.

By now, you may have intuited that you're not the only one prone to worrying. I am a panicker of Olympic proportions with a dash of pessimism stirred in. By contrast, nothing ruffles my husband's feathers, which means that most of his existence borders on exasperation, poor love.

They do say opposites attract, don't they? That might be true. Thankfully for us, it works very well. The dynamics 0f our relationship are that I obsess over everything, then he acts as a sentry gauging what levels of concern are reasonable and when I am a bit of a twit.

This is almost the same relationship the Amygdala has with the VmPFC.

Its main job is to tell the Amygdala when to pack it in, to cancel out the fight and flight response, and to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to calm everything down to "rest and restore."

So…the safari park…and the tiger.

Think of The Tiger…

This tiger is BEAUTIFUL, and we are getting a really good view because our van looks vaguely similar to one the keepers feed the cats from. Thus, said tiger is giving us the show of a lifetime, walking up and down the fence, following us, interacting with us, and giving us the odd growl.

I'm enjoying it enormously, but you, of all people, can probably guess what happens next. That tiny voice asks me… "but don't you think he looks a little hungry…."

And it begins. The nervousness starts to trickle in… (Amygdala perceiving fear)

The Strong Silent One reminds me, "Yes, he probably is ready for dinner, but it's not likely to have been long since his last meal. They were fed yesterday and even this morning. They're not going to be that hungry are they? (VmPFC trying to calm the Amygdala down.)

"OK, but have you seen how he is bashing at the wire now…that metal doesn't look that strong…."

"But it probably is strong. There might even be an electrical current running through some of it. They shouldn't risk using something inadequate. Do you?"

"No, I guess not. But it does keep staring at us. I do think he thinks we have his food…"

And so it goes on… and eventually, it will go a predictable way that, after a while, he knows he's fighting a losing battle. He quits wasting his breath and goes off and reads the paper.

Oddly, this is also what the VmPFC does…

It's important to understand that:

If Anxiety is Perpetually Reinforced, the VmPFC will no Longer Continue to Switch Off.

The Amygdala is left to flood the nervous system with cascades of stress chemicals. With no more VmPFC intervention, there is nothing to switch the fear response off. The body continually floods with cortisol, which is inflammatory and further perpetuates mood issues like anxiety.

Luckily now, both medicines can interact and guide this process. Likewise, there are some lifestyle changes we can make too. To help us to understand this better even further, it helps to learn some neurotransmission. 


So, when I first qualified as an aromatherapist, and dinosaurs roamed the earth ( in the early 1990s), we learned how the nervous system is an electrical system. Pulses send messages back and forth from the body to the brain. About ten years later, scientists' experiments would begin to reveal that this is only half the story.

The nervous system is not only electrical. It is also chemical.

Neurons (or nerve cells) are fascinating things.

(I know, I know. I am that square. But stay with me.)

If you study cardiac cells, you need to learn fewer than ten different types, and you're done.

But there are about a hundred different types of neurons, and they come in all shapes and sizes. One, for example, stretches up from your little toe and travels up the spine, directly connecting to the brain. If our whole body connected this way, we wouldn't be very mobile. For the most part, when a message goes from one place to another, it has to make some stops. It usually passes along a few different nerves.

Where a nerve meets another nerve, we call this junction "a synapse." There is a gap at the place where the nerves meet. Sometimes, this synaptic gap is also called the synaptic cleft.

So the question is…." How does the message get across that gap?"

The answer is tiny chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Stored in the ends of nerves, they are dispatched as required.

Some of The Best Known Neurotransmitters

Serotonin: Our internal mood modulator. It helps keep us level, upbeat, and happy. 

Dopamine: Gives us our competitive edge, drives arousal and motivation as well as addiction

Oxytocin: Helps us feel loved and bonded—surges in childbirth, when you are breastfeeding, during orgasm, or holding hands. 

Glutamate: Our main excitatory hormone. It makes us feel agitated and jumpy, affects our memory, and drives us to get out of bed.

GABA: Our main inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms our body and helps the body to calm down.

These are just the household names. There are around a hundred different types of neurotransmitters, but there is no need to go through them all. What is helpful to know, though, is that these are what give us our feelings.

By that, I don't mean emotions. I mean those butterflies in our bellies. The actual somatic responses we feel in our tissues in response to these emotions.

It seems more and more likely that what we have always perceived as "The Mind" might not entirely exist within our heads, but rather it resides in what physicians call the periphery, but you and I can imagine as the rest of our body. The rationale for this idea is that neurotransmission is not restricted to the head, but a large percentage is found in the periphery.

Consider Serotonin As An Example

As we have said, serotonin functions as a mood modulator of the body. That's extremely oversimplified because it's believed to be active in over a hundred processes.

But if emotions were all in your head, wouldn't it make evolutionary sense for most serotonin to be up there too?

It's not, however.

Ninety percent of serotonin lives in and is manufactured in your gut.

Messages are taken up from the gut - about serotonin and other things - via the vagus nerve and the enteric nervous system.

This is a one-way system. Messages are not sent back to the belly via this means.

In other words, those butterflies in your belly inform the rest of the body of your discomfort based on the movement of that serotonin.

That is a powerful nugget of knowledge for anyone struggling with IBS.

So, is there a way for us to interact with that serotonin?

Spoilers, because we will drill down deeper on this, but yes, scientists believe essential oils can.

The Synaptic Cleft

So, these are tiny molecules, and getting them from the "presynaptic neuron" across to the "postsynaptic" could be difficult.

Here are just a few of them.

There may not be enough of a specific type of neurotransmitter.

For anxiety, we can most easily visualize what low levels of GABA might look like, can't we? If we have low levels of that, it's not beyond the realm that we will have higher levels of Glutamate take its place.

Plenty of neurotransmitters exist, but there aren't enough receptors to catch them across the other side. Imagine the receptors like baseball players trying to grab but failing.

What about if your serotonin levels are weak? You need some biological cannon to project them across that chasm, but they keep falling short halfway.

Well, Here's the Thing…

The nervous system is all about recycling. It has other chemical messengers whose sole job is to collect up all these lost neurotransmitters from the gap, recharge the cannon in the bouton (the part of the nerve that they are fired from), and start the process all over again.

This is called Reuptake.

If the doctor has given you an SSRI medication, this is the process your drugs interact with. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors prevent this swift recycling. It leaves the lost serotonin where it is in the hope that it will give some of the stronger one's time and a chance to drift across. New ones sent, plus old ones who drift in, should equal more serotonin.

For many people, this is a highly effective strategy. Their mood levels out, they feel calmer, and hopefully, life can return to normal. 

The Process of Olfaction

So, here's where thinking about essential oils for anxiety starts to get exciting.

Recently, scientists have started to understand that there is another layer to this we hadn't previously perceived and that smelling things can affect neurotransmission.

Deliberately smelling things encourages the system to work harder.

A quick breakdown of how olfaction works to make it easier.

We inhale, the air is filtered by tiny hairs called cilia, and fragrance molecules are absorbed into the slimy mucus inside our nose.

Molecules find their way up the olfactory bulb, a tiny membrane about the size of a dime. In this membrane, they encounter and interact with one, some, or many of around 10 million different receptors.

From there, messages are sent about the nature of the fragrance to the limbic system to inform us of our surroundings. Here they contribute to our learning, cognition, memory, and mood. This information is drawn from our massive internal database surrounding our aromatic map. It is believed that we each can recognize up to three million different smells.

From there, the brain makes decisions; yes, that smells like the house is on fire; we should trigger the sympathetic system to kick the HPA axis into fight or flight…and then you should flee. Or, gosh, that's blissful. Let's sit here and enjoy this for a moment or three. 


So, the new layer is this.

Scientists have now proven that when we smell these essential oils for anxiety, it triggers the body to make more neurotransmitters to reinforce the mind's perception of it.

Predominantly, it expresses GABA, calming the system, relaxing it, and allowing the VmPFC to calm things down.

The receptors will also co-express, although seemingly to a lesser degree.

So, on the one hand, it expresses GABA to calm the system, but it will also express serotonin to level out mood. Primate research suggests that fluctuations in serotonin may influence confidence and our sensations of self-esteem. It has a bearing on where we see ourselves within the social hierarchy. (Sylwester, 1997)

Elevated levels of serotonin are associated with feeling calm and reassured. With that sense of "effortlessly gliding through life." Low serotonin levels correlate with irritability and how that leads to impulsive, reckless, uncontrolled, aggressive, reckless, violent, or suicidal behavior. (Sylwester, 1997)

When the olfactory system encounters fragrances, it also makes more dopamine, so we regain our arousal (sexual or otherwise) and start to re-feel those urges that make us want to get up and go. It may co-express Glutamate, too, so our memories become clearer, and we feel more on our A-game.

Just imagine how great it feels when not only do the fragrance molecules cause a cascade of calming molecules, but it nudges up oxytocin again. We feel more relaxed and more reconnected to those around us.


Oxytocin has a very odd relationship with the Amygdala, and researchers are interested in its anxiety-reducing effects for its ability to reduce stress and promote pro-social behaviors such as trust, empathy, and openness to taking social risks.

Studies reveal that oxytocin makes the Amygdala less reactive when it perceives images that are threatening or fearful faces. Oxytocin affects connections between the Amygdala and other brain parts in people with anxiety disorders.

MRI brain scans show that when participants with generalized social anxiety viewed fearful faces, their Amygdala communicated significantly less with other parts of the brain when compared to those participants who had not been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

The less connected the Amygdala was to other brain regions, the higher the anxious participants' baseline stress levels were.

