Essential Oils for Anxiety and Depression: A Natural Approach to Mental Well-being

Essential Oils for Anxiety and Depression: A Natural Approach to Mental Well-being

It’s normal to feel stressed and worried from time to time. However, when these feelings persist, one could be experiencing an onset of anxiety or depression. Some of the symptoms of depression include feeling stressed and hopeless, being less motivated to do once enjoyable tasks, less sleeping, and having low self-esteem. Anxiety, on the other hand, causes feelings of nervousness, dread, and panic.

According to research, over 300 million people suffer from anxiety and depression. However, the rates surged significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When left untreated, these mood disorders can affect physical health and impair cognitive processes such as concentration, memory, and decision-making.

Speaking of treatment, many people use essential oils as a drug-free option to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. This guide will explore the potential benefits of essential oils for anxiety and depression. It will also outline popular types of essential oils used and tips for incorporating them into a wellness routine.

Understanding Essential Oils

Used since ancient times, essential oils are liquid extracts derived from aromatic plants. Normally, plants produce these oils for various reasons. For example, the oils deter herbivores and insects from consuming them. As a result, these extracts have stronger odors than the plants they hail from.

The strong scent also attracts birds and other animals to help in pollination. Lastly, these aromatic compounds have antimicrobial properties that help plants defend themselves against pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Depending on the plant species, essential oils can be extracted from different parts of the plant, including flowers, roots, leaves, stems, seeds, bark, resin, and fruits. Usually, there are different methods of extracting essential oils, which mostly depend on the type of plant, the intended use of the oil, and the desired amount. Let’s briefly discuss some of these methods.

Cold Pressing

Some essential oils are volatile and will degrade when exposed to heat. To prevent this, the cold pressing or expression method involves using mechanical pressure.

Essentially, cleaned plant parts pass through a cold press (expression) machine to squeeze out the essential oils. These oils are then rinsed with water and separated. Although cold pressing retains the natural smell of essential oils, it is not ideal for high-volume extraction because it does not draw out all the oil from the plant.


The distillation method involves placing plant materials in an apparatus called a still. Water is boiled in another chamber, and the steam is directed to travel through the plant material. The steam’s high temperature causes the essential oil sacs or glands within the plant to burst open and release their aromatic compounds.

The steam then carries the essential oil compounds to another chamber where it’s condensed. The essential oils are later separated from the water through cooling.

Solvent Extraction

The solvent extraction method uses organic solvents such as ethanol or hexane to dissolve essential oils. Plant materials are crushed and soaked in the solvent to increase the surface area and facilitate the extraction process.

Typically, the mixture sits for several hours or days, and essential oil is recovered through filtration or vacuum distillation. Though this method is efficient, some solvents might remain in the oil extracts.

Carbon Dioxide Extraction

The carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction method is the most modern method. It involves heating and pressurizing CO2 to a point where it has the properties of a gas and a liquid. In this state, CO2 is capable of dissolving essential oil extracts. This method is ideal for delicate essential oils but it might be slow.

Aromatherapy and Its Principles

Simply put, aromatherapy is the process of using essential oils to relieve anxiety and stress levels as well as promote a sense of relaxation. Despite this method having been in use for centuries, recent data backs the numerous benefits of essential oils. As such, therapists currently recommend it to patients alongside other treatments.

There are different methods of using essential oils, such as topical application and inhalation. When inhaled, essential oils trigger a chain of nervous system reactions.

Cells in the nose called olfactory receptors detect essential oil molecules and send a signal to the limbic system in the brain through the olfactory nerves. The limbic system contains several structures, including the amygdala, which controls emotions. In response to the pleasant scent, the brain releases feel-good hormones, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These hormones improve emotional well-being by relieving feelings of anxiety and stress.

How Essential Oils Can Help

As mentioned, the two main methods used in aromatherapy are inhalation and topical application. The inhalation method relies on a person’s sense of smell to pick up compounds like linalool and linalyl acetate in essential oils. This then activates a neurological reaction, which leads to the release of calming hormones like dopamine and the suppression of the stress hormone cortisol.

When applied topically or on the skin, essential oils alleviate muscle stiffness, reduce pain, and promote relaxation and positive mood. In addition, some compounds of essential oils get absorbed into the bloodstream, causing blood vessels to dilate, thereby improving blood flow.

Psychological and Physiological Effects of Essential Oils on the Body

The effects of essential oils can be either psychological or physiological. Psychological effects relate to mental and emotional well-being. On the other hand, physiological effects are changes that occur within the body.

The psychological effects of essential oils include:

  • Improving mood and promoting feelings of happiness and well-being
  • Supporting emotional balance
  • Boosting cognitive function, memory, and concentration
  • Improving sleep quality

Some of the physiological effects of essential oils are:

  • Relaxed muscles
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Supported respiratory and digestive functions

Top Essential Oils for Anxiety and Depression

Although many essential oils have properties that can help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, they differ in potency and aroma. As such, their effect depends on the oil selected.

Below are some of the top essential oils used for anxiety and depression.


Lavender essential oil is a popular option and is extracted from lavender flowers. It is highly concentrated with linalool and linalyl acetate, which affect the brain’s neurotransmitters to induce a calming and relaxing effect on the body. The oil also promotes and improves sleep quality.

Lavender’s scent helps the body release serotonin, which counters the fight or flight response generated by stress