Importantly, oxytocin reversed these trends by increasing amygdala connectivity in the patients living with anxiety while decreasing amygdala connectivity in everyone else. (Gorka, 2014)

Research in Essential Oils for Anxiety

An oddity of doing this kind of work is that when you focus on these trials all day, it can feel like the world is flooded with them; that billions of laboratories are funding outstanding amounts of money into research into essential oils for anxiety, inflammation, viruses…whatever…

But they're not.

A bit of cash, but not a lot in the grander scheme of things.

The reasons for that are numerous, but in particular, it does not serve a pharmaceutical company well to endorse the use of a plant. That sounds terrible. But actually, it's not as sinister as it sounds.

Do you remember right at the beginning when I talked about what essential oils are and how the plant forms them? How stress designs chemistry?

Consider, then, how the plant may have tons and tons of rainfall this year, then a fairly pleasant, not hot summer. The year before, though, it barely rained, the sun blazed, and aphids attacked the plants…Different threats make different chemistry.

When that happens, there can never be a patent for essential oils for anxiety. You can't rely on the efficacy of a drug when its chemistry keeps changing. So, here's what they do. They mostly focus on understanding each different chemical in the plant, then try to synthesize it. Synthesize something, and you can replicate it over and over again.

Animal research

Much of the essential oils for anxiety research is done on animals. In particular, rodents, because it is possible to make genetic changes in mice in just one generation. Rodents are mammals and are evolutionarily very similar to us, so this research does offer opportunities.

In the case of mood disorders, we often see experiments where rats are put into a maze. When they are afraid, they hide in the corner, but when they feel braver, they'll venture further into the labyrinth. I can almost feel that sense of confidence, can you? As the little mite is exposed to essential oils for anxiety, they become courageous enough to escape the shadows.

However, it is important to remember that a similarity between the species does not necessarily mean the species work similarly. Sometimes even in rodent trials, interspecies differences are surprising. For example, low levels of the neurotransmitter anandamide mean depression in rats; but those same levels in mice give you perfectly happy animals.

So can we say the same for humans?

Not really, can we?

Human depression is associated with low levels of anandamide, but whether these low levels are responsible for the depression or if depression itself causes those levels to drop is unclear.

The nuances of essential oils for anxiety are all a bit foggier than they might first seem.

After all that is said, though, there is a fact that does deserve to be highlighted.

Researchers are very careful with any funding that they get. They only follow hunches from results that have gone before. Those hunches often come from natural medicine. They are not seeking to see if essential oils for anxiety calm us- they know they are. They seek to replicate the results aromatherapy already gets, and their experiments are to determine why. What is going on in our brains? What does the chemistry of essential oils for anxiety do, and when they can track and trace that, they hope to emulate that.

To be clear. We know essential oils are wonderful aids to relaxation. Smelling flowers is even. Humankind has been using fragrance to reach spiritual bliss since dawn. We know a little about why essential oils for anxiety work, but I doubt it's the whole picture.

I hope it's not; otherwise, I'll be redundant as an essential oil researcher.

Using Aromatherapy with Medication

For some people, the medication the doctor gives them is wonderful. It can transform lives, and normal life can be resumed quickly. Sadly, though, potential side effects jeopardize that journey for some people.

Meds can sometimes be associated with things feeling worse before you feel better. At this point, though, I would like to stress the dangers of withdrawing from using your medication. In all cases, we would implore you:

Only Stop Using Your Prescribed Medications With The Structured Guidance Of Your Medical Physician.

Essential oils for anxiety work extremely well as a complementary therapy, functioning as an extra layer to support the doctor's medicine. Aromatherapy offers huge benefits and can help along the journey, but please do not mess with your internal chemistry further by coming off your meds without talking to your physician. There is certainly no reason to do so from a therapeutic point of view.

That said, if you are one of the lucky ones who have found this book early enough before you have started medication, we hope we can offer you some salvation. Please, though, talk to someone. Tell them how you feel. It might be that medication might not always be the answer; however, the doctor will also have access to professionals who can support you with talking therapies and other strategies that are proven to work well alongside using essential oils for anxiety. 

Research into Essential Oils and Mood

In 2021, the University of Kowloon in Hong Hong published an extraordinary paper about essential oils for anxiety and other mood disorders. They scientifically analyzed everything we know thus far about their effects on mood.

I shall mention some essential oils as I go through them and then will break these oils further in the next chapter.

They found that the most commonly used method of application for mood was inhalation, and the most used essential oils for anxiety and depression were lavender and bergamot. Lavender is relaxing and is an excellent choice to make you feel calmer. Bergamot is usually chosen to help people with depression since its effects uplift without making you feel drowsy.

The cumulative evidence of their body of research leads them to believe that when essential oils for anxiety, such as lavender and chamomile, are inhaled, they most likely affect mood by suppressing activity in the sympathetic nervous system.

Remember how we gain a more sympathetic tone (Get off my lawn) as we age? This concerned them. Would essential oils' effects on anxiety be less dramatic for younger people whose nervous systems had a more parasympathetic tone?

No. They demonstrated that essential oils' effects on anxiety were just as effective for people under and over 60.

Physical Benefits

The beneficial effects of these essential oils for anxiety could be seen clearly in the physical body and felt. The pulse rate slowed. Blood pressure was reduced. For those who lived with panic attacks, a positive effect was also seen in the speed of their breathing.

They described how the essential oils for anxiety and other mood disorders had been demonstrated to help emotional disturbances secondary to different conditions and how they could help people with dementia or the depression associated with living in chronic pain.

They talked about some of our furry friends and how exposure to essential oils for anxiety affected their courage in mazes. Inhaling lavender, lemon, and ylang-ylang has been shown to have anxiolytic effects. It doesn't describe their battle cry or the colors of their swords and shields, but we can see how they got braver.

Other animal studies showed how the time was reduced and that the poor mice were frozen in terror.

They were able to show how interaction with essential oils for anxiety improved levels of both dopamine and serotonin. If we can quickly recap what we expect that to look like, please….

Calmer, with more drive, more aroused in sex, and feeling more motivated.

Oh yes. We'll have a bit of that, please…

Fragrance and Memories

Essential oils for anxiety and other mood issues directly interact with the brain's limbic system. The hippocampus plays a role in odor memory formation, while the amygdala is responsible for processing emotional responses and controlling scent intensity. (Aqrabawi A.J, 2018)

Each smell we encounter has its memory and social and cultural connections.

As a Brit, salt and vinegar remind me of fish, chips, and days by English seaside towns. But for someone from India, though, fenugreek smells like home. We'll look at this more in the next section. Still, a powerful thing to remember is that textbooks and medical labs can tell you a million times that a fragrance is relaxing, but if it reminds you, personally, of a time or a place that was cruel and frightening, then all the PhDs in the world will be wrong. Your reaction to the fragrance interaction is important and should always guide any fragrance choices you make in the quest to calm down.

When you come to making blends of essential oils for anxiety, in the end, ask yourself, "Do I like it? How does it make me feel?" Sometimes, the reasons you feel immediate disgust for any of the essential oils for anxiety are hidden, but trust them. Unless you are working with a trained professional to support you through any memories that smell associations might trigger, try working with the gentler oils you like. Be guided by your response to the fragrance rather than what's written on the paper, if you can. Aromatherapy isn't always about things smelling nice, but at this level, it's much more palatable if it is. 

Side Effects

Certainly, one of the downsides of the doctor's medicine, particularly antidepressants like SSRIs, is the numerous and sometimes debilitating side effects. One of the most worrying things I see when I read what people have written about essential oils for anxiety is that because they are natural, they can do you no harm.

This is patently not true.

That's like saying heroin must be ok because it comes from an opium poppy.

Used in the wrong way, plant extracts can be extremely dangerous things.

While it is true that essential oils for anxiety don't have side effects, what they do have is many main effects. For the most part, this is wonderful. Lavender soothes and relaxes while at the same time acting as an analgesic. Double the fun, we feel less pain, and we feel calmer.

All essential oils have many main effects; the differences are that some are just a few, whereas others offer many.

It's very important to recognize that it will affect your body in many different ways, and for some people, that is not always good.

Someone who lives with epilepsy, for example, might love how rosemary focuses their mind and helps them to concentrate. However, as well as these actions, it can also be neurotoxic, triggering seizures in some people and raising blood pressure.

If you have naturally low blood pressure, that's not an issue, but for someone already high…we can see how the dangers might happen. 

Many Main Effects

In the same way, grapefruit essential oil is enlivening, bold, brassy, and makes you feel as if you are cock of the hoop. Oozing sass and confidence, it is the perfect antidote to the melancholy that anxiety brings. Fantastic, you might think, and you'd be right, not least because it helps break down fat, too, so it is pretty darn good.

But grapefruit thins the blood…again, pretty ace, to be honest, unless you have a platelet disorder, that becomes scary. In the same way, you definitely wouldn't want to use grapefruit if you feel anxious about going to the operating table tomorrow. Blood thinners before surgery are a serious no-no.

Likewise (speaking from experience), citrus oils and sunshine or sunbeds could be a better mix. When essential oils are expressed, lipids often travel into the phototoxic oil. Reacting to UV, they make you blotchy, cause burns and rashes, and in the case of my encounter with grapefruit, make you itch like you have fleas!

Finally, pregnancy and essential oils can be a complicated mix.

Imagine asking an oil-like tea tree to trigger an immune response. We'd want it to surround any invading pathogens, overcome and kill them. An early days fetus could be construed as just that.


In truth, we don't know what happens with any essential oils during pregnancy. Some research suggests they may cross the placenta, but the evidence is small. There are ethical problems with experimenting on unborn children, so any guidelines are merely guesses based on our understanding of what each oil can do.

That said, guidelines are set by professional governing bodies and adhered to by aromatherapists worldwide. All essential oils should be avoided during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy; some are safe after that time, while others are not so much...

To make things easy, each time we talk about oil, I will relate any safety concerns you should know and the best dilution to use.

There are essential oils for anxiety that you can use safely, but I would recommend you seek the support of a qualified aromatherapist to check things through for you first.


Since essential oils are so concentrated, we must dilute them for anxiety to use them safely and cut them a lot.

For the most part, safe dilution is around 3% for adults. Some exceptions prove that rule, but I'll outline any differences with each oil as we go.

An easy way to calculate dilution is to measure your carrier oil in teaspoons.

It's not an exact science but a teaspoon of carrier equates to around 5ml of oil.

5ml is about 100 drops of oil.

Therefore 3% means you can have 3 drops of essential oil in a teaspoon carrier.

If someone has been ill for a while or is frail, drop that dilution down to 2% (or two drops in this example).

For children, 1%. (Avoid eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils). It is best to avoid using essential oils on children under six months old. Their skin needs to develop enough barriers to the oils, and it is still being determined how their livers may metabolize them. Hopefully, there would be no reason to use essential oils for anxiety in children this young anyway. 

The Best Ways To Use Essential Oil for Anxiety

Essential oils find their way into the body through three routes. You can apply them to the skin; they absorb through the pores and enter the bloodstream. From there, they circulate the body to the places that need them and eventually find their way to the brain. Science shows us it takes around 19 minutes for oils to absorb through the skin completely.

If we inhale the oil, it can get into the body much faster. This is why this would be my recommendation on how to use essential oils for anxiety.

With olfaction (or inhalation), molecules go up our noses and are absorbed into the mucous membrane. As they travel up, they find their way to the olfactory bulb, where they interact with one, many or several different receptors.

These molecules then transmit messages to the sympathetic system to tell it to be on alert (if we smell smoke, for instance, or oil that makes us feel more awake, like rosemary or peppermint). If we inhale any essential oils for anxiety listed in this post, the parasympathetic system activates to trigger rest and restoration. Then, as we have seen, the olfactory system starts to express more neurotransmitters, especially GABA and serotonin. It takes around five minutes for the effects of inhalation of essential oils for anxiety to begin to take place in the body.

The third way is an extension of this inhalation. Naturally, as we breathe these molecules of the essential oils for anxiety, they are also taken down into our lungs, permeate through the pulmonary tissues, out through the capillaries into the bloodstream, and we are back to that same blood cycling then, as we saw with topical use.


There are many devices on the market to help you inhale essential oils. Inhale it from the bottle, put it on a tissue, or place it on your pillow. All are legitimate and effective ways to use essential oils for anxiety.

An interesting thing, though, is that you cannot smell it when you go to sleep. The brain changes how the body processes at night. As soon as we enter REM sleep, we can no longer smell, which is why smoke alarms are so important.


These plastic sticks are wonderful if you struggle with panic attacks or need an emotional prop. Inside is a cotton wick that you soak with essential oils for anxiety to have them on tap when you want them.

Since aromatherapy can sometimes be a costly hobby (have you seen the price rise?), you might consider diluting your essential oils for anxiety into a carrier, which works very well. However, since the oils you use in an inhaler are not intended to come into contact with your skin, there is no safety reason to need to do so.

Aroma Pendants

These are fabulous if you need low-level support from your essential oils for anxiety all day but don't want to draw attention to them. There are lots of different types on the market. Often they are pretty wire balls that you put essential oil-soaked cotton into, but they can also be unfired clay, which is porous, or also lava beads.

If you choose lava beads, always dilute your essential oils into carrier oils first since the oils will come into contact with your skin.

These are great for driving tests, exams, or dealing with blood pressure issues, amongst other things. They leave you free to concentrate on other things.

A note, though, research shows that soothing oils often relax for about an hour, but when the brain gets sick of them, they become stimulants. Ylang-ylang, in particular, can give you a headache if you wear it too long. A couple of hours is usually the limit, but be guided by your body. If it keeps you feeling calm, then there would be no need to remove it.


These are great if you want to change a room's atmosphere or have essential oils for anxiety diffusing around you. There are so many different types, so we will only get a little into it. For the most part, though, the oils go into a water well and are then projected in tiny droplets into the air.

Diffusers work better for top and middle-note oils like citruses, lavender, and chamomile than base notes. Thick, deep-smelling oils like myrrh, Vetiver, and Patchouli have very heavy molecules. Diffusers struggle to be powerful to deal with these for long, and they can eventually damage your machinery.

Please remember that some essential oils can be problematic for pets, particularly cats. They do not have the same enzymes we use to break down essential oils in our livers. So, if a droplet lands on their fur, they lick it; some oils can poison them. For the most part, this is citrus oils and strong herbals like eucalyptus and peppermint, which aren't relaxing. I have outlined the safety concerns around each oil as we go.

In addition, from a safety point of view, it can be very overstimulating to have diffusers going all the time. A good practice is to diffuser your essential oils for anxiety for a couple of hours, then turn the diffuser off and take a thirty-minute break.

Please be mindful of how diffusers can invade other people's personal space. Remember that safety issues are not only for the person using the oil but anyone who may come into the environment of it. Most of these oils are very benign and have very few associated issues. 


My personal favorites are old school. They have a space for a candle underneath; you place some boiling water, then a couple of drops of oil. Since these don't project the oils as aggressively as a diffuser, there is no need to take safety breaks after an hour. However, do not let the water boil dry; it smells heinous. Do not leave open candles unattended. 

Topical Use 

As discussed, it's important always to dilute your essential oils for anxiety. Carrier oils are an art in their own right since fixed vegetable oils can improve skin texture, etc. However, I always say the best carrier oil is the one you have closest to hand. By all means, invest in some grapeseed or almond oil for massage, but equally, know that a splash of olive or sunflower oil will do.

This is covered in the section on dilution. Each oil also has its details of safe dilution. 

Roller Balls 

These small bottles are ideal for keeping in your pocket. Remember that it will take twenty minutes for them to do any good, so if you need support more urgently, use your inhaler. Essentially, these are little massage oils, but in a small bottle.

If you dilute the essential oils as instructed, you can safely use your essential oils for anxiety as often as you want to. I suggest using your oils at least five times a day for an acute condition like anxiety.

Apply them to your wrist to see the good blood supply.

That said, it doesn't need to be the wrist, anywhere will do. Massaging a little into the temples and the back of the neck can be helpful.

Watch your clothes, in any case. As you would imagine, these oils can stain. (Pro tip, scrunch in some washing-up liquid or oxi-cleaner, and you'll be good.) 

Massage Oils

Depending on where you live in the world may affect the focus of your usage of essential oils for anxiety. In the UK, massage stands at the front of aromatherapy, but in the States, not so much.

Massage is an excellent way to spread essential oils for anxiety across the body. The skin is the body's largest organ. Right across its surface are hair follicles, and attached to each one is a pore to help let sweat out of the body and, fortuitously, to let microscopic oil molecules in. Millions of pores act as tiny doorways for these essential oils for anxiety to get in and start doing their work.

There is something very reassuring about being touched, and massage has a wonderful way of slowing the breath down.

Emotionally, it is wonderful, but the masseuse also works on soothing the muscles, softening those knots and feelings of tension.

It's a powerful thing. The first choice would always be to find time to lie on a couch and have a professional massage, but only some have that time or money.

A true aromatherapy massage is a long, slow-flowing action. None of that hacking and pummeling malarky! It's easy to massage a loved one with essential oils for anxiety and simple to self-massage as long as you don't try and do your own back!

Massage is safe during pregnancy, but leave massaging the bump to the professionals. Ensure you adhere to the dilution and pregnancy guidelines. If you are earlier than 16 weeks pregnant, use some carrier without adding essential oils. 

Creams and Lotions

Sometimes massage oils just aren't going to be practical. We will not get into how to make creams in this book, but a great option is to purchase "Aqueous Cream" from the pharmacy and use it just as you would any other carrier. 


Essential oils are rubbish for showers because you have to wash them off too fast. Baths, though? Baths with essential oils are something else.

Warm water opens the pores to allow the essential oils for anxiety to get in. It supports tired and aching muscles while the heat also evaporates sweet-smelling vapors into the air for you to inhale. Remember, though…stay in for at least twenty minutes, or you need not have bothered.

Absolutely beautiful.

A thing that often passes people by is that essential oils still need to be diluted if you put them into the bath. Thirty gallons of water or not, remember oil and water don't mix, so they sit undiluted on top of the water. Still, pop them into a teaspoon of the carrier, or if you fancy being a bit Cleopatra, you could also use milk. Since she got hers from asses, now in short supply, I'll save you some work. No, they don't sell it in Walmart, and cow, sheep, or goat's milk will dilute it just as well as honey.

A note on diluting your essential oils for anxiety into carrier oils for the bath.

No, two notes, actually.

First, carrier oils are slippery and can be very dangerous. Please be careful how you get out of the tub and ensure it is well-rinsed for the next person getting in.

The second point relates to the first. Grime loves carrier oils. Wash the tub down with dishwashing soap immediately. Tomorrow, not only will it be filthy, it will be like trying to scrub concrete off your tub, and you'll undo all the work you have done de-stressing with your essential oils for anxiety.

Blending Essential Oils

Aromatherapy is both a science and an art form. Experts in blending essential oils usually work for the perfumery industry and get paid mega bucks. It's not necessary that you become brilliant at it. Still, there is something gorgeous about discovering a new fragrance combination, especially if you plan to wear it as an accessory on an aroma pendant.

That said, besides valerian oil, which I encourage you not to wear on its own, most oils work well.

The most popular way to blend essential oils is called synergistic blending. Three oils working together create a synergy, where the combined effects are stronger than the three if they were in isolation.

A good way to do this is to understand that the smells have volume. A base note shouts much louder than a top note, plus it will last far longer because it does not evaporate as quickly.

Always add one drop at a time to see how the balance feels. Usually, it will come out best at

    • 3 drops of the top note
    • 2 drops of the middle note
    • 1 drop of the base note

It's an approximate science, but seeing how often it works out like that is interesting. 

When you read "Maximum dilution = 3%, it means that's the most you should use of that oil, so, 

    1. Feel free to use less
    2. That is not "Total dilution," so you can safely add other essential oils. 

The Best Essential Oils for Anxiety


Hands down, the top of the list of essential oils for anxiety is lavender. Over and over, researchers prove its work in helping anxiety. In a study called "Anxiety and Lavender Essential Oil - Ready for Prime Time?" published in the scientific journal Medical Health Clinician, researchers from California examined how the oil can be helpful for nervous disorders.

Lavender oil has around seventy different chemical constituents, but two stand head and shoulders above the others for these treatments. These are linalool and linalyl acetate. Together, they make up around 70% of the oil.

Studies show that these constituents may produce an anxiolytic effect by reducing activity at one of the serotonin (5HT1A) receptor sites, thereby empowering the parasympathetic system to work harder. (Malcolm, 2017)

You Selfish Rat!

And when you think you've got the bottom of how aromatherapy works, studies always throw you a curveball. Olfaction has huge benefits for the brain and the physical body. We smell certain things, and they calm us down. Research shows us that time and again. But here's the rodent-sized lavender curve ball…Well, it's smaller than that, actually—marble-sized.

Anxiolytic drugs are often tested using marble trials. Animals are gauged for locomotor activity - how much they move from one place to another - and act like humans who pace up and down.

To understand marble trials, you need to be aware of how selfish rats can be and how suspicious they are. If you place marbles into a cage where the rodent perceives it may have company, it sets all its natural defenses, whirring to protect its cache, trying to hide the marbles. This is unconditioned behavior. So the question the trial seeks to answer is: will the drugs reduce how many marbles the rodent needs to bury to feel safe?

Brazil, 2013…

And our rats mooch happily around their cages; unsuspecting white-coated men with clipboards might be around the corner. Unsurprisingly, they smell nothing fishy because glass marbles appeared in their cage. They smell nothing at all since these rats have been engineered to be anosmic - they have no sense of smell at all.

Each rat was placed into a cage divided into two parts. One half had familiar-smelling sawdust; the other had sawdust that other rats had been in. Twenty-four marbles were placed around the periphery of the cage.

Each test included varying dilutions of lavender oil or diazepam. The lavender oil was given in 0.5%, 2.5%, and 5% dilutions. Two controls were made of just plain water and diazepam. The liquid was placed onto a cotton wall and into the corner of the cage. The rat remained with the lavender for 15 minutes before being released into the test.

Diazepam reduced locomotive function, but lavender did not. So, it didn't affect the rodent pacing. However, the rats that inhaled lavender at dilutions of 2.5% and 5.0% lavender buried fewer marbles compared with those that inhaled the 0.5% dilution or had been exposed to the water control. (Chioca, 2013)

Their activity suggests they were less anxious.

So where is the curve ball?

Well, they were anosmic, weren't they?

If they inhaled the essential oil but couldn't smell it…how on Earth was that working?

Surely, it Must be Magic?

At the moment, the researchers will have to settle for the explanation I like the most.

Sometimes, one answer only opens up more questions. I wonder if the lavender oil

works on your pillow if we can no longer smell when we are asleep?

The answer to that, at the moment, is that it's impossible to know for certain.

Blending Lavender With Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

On its own, it has a very penetrating aroma, but it lends effortlessly with other plants. In particular, different herbs. Lavender and chamomile together are always going to be a winner.

Try it with wood, too; that works well, as do other flowers.

Citruses are more difficult, but they can work. Consider, though, how they have a different kind of action. Lemon and grapefruit want to pep you up, whereas lavender wants to calm you down.

For this reason, oils taken from roots like Vetiver and Valerian will all work very well.

Guidelines for Using Lavender Essential Oil for Anxiety

    • Blending Note: Middle
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • In the bath
    • In an inhaler, aroma pendant, or room diffuser
    • In massage oil blends 
    • On your pillow in the evening

Safe in pregnancy? Yes, after the first 16 weeks.

Safe during breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? Always use diluted.

Another great use for lavender is greasy skin since it has a clever action on sebum that makes the skin less oily. Beware of using lavender in your bath every day. You may find your skin becomes very dry. Swap it out for some different oils occasionally. In particular, geranium, Vetiver, and Patchouli are all fabulous for dry skin, and ylang-ylang will normalize sebum production. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.

Roman Chamomile

Roman chamomile is still like a daisy but has much longer stalks. These also tell us a great deal about medicine. They are long and terrifically thin. Flimsy. Flexible. Agile.

Rain comes, hail comes, winds and storms. They batter her, but she bobs around, smiling at the weather. She doesn't break; she smiles and sings. 

German Chamomile

Now, you might also see "German Chamomile" sometimes listed as "Chamomile Matricaria" or "Blue Chamomile ."Blue refers to the oil color, not the flower, which looks almost identical to the Roman chamomile, except the corona - the middle - is a different shape.

Blue Chamomile is magic! The white petals and yellow middles go into the still. Heat, then change the oil's color to this gorgeous sapphire blue. The blue betrays a rather incredible group of chemicals, azulenes. Specifically, because they come from chamomile, these are chamazulene; however, azulenes are found in yarrow essential oil (also blue) and blue cypress essential oil.

Azulenes are like a liquid anesthetic. Specifically, we use them when things sting, such as the soreness of eczema. It is useful for literal stings, wasps, bees, etc., or if something cuts you suddenly or emotionally. The sting of betrayal, finding out someone has been talking about you behind your back, or when you fall out with a friend. For anything that gets your mind heading off on a tirade…German Chamomile helps you out.

While they are very similar, we start to sense a difference in their skills.

Can you start to define any elements of those anxious feelings you feel moving through your body? Do they smolder like the fire embers, always in the background?… that's more a Roman chamomile skill…we can feel how they can suddenly become inflamed.

But the sudden anxiety that comes like thunderbolts from nowhere, panic attacks, and PTSD flashbacks might be best treated with German chamomile. In the end, though, it's purely through experimentation that you find the perfect one.

Wild Chamomile

Last is  Wild Chamomile, or "Moroccan Chamomile" or Chamomile Maroc, which, despite its name, is not chamomile. Presumably, it got its name because it smells the same. Ormenis multi caulis is calming and soothing and generally switches the volume controls on pain and stress down. It blunts the corners, making things seem softer, gentler, and less acute. 

Guidelines for Using Chamomile Essential Oil for Anxiety

If chamomile could speak, she would sing, like Doris Day, "Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be…." She has this beautifully uplifting way of making you feel like life is a stream drifting easily by.

Now confusingly, there are a few chamomiles; essentially, they all do the same things, although there are a couple of places where one might be better than another, so let's go through them.

Roman Chamomile is the best known of the chamomiles. Its best skill is anti-inflammatory. It calms inflammatory markers down, so aromatherapists love to use it to treat swollen things like twisted ankles and painful conditions like arthritis.

If you were to look for a single keyword, we would say "Soothing."

Soothing to the mind, the body, and the spirit.

It soothes aches, pains, soreness, anger, anxiety, and frustration.

If any of your anxiety has connections with impatience (like when I have to wait on decisions from publishers about books), if you're worrying about things that may or may not happen, this is the best choice you can make.

Remember, "Whatever will be, will be."

If you look at medieval medicine, one of the most influential herbalists of the time was a guy named Paracelsus. When you read that, you undoubtedly placed him in the herbal medicine box, but remember this was when herbs WERE the medicine. Synthesized drugs had not yet replaced plants, so we should read that he was the most influential of all the doctors.

What The Plant Knows...

Paracelsus was fascinated by something called "The Doctrine of Signatures," this became a leading way of extracting knowledge of how a plant might heal a person. It relied on seeing features in the plant and how it reacted to its surroundings. This is a helpful way of tapping into chamomile oils' energy.

Chamomile plants look like daisies. There are lots of different types. Chamomile treneague is the lawn chamomile you may have seen growing. It makes a bright emerald green carpet of feathery leaves with pretty "daisies" sprinkled over it. T is soft, comforting, and tactile to walk on, and when you tread on it, it fills the air with the rich perfume of apples. Its genus name, chamameleum, means "Earth apple."

Chamomile lawns are hard to take care of because the plant is too generous for its good. Chamomile is called a "Physician plant" because it lends all its growing energy to surrounding plants. If you have a failing vege bed, planting chamomile is one of the best ways to revive it. It absorbs the stress from the crops, somehow. The problem with a chamomile lawn is that everything else wants to move in. Grass? Yep, we have room for you. Nettles? Come inside. You must be extremely diligent in caring for it because chamomile doesn't give a ****... It's like she's a dreaming hippy, letting everything slip by. 

Blending Chamomile with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

All other herbs and also floral essential oils. Since it has an apple-like fragrance, you can make comforting blends with spices. Resins and woods work too. It's a very good mixer. I can't think of many oils that wouldn't go with chamomile.

Actually…honeysuckle. Honeysuckle doesn't blend nicely with anything! 

Guidelines for Using Chamomile Essential Oil. (Applies to all chamomiles)

    • Blending Note: Middle
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • In the bath
    • In an inhaler, aroma pendant, or room diffuser
    • In massage oil blends 
    • On your pillow in the evening

Safe in pregnancy? Yes, after 16 weeks.

Breastfeeding? Since chamomile is naturally digestive, it might even help a baby's colic, although that remains unproven. 

Any potential side effects or cautions? No. Ensure you dilute it. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.

Clary Sage and Hormones

Scientists now believe that estrogen might be the molecule of worry. The lower levels are, the more anxious some people seem to become. This makes sense to me as someone who has suffered from PMT all her life.

The gynecological cycle should correctly split into two halves of fourteen days. Most of us have slightly longer or shorter than 28 days. Around day eleven, eggs are released down the fallopian tubes into the uterus. The eggshell" becomes the corpus luteum and begins to secrete progesterone to create a welcoming space for any implantation. Eventually, this will form the beginnings of the placenta. If the egg is not fertilized, the womb lining thickens and will ultimately shed in menstruation.

Understanding this shows us how the body pushes estrogen levels down in the second half of the cycle. Levels down, particularly in the last few days as the progesterone secreted by the corpus luteum begins to build, makes us increasingly more worried. Moreover, high progesterone levels are associated with increased amygdala activity, making that trigger wire for panic much more sensitive.

And to be clear, estrogen and progesterone are usually conceived as women's hormones, and testosterone in a man…actually, both sexes have them all. This knowledge of estrogen and worry has led to a fascinating way to treat men with OCD. Estrogen supplements seem to help them loosen their grip on their obsessive compulsions.

We can go further. Estrogen has been found to modulate neurotransmission, in particular serotonin. (Lu, 1999) Again, I'm sure many of you are shaking your head in disbelief as everything falls into place. Low estrogen, low mood control, and feelings of hopelessness…


Suppose you happen to be perimenopausal, and your periods are faltering. In that case, the fact that low estrogen levels are also associated with mood swings, depression, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and irritability will probably not surprise you.

Clary sage contains a chemical constituent called sclareol, which has been proven to mimic estrogen.

It has a euphoric effect that can border on hallucinogenic. You'll be ok with that if you don't mix alcohol with it.

If you are lucky enough to have it growing in your garden, you'll know it is a biennial, but it is so pretty, covered in pink and purple flowers. The bees love it. Historically, it was used to make cheap beer because it is cheaper to grow than hops. The effect was that you'd get hammered quickly, but the next morning you'd wake up with the hangover of the devil. 

Guidelines for Using Clary Sage Essential Oil for Anxiety

Chemical constituents interact with the body in myriad different ways. One of the most interesting is how they can occasionally mimic hormones and neurotransmitters.

This is one of clary sage's core skills - how it mimics estrogen. At the surface level, then, we might think of how good it will be for women who have gone through menopause and also those suffering from premenstrual tension.

We avoid clary sage throughout pregnancy because the body needs to retain high progesterone levels to retain a fetus. Once estrogen levels rise, it encourages the body to go into labor. Clary sage can be useful to help labor progress faster once these changes have started.

But this clary sage - estrogen connection goes much deeper. 

Blending Clary Sage With Other Essential Oils For Anxiety

Clary Sage blends best with other herbs and flowers. 

Guidelines for Using Clary Sage Essential Oil.

    • Blending Note: Middle
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 years: 1%

We do not recommend using clary sage essential oils on children any younger.

The best ways of using it:

    • In the bath at bedtime
    • As a massage oil or lotion, particularly to support normal hormonal function
    • In an aroma pendant
    • In a sleepy time, body lotion (also great for restless legs)

Safe in pregnancy? Do not use it in pregnancy until at least 37 weeks, and only then, when the midwife has told you that full onset labor has started. 

There are lots of posts that will tell you to use it to start labor. High levels of the oil are more likely to slow it down.

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions?

Do not mix clary sage with alcohol.

Finally, even though it might sound like a good plan to use clary sage during perimenopause, it isn't always. Excessively high estrogen levels with low progesterone levels are also associated with irritability, depression, memory fog, fatigue, memory problems, and anxiety.

A better choice would be Vitex Agnus cactus or Chaste berry essential oil, but that is the subject of a different book.

That said, for post-menopausal women, there is no better oil. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically, although I cannot think of why you would want to do so. Always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


In 2018, a trial was published in Phyto therapy research that sought to discover some of the anxiolytic and antidepressant mechanisms of Geranium essential oil. Again, this is a rodent trial, this time those gorgeous white mice. They were given three tests, an Elevated Plus Maze, an Open Field Test, and a Forced Swim Test.

The Elevated Plus Maze consists of a "+"-shaped maze lifted above the floor with two oppositely positioned open arms, two oppositely arranged closed components, and a central area. The mice can freely explore the maze as a video camera above records their behavior. Obviously, the more anxious they are, the more they remain in the safety of the darkness. The test aims to see if any treatment they are given helps them feel more confident coming out into the open.

The Open Field Test subjects the animals to an unknown environment, preventing their escape by surrounding walls. Again, it assesses anxiety levels by observing the creature's willingness and confidence to explore.

Forced swim tests are commonly used to study depressive-like behavior in rodents. Brace yourself. This one could be more pleasant. The test is based on the assumption that if you place an animal in a container filled with water, it will initially try to escape. Still, eventually, despair will take over and affect its mobility. In other words, it will just stop trying.

(I don't know about you, but I find it offensive that something so gorgeous as geranium should be associated with such a terrible moment in a being's life, but needs must, I suppose). The agent being assessed is measured by how long the creatures remain immobile.

Ok, Are You Ready?

Treatment with rose geranium essential oil increased how much time the mice were happy to spend in the open arms of the maze. It reduced how many times they gave up trying to get out of their box and the length of despair that they remained immobile in the water.

So that's proof not only of how calming it is, but how it boosts confidence, and that it's antidepressant. Now if I'd been that researcher, I'd have been impressed enough by that set of results, wrapped up for the night, and gone to eat cake, but these guys wanted to go further.

They wanted to know if geranium could make these things happen. Was it possible to isolate exactly what the essential oil did to neurotransmission? Did it interact with the calming molecule GABA, or was it the mood modulator serotonin? (Interesting, right?)

They then tested again using a that blocks serotonin transmission and deduced that it is indeed serotonin that geranium essential oil engages with. (Tabari, 2018)

As a penniless writer, there have been many times when money worries have almost been too much to bear. They would have done me in had I not had geranium. While it is balancing generally, there is something strange about how it helps you disconnect from financial worries.

Lie in the bath with a few drops of geranium; somehow, the world seems to lift off your shoulders.

Queen of the Essential Oils for Anxiety About Money

We spoke earlier about how the herbalists were the original doctors and the doctrine of signatures. Its other name is the doctrine of correspondences, and this was often related to medical astrology. Plants were seen as having corresponding features with certain planets and their lessons.

Rose Geranium is taken from pink flowers, which were generally viewed as being ruled by Venus.

Venus, of course, is love but also gynecology. Interestingly, one of the most powerful aids for menstrual problems is geranium. Likewise, that softening energy makes you feel like you are wearing rose-colored glasses.

Geranium and clary sage oils are super choices if your hormones are the big protagonists of your anxiety. We'll look at that more deeply when we think about clary sage.

But Venus is not only a hormone; she is also seen as the planet of wealth and beauty.

We spoke earlier about how essential oils do many things. Using geranium to ease stress often has the added benefit of calming your periods and improving your complexion. Nothing ruins the skin like stress. Geranium brings back that lovely dewy hue. 

Essential Oils for Anxiety About Being In Hospital

Many human trials are often done in hospitals to calm patients down. Being in the hospital is a stressful and anxious episode in its own right, but spikes in blood pressure can cause very clear dangers on operating tables. Evidence suggests that people who are calmer going into an operation tend to experience less nausea when they come out of anesthetic too. So, while research into essential oil for chronic anxiety is sparse, there is quite a lot surrounding more acute situations.

In Iran, the staff gave patients with heart attack geranium to inhale for 20 min a day on two consecutive days to calm their anxiety. Each patient showed significantly reduced signs of stress. (Shirzadegan, 2016)

A lovely trial was done in 2018 to discover how aromatherapy could reduce the stress felt by surgical staff in a Brazilian hospital. It showed that their blood pressure and heart rates were significantly reduced after massage treatments with lavender and geranium essential oils. (Montibeler, 2018)

Most importantly, aromatherapists believe geranium to have a tonic effect on the adrenals, supporting them, relaxing them, and enabling them to switch off when needed.

Blending Geranium with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

It is lovely with flowers, herbs, woods, and spices. 

Only a few citrus fragrances work except lemon and melissa. 

Geranium with root oils are matches made in Heaven. 

Guidelines for Using Geranium Essential Oil.

    • Blending Note: Middle
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • In the bath 
    • In skincare and body lotions 
    • Relaxing massage oils 
    • Aroma pendants and diffusers

Safe in pregnancy? After the first 16 weeks

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? 

Always use diluted. It's worth doing a skin test. Although it is a benign oil, some people with high allergies and sensitive skin can react to geraniums.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


An old Sanskrit saying says, "Where there is Jasmine, there can be no worries."

Rich, sensual, and heady, Jasmine intoxicates the senses into a languid sanctuary of relaxation. Oddly, this is an oil that is rarely used in experiments. It may be because its effects are too obvious for them to bother or it's too expensive. Strictly speaking, it is not an essential oil because it is not distilled. The oil has to be solvent extracted from such tiny, delicate white flowers. So, if it doesn't automatically appear in the search, try looking for its correct name, Jasmine Absolute.

It's almost as if you feel too drunk to be worried by inhibition. Wonderful for sexual anxiety, or tension that causes your muscles to seize up, Jasmine makes you sink into your body and moves energy away from your head. (Patchouli does this too)

Absolutely sublime. Luxurious. So calming, so relaxing and beguiling, and sooooo wonderful.

I like Jasmine. Can you tell?

Queen of The Night

Called "The Queen of the Night," Jasmine's magic has an exquisite affinity with the evening. Its luminescence under the silver moon coaxes nighttime pollinators like moths and bats.

Similarly, its heavy fragrance also lends itself best to exotic evening perfumes when used in perfumery.

It is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce pitta. Pitta conditions are hot, inflamed, sore, and angry. We might think of how arguments dissolve and how Jasmine is kind to irritated skin, sunburn, etc.

Jasmine can be a tremendous aid if your anxiety becomes volatile, manifesting in defensive outbursts. Like a comforting blanket, it soothes and calms us and reminds us to calm the **** down.

It helps you sleep and is a wonderful gynecological ally being a tonic to the womb, and is often used successfully in massage oils for endometriosis or painful periods.

Jasmine settles digestion and has been historically used by aromatherapists to help issues where stress can be problematic for Crohn's, IBS, and colitis.

Safety: One of the reasons it is so helpful with gynecological issues is that it has a tonic action on the uterus. We certainly would not want to use this during pregnancy. It is safe after 37 weeks, but it's best left alone until the midwife has confirmed full labor. Even then, I recommend avoiding it unless your contractions are weak. For the most part, you wouldn't want to make contracts any tighter and more efficient than they already are.

Dilution: You'll be glad that a little goes a long way with such an expensive oil. Even for an adult dose, I would suggest keeping to a maximum amount of jasmine oil of just 1%

Blending Jasmine Absolute With Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Lemon fragrance notes. Woods and spaces. Deep malty and balsamic resins like benzoin, galbanum, and myrrh.

Guidelines for Using Jasmine Absolute

    • Blending Note: Middle to Base
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 1%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 0.5%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 years: 0.5%

We do not recommend using Jasmine Absolute on young children.

The best ways of using it:

    • Massage oils and body lotions 
    • Skincare 
    • Inhalers and Diffusers

Safe in pregnancy? After 37 weeks.

Breastfeeding? Not advised.

Any potential side effects or cautions?

Uterine tonic, so just pregnancy cautions.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


We spoke of Paracelsus earlier. He described Melissa as the Elixir of Life. Wonderfully settling into the digestive system and tremendous for aiding sleep, Melissa essential oil is an enigma.

If you are unfamiliar, it is extracted from the Lemon Balm plant you may have in your garden. Oddly, even though the plant reeks of lemons, it makes barely any essential oil when it is distilled, which is why it is such an expensive oil.

Melissa essential oil interacts with the GABA receptors (Abuhamdah, 2008) and is being researched extensively for dementia. It has a slight tonic effect on memory but is extremely helpful for easing anxiety and agitation and promoting sleep.

It's a joyfully happy oil. The citral makes it smell like bottled sunshine, and even inhaling it briefly makes you feel calm.

Blending Melissa with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

    • All herbs and spices 
    • Other citrus fragrances 
    • Woods and resins

Guidelines for Using Melissa Essential Oil.

    • Blending Note: Middle to Top
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 0.7% (Easiest safe calculation is 1 drop in 2 tsp of carrier = 0.5%. Use that. )
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 0.5%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 0.5%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • In inhalers
    • Massage and body lotions
    • Room diffusers

Safe in pregnancy? Yes, after 16 weeks.

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions?

Do not use old oils. The monoterpenes degrade quickly in Melissa essential oil, that can cause skin sensitization. Always do a skin test before using Melissa.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse. Always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated. I would not suggest using this oil topically on animals.


One of the things to be aware of when you start working with essential oils is how they affect your mood energetically. Some, like lemon balm or citrus oil, will lift you, feel lighter and upbeat. You can usually tell when you dispense them from the bottle. These uplifting oils positively sprint out of the dripper. They are made of tiny, very light, volatile molecules the plant wants to dispatch into the air. It wants, of course, to seduce pollinators.

But then, oils like Vetiver come from the roots. Slow, heavy energy is designed to draw you down, get you out of your head, and make you feel more sure-footed.

There's a great meme that goes around the aromatherapy community of a skeleton waiting for a drop of Vetiver to make an appearance. It is that slow.

Its magical act is to slow your mind down, almost…




It's so soothing. It's like tranquility sleeping in a heavy treacle.

It's probably the most important oil for panic attacks. 

Blending Vetiver with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Citruses, spices, and flowers. It is one of the main fixatives in the perfumery industry and can make any other oil shine. Be careful to use a light hand; Vetiver booms while oils like a lavender whisper. 

Guidelines for Using Vetiver Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Base
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • Massage oils
    • Natural perfumery
    • Aroma pendants
    • Inhalers

Safe in pregnancy? Yes, after 16 weeks.

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? Only pregnancy restrictions; otherwise, it is a gorgeously safe and tranquil oil. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


Sandalwood may be one of the world's oldest medicines. Used in the East for at least five thousand years, it is a treasured but extremely slow-growing tree. It is so beloved that it has been chronically over-harvested, and there is a risk that it could become endangered. Thanks to innovative farming, mainly done in India and Australia, most sandalwood oils on the market today come from sustainable sources.

Like Vetiver, sandalwood is a slowing energy. Again, like Vetiver, it is masculine, with a robust set of arms that can comfort you when you start spinning.

Its tranquil nature is attributable to its chemical constituent, santalol. However, while this is a gorgeous oil, especially used as a base note in blends, its actions are sedative but not anxiolytic. (Satou, 2015)

It has a lighter fragrance than Vetiver, and my favorite is blending it with sweet orange for a lovely relaxed, but upbeat feel. The next chapter looks at satisfying ways to help you start mixing.

Blending Sandalwood Essential Oil With Other Essential Oils for Anxiety 

Citruses and spices mainly, but can go beautifully well with flowers. 

Guidelines for Using Sandalwood Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Base
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • Massage oils 
    • Inhalers 
    • In the bath

Safe in pregnancy? After 16 weeks.

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? No, lovely, secure, and easy to use. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.

Sweet Orange

Now, remember what I said about citrus oils being uplifting? Sweet orange is an unusual oil; it is relaxing but not sedative. You don't feel sleepy, dopey, or like a zombie; you feel happier.

There has been quite a lot of research into this essential oil done by dentists who want kids to feel less terrified about sitting in their chairs. This essential oil is proven to reduce heart rate and the amount of the stress hormone cortisol when analyzed in saliva. (Jafarzadeh, 2013)

This one has thrown up an even more arcane action that we haven't explored yet with any other essential oils for anxiety. Sweet Orange essential oil activates the nitrergic pathways.

Nitric oxide is an unusual neurotransmitter because, unlike others, it is a gas. It moves through the body at incredible speeds, which makes sense if you are used to nervousness coming up and grabbing you from nowhere. Moreover, rather than working as an independent agent, it also influences other neurotransmitters. For that reason, you can imagine how excited the men in white coats become if they find an oil that seems to interact with nitrergic pathways.

An oil-like sweet orange… (Hocoyen, 2019)

Sweet Orange Essential Oil blends well with

Spices, woods, and roots.

Guidelines for Using Sweet Orange Essential Oil.

    • Blending Note: Top
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • Inhalers
    • Diffusers
    • Aroma pendants
    • Massage oils

Safe in pregnancy? Yes, after 16 weeks.

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? Old oils can cause skin sensitivity.

Safe for Pets? It is safe to diffuse orange oils around dogs but not cats. That said, always ensure your pooch can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated. Cats do not possess a certain enzyme required to break down citrus oils in their liver and can, worst case scenario, lead to poisoning.


Perhaps predictably, since Neroli essential oil is made from orange blossoms, it is also extremely calming and soothing. It's hard to explain why it seems a more "mature" version of the oil than sweet orange, but it does. It is refined and sophisticated, which may have led to its traditional association with royal wedding bouquets.

It's a very special oil.

Again, we see evidence of how effective it can be when its actions have been recorded in hospital wards. In particular, maternity wards for women in the first stages of labor and patients under coronary care. Moreover, it is often used to try to alleviate symptoms of menopause in older women.

It has been proven to exert an anti-anxiety mechanism through interaction with serotonin (in rats) (Costa, 2013) and an antidepressant action through similar pathways (Yi, 2011)

In a 2005 trial, post-menopausal women were given Neroli or almond oil to inhale twice daily for five minutes... The Neroli was divided into two different dilution groups. One set was inhaled at 0.1% and the other at a 0.5% dilution.

Systolic blood pressure was significantly lower in those who inhaled 0.5% neroli oil than in the almond oil control group. The two Neroli oil groups showed significantly lower diastolic blood pressure than those with the almond control. The Neroli group had improved pulse rate, and when their blood serum was analyzed, they had lower cortisol levels, but their estrogen levels were higher.

Further, the women reported increased libido, a decline in related menopausal symptoms, and decreased blood pressure. (Choi, 2013)

Blending Neroli with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Neroli blends well with everything. It's a light, powdery fragrance, so you always need to mix anything else with it lightly. You want the Neroli to be balanced.

Citruses work beautifully, especially oranges and petitgrain made from orange tree twigs. The resins are lovely. Myrrh, benzoin, galbanum.

Woods and Neroli are stunning; Cedarwood, in particular, is extremely good at banishing negative thoughts. This combination is delicious from a properties and actions point of view and purely from the fragrance aspect.

Not strictly speaking essential oils for anxiety but spices are gorgeous with Neroli, as long as you keep them very low. Cinnamon, for example, is great for antibiotic blends but makes you feel lovely, safe, and cozy. It's probably the fragrance association with home baking that does that. Just one little drop, though. Any more, and it will smother the Neroli. The same applies to nutmeg. 

Guidelines for Using Neroli Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Middle to Top
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • Aroma Pendant
    • Diffuser
    • Bath Oil
    • Massage Oil
    • Inhaler

Safe in pregnancy? After 16 weeks

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? Apart from pregnancy safety guidelines, no.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


Probably the most expensive of the essential oils, but so worth it. From the point of view of stress, though, anything can do; geranium does better, so please don't go splashing out just for the sake of it.

Fundamentally, just as you would imagine, the rose is connected, in our brains, with the idea of love. The essential oil is wonderfully helpful if someone feels low because of something about love. Scientifically, it is proven to have an anti-conflict property (in rodents) which is so soothing if you are clinging to arguments.

Like geranium (no, actually, probably better than geranium), it is wonderful for helping gynecological issues and sexual dysfunction. It would be the first oil to consider for someone grieving or afraid of death, whether that be their death or the impending possibility for a loved one.

Rose oils are often used for postnatal women, mainly for their stimulating effects on the uterus but also to calm stress.


We talked earlier about the stress hormone cortisol and how it spikes when we are stressed. That's not entirely the whole picture. We have "normal levels" of cortisol in that it naturally rises about half an hour after getting up in the morning, then drops throughout the day. You can see how we gradually become more alert.

Interestingly, that's not what happens with babies. They can't control their cortisol. Instead, strangely, they mimic their mothers. So, if the baby cries, the mom gets stressed, and the baby's stress hormones mimic that… it's a terrifying cycle.

Rose essential oil has a powerful effect on cortisol. On the physical level, it helps her womb to contract down and her menstrual cycle to come back into alignment, but from an emotional point of view, it reduces cortisol and should, in theory, make them both feel calmer. Even though rose is expensive, it's a massive investment to put into the bath, a drop onto your nursing pads in your bra, and a diffuser.

Unrelated (or not, because the skin certainly has a connection to how good we feel), it is wonderful for skin care, especially for dry, normal, or sensitive skin. Rose essential oil is also hypnotic, sending you to sleep.

There are two types of rose oils on the market. Rose Otto essential oil is distilled like other essential oils, but you might also see Rose absolute. This is still used in aromatherapy and richer and more golden than the Otto.

Both carry the same attributes of healing. 

Blending Rose with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Spices and woods, in particular, bring out its sweetness somehow. It works great with resins like myrrh and galbanum. Roots such as ginger and Vetiver also work very well. Try pairing it with lemon-y citruses and lovely herbs like lavender and chamomile. 

Guidelines for Using Rose Essential Oil.

    • Blending Note: Middle to top
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • Bath
    • Massage oil
    • Skincare
    • Rollerball
    • Inhaler

Safe in pregnancy? Not till after 37 weeks.

Breastfeeding? Yes, lovely.

Any potential side effects or cautions? Dilute it, and watch for pregnancy restrictions.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


One of the better-known essential oils, but often people need to learn what it's for. Frankincense oil distills the resin from a scrubby bush under the summer sun. For very obvious reasons, we know that the incense has been used for thousands of years.

The actions of the essential oil are not quite as strong as the incense, as not all constituents pass through distillation. Incensole, for example, makes you feel warmer as you pray. A very useful thing for the drafty old churches in England!

Even without that, the essential oil brings a spiritual stillness. It is so helpful for anxiety, particularly panic attacks because it slows the breath.

It quietens the mind and makes everything feel more nebulous and cloudlike.

When we think about how energy shifts, with frankincense, it moves upwards through the top of the head. It can make you feel a little spacey even as it slows the breath. For that reason, combining it with a base note like Valerian, myrrh, Patchouli, or Vetiver is a great plan. That will make you feel more in your body; otherwise, you can feel like you are quite disconnected from your limbs.

Another of frankincense's skills is how it restores elasticity to the tissues. It slows the breath and allows the lungs to regain control. We can see how this would be useful for panic attacks but also stress exacerbated asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and COPD.

A favorite way to use frankincense is in body cream. It nourishes dry skin, making it feel soft and supple, and it brings about the most beautiful sense of calm. 

Frankincense Essential Oil blends well with: 

If I were to describe its fragrance, it's like a lemony resinous scent, so it goes beautifully with citruses, firs, and pines. Be careful, though. All of those moves the energy upwards. Balance it using roots like Vetiver, Valerian, and ginger. 

Spices like cinnamon and clove make gorgeous, warming blends

Frankincense is lovely with any flowers or herbs.

Guidelines for Using Frankincense Essential Oil.

    • Blending Note: Middle
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • In body lotions 
    • Room diffusers
    • In an inhaler 
    • In the bath 
    • Lovely massage oils soothe and release tight, tense muscles.
    • Aroma Pendants 
    • Particularly good for meditation.

Safe in pregnancy? After 16 weeks

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? Ensure you use carrier oil to dilute it. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


You often see the benefits of frankincense regaled, but people fail to communicate how wonderful myrrh is. Also a resin, but where frankincense is a white, milky sap, myrrh is a rich caramel golden brown and looks a bit like amber.

Where frankincense pushes energy up, myrrh brings it back down again. You can see how they are useful together. Physically, its more valid claim is how it can knit the skin back together again, healing and sterilizing wounds, but it's also the most amazing emotional salve.

Again, it's associated with the nativity story, but no other plant has more mentions in the Bible. Myrrh often connects with grief and uninhibited love in romantic and sensuous verses. It's deep, soothing, and uplifting.

Where frankincense makes you feel connected to the Heavens, myrrh reconnects you with yourself. It grounds you and reminds you how many lovely qualities you have. It's a beautiful oil to use if you feel lonely, isolated, or unsupported. 

Blending Myrrh with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Flowers- rose, geranium, Jasmine, ylang-ylang…all luscious. Lavender, chamomile, and hyssop are all beautiful fragrance combinations. 

Myrrh is spicier and goes great with warm, pungent smells like ginger, cinnamon, or nutmeg. 

It is often described as "the bitter taste of myrrh," so the sweeter the fragrance you pair it with, the better. 

Woods and other resins also work well. 

Myrrh and any orange-based fragrance are a match made in Heaven.

Guidelines for Using Myrrh Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Base
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • In the bath
    • In body lotions and massage oils
    • Not suitable for a diffuser. It's too heavy. It will gunk it up.

Safe in pregnancy? After 37 weeks

Breastfeeding? Yes, superb for cracked nipples, but it will taste nasty to the baby.

Any potential side effects or cautions? Dilute it, and pregnancy guidelines.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


Patchouli is a funny one because it has a deep woody fragrance. It's Earthy and rich. You'd expect it to come from a wood or a root, but actually, it's from the leaves of a mint. Very odd indeed.

Patchouli drags energy down from the head into the body. If your thoughts run away with you and you keep spinning out, this is a great oil to start using.

In particular, it has associations with sex. Wonderful for people recovering from abuse or having sexual anxiety.

This might be different from the energy you want to go out into the world with. It certainly differs from the vibe you would like to give in Walmart!

Shopping would be best done with something like Bergamot, Cedarwood, or Geranium.

Patchouli is for quiet time alone, whether in the bedroom or in silent meditation. 

Blend Patchouli with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Patchouli blends with citruses exquisitely. It adds weight to conifer fragrances and is lovely with flowers like rose, geranium, or lavender. 

Spices make it sing and make it feel even warmer. 

As I said, it's very at home with woods, roots, and resins, even though it's not one of them. 

Guidelines for Using Patchouli Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Base
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • Massage oils
    • Lotions
    • Baths
    • Aroma Pendant
    • It's too heavy for diffusers but is wonderful in evaporators

Safe in pregnancy? After 16 weeks

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? 

Dilute it; other than that, you're good to go.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


If you visit Egypt, even today, you can find small stubs of Cedarwood left behind from what once formed the doors of ancient temples. The colossal trees imported from Lebanon have tremendous weather resistance, so they have endured for so long. Their role was to shut out the negative aspects of the outside world.

A bit of a head up when you start shopping for cedarwood essential oils for anxiety, they can be a bit confusing since some are called Cedrus, then there is the odd Juniperus thrown in.

The traditional Cedarwood was Cedarwood Atlas, but it was so popular that eventually, it was farmed almost to extinction. Juniperus virginiana is Cedarwood Virginian. It's not Cedarwood. It is juniper, but it has developed chemistry nearly the same. Cedarwood Virginian acts the same way, calming the mind and disallowing negative thoughts to creep through it.

It has a lovely sexy masculine fragrance, so if you are a bloke who feels a bit nervous about a date smelling of lavender, this one is a must. 

Blending Cedarwood with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Fruits and spices in particular, but really, with anything. 

Guidelines for Using Cedarwood Essential Oil.

    • Blending Note: It can work as top, middle, or bottom, depending on your blend. 
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 months: 1%

We do not recommend using essential oils for anxiety (or any essential oils) on young babies.

The best ways of using it:

    • Aroma Pendants
    • Diffusers
    • Massage oil
    • Bath

Safe in pregnancy? Yes, after 16 weeks 

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? Apart from the pregnancy restrictions, this is a safe, easy, and helpful oil. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


Strictly speaking, I wouldn't say that bergamot is one of the best essential oils for anxiety, but there is nothing that even comes close to it for depression, and for some people, the two go hand in hand.

Belonging to the citrus family, bergamot is a green orange, well recognized as an ingredient in Earl Grey tea. It is bright, sunshiny, and full of zest. It oozes confidence and motivation. Bergamot says I'm still chill but have more bounce in my step.

There are some issues to raise about bergamot. It's almost as if the sunshine is captured in the bottle. Because it is compressed from the rind of the peel rather than being distilled, some of the parts of the rind are what we call phototoxic. This means the skin can react as if it's been sunburnt and become red, blotchy, and sore.

There is a version of the oil called Bergamot FCF where these furanocoumarins are taken out; however, as long as you keep the dilutions of this oil very low, you are protected from that.

However, be aware that bergamot is made up mostly of monoterpenes. This chemical group oxidizes very fast, which can also cause skin sensitivity.

Never make preparations with bergamot that you will not use up quickly (unless you are going to use a preservative like BHT or alpha-tocopherol), and never use old oils. Try replacing your bergamot essential oil at least every six months.

Incidentally, if you have an old oil, use it in your diffuser or wipe down surfaces and clean them. The oil is not useless, just unsafe to use on the skin. 

Bergamot Essential Oil blends well with

Other citruses particularly, and woods and spices. 

Guidelines for Using Bergamot Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Top
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 0.4%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state:0.4% (Go one drop in a tablespoon of carrier. Not exactly right, but safe enough)
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 years: 0.4%

We do not recommend using bergamot essential oil on children younger than 6. 

The best ways of using it:

    • Aroma Pendant
    • Massage oil
    • Diffuser

Safe in pregnancy? After 16 weeks

Breastfeeding? Yes

Any potential side effects or cautions? Watch the oil in the sunshine. Keep your dilutions very low, indeed. 

Safe for Pets? It is safe to diffuse bergamot oils around dogs but not cats. That said, always ensure your pooch can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated. 


Heady, aphrodisiac, and euphoric, there is nothing like ylang-ylang. Imagine floating over to Madagascar, and as the locals meet you, they adorn you with leis of flowers around your neck. This is the lovely dreamy nature of ylang-ylang.

Traditionally, the flowers are placed on bridal beds as an aphrodisiac for nervous new lovers.

It's so dreamy. You feel like you are being lifted out of your body, so when you blend it with other essential oils for anxiety, you mix it with another middle or base note to keep you feeling more grounded. 

Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil Blends Well With

Rose, geranium, lavender, all those rich flowers. 

It is fragrant, euphoric, delightfully heady, and mixes well with wood, roots, and spices. A combination of Ylang-ylang and Patchouli is particularly delicious. 

Used with a light hand, it's gorgeous with lemony fragrances.

Guidelines for Using Ylang-ylang Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Middle to top
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 years: 1%

We do not recommend using ylang-ylang on small children.

The best ways of using it:

    • Massage oils 
    • Bath 
    • Aroma Pendant 
    • Diffuser

Safe in pregnancy? Only after 37 weeks 

Breastfeeding? Yes 

Any potential side effects or cautions?

It can cause headaches if used too often.

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.


Constituents in Valerian are proven to act similarly to benzodiazepines, binding to the GABA receptor. In addition to activating a calming state, Valerian reduces GABA reuptake, allowing a surfeit of the neurotransmitter to pool. (Busti, 2015)

Moreover, research shows that it is a safe and effective long-term treatment, especially for insomnia. (Busti, 2015)

Valerian is the heaviest of the heavy hitters. It has been training its whole life to help people with panic attacks. The only problem is that after all those years of pounding the track, it smells like it has always kept its socks the same.

You will unlikely ever want to use this oil alone (particularly if you desire to be intimate), but you will love how tranquil it makes you feel. Despite its distinctive fragrance of teenagers' dirty feet, no essential oil is more relaxing and soothing. The key to it is good blending.

Blending Valerian with Other Essential Oils for Anxiety

Lavender, Roman chamomile, geranium, and rose all blend well with Valerian. It blends well with most flowers, actually, as well as herbs, woods, and spices. It has a deep dirty fragrance (it comes from the root), so matching it with happy fruity aromas works well.

Citruses also tend to be enlivening and uplifting, so they de-zombie-ize the mellow. 

My favorite blend of essential oils for anxiety is Sweet Orange and Valerian.

Guidelines for Using Valerian Essential Oil

    • Blending Note: Base
    • Maximum dilution for adults: 3%
    • Maximum dilution for someone in a weakened state: 2%
    • Maximum dilution for children over 6 years: 1%

We do not recommend using valerian essential oils on children any younger.

The best ways of using it: 

    • In the bath at bedtime
    • In an inhaler for panic attacks
    • In a body lotion for general feelings of calm
    • Massage oils with Valerian are stupefying and lovely.

Safe in Pregnancy? 

Do not use valerian essential oil in the first sixteen weeks of pregnancy. 


Bleuch… don't put the poor kid through it. 

Any potential side effects or cautions?

Essential oils rarely interact with prescribed medications, as they usually work via different pathways; however, with Valerian, there can sometimes be issues.

Valerian may increase the effectiveness of other sleep aids, which is wonderful. However, It also increases the sedative effect of depressants, such as narcotics, alcohol, and benzodiazepine medications. This may be an issue if you are driving or operating machinery.

For the most part, booze, and Valerian aren't a nice mix and can make you feel rather nauseous and woozy. 

Safe for Pets? Yes, safe to diffuse and to use topically. Use a max 1% dilution, and always ensure the animal can leave any room where you are diffusing in case they start to feel overstimulated.

DIY Essential Oils for Anxiety Recipes

Calming Essential Oils for Anxiety Rollerball

Method of Preparation: Put your essential oils into the bottle first, then top it up with carrier oil to save you measuring.

Method of Use: Apply to the insides of your wrist, where you can see a good supply of blue blood! Apply as often as you remember.

It can be helpful just to put some into your hands, cup them, and breathe the fragrance in slowly.

Massaging essential oils for anxiety into the back of the neck and shoulders is very soothing too.

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first sixteen weeks of pregnancy.

Mellow Essential Oils for Anxiety Lotion

As previously described, the effects of aromatherapy are cumulative. The more you use essential oils for anxiety, the more effective they are likely to e. So, lotions that you can use discreetly are great. It helps to remember that it is the essential oils doing the work rather than the lotion, so you don't need copious amounts at each application. That said, if you can feel calmer with softer, more nourished skin… what's the harm. As previously stated, anything surplus to your body's needs will be excreted as natural waste. 

Method of Use: Try to work up to as many as five times a day. Apply wherever you like. This one is beautiful enough to apply as a whole-body lotion after a bath or shower, but you could just as easily use a small amount of the essential oils for anxiety lotion on the insides of your wrist or the back of your neck and shoulders. 

Safety: Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Inhaler Of Essential Oils for Anxiety for Panic Attacks

Method of Preparation:

    1. Drip the essential oils for anxiety into a small container (an eggcup works well).
    2. Take the wick to the inhaler to soak up all the oils.
    3. Put the wick inside the inhaler and assemble it. 

Method of Use: Use as often as required. Some people like to put the inhaler inside their noses, but there is no need. Use it as a means of inhaling the oils. Sometimes cupping your hands around it can capture the oils faster for you. 

Focus on trying to slow your breath. 

There is an argument for using your essential oils for anxiety a couple of times a day, even if you aren't spinning out. The oils are extremely calming, and the more you practice getting calm, the more proficient you will become at it.  

Counting backward from 100 can help. If more of a challenge is needed, try counting back in threes. 

General Essential Oils for Anxiety Diffuser Blends

Safety: Not designed for topical use.

Safety: Not designed for topical use.

Safety: Not designed for topical use.

Soothing Bath Oils of Essential Oils for Anxiety

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Sleep Easy Bath Oil

    • 2 drops Valerian Essential Oil (Valeriana officinalis)
    • 1 drop Vetiver Essential Oil (Vetiveria zizanoides)
    • 3 drops Mandarin Essential Oil (Citrus reticulata) 
    • 2 drops Camomile Essential Oil (Anthemis nobilis)
    • 2 drops Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula angustifolia)

Safety: Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Do not use oil mandarin oil. It can cause skin sensitivity.


There is no doubt that fear can rule your life, and there are no guarantees when it comes to essential oils for anxiety. But here's the thing, focusing on the future and arming yourself with coping strategies can all have wonderful effects.

In the end, though, essential oils for anxiety are nothing more than tools. While they can influence your mindset, there does need to be some application and determination on your part too.

Studies show that essential oils have a cumulative effect. The more you practice with them, even spending five minutes a day focusing on your breath and calming your mind, the more successful a strategy will become.

I wish you well, and I hope to one day hear your own stories about how essential oils changed your life for anxiety.

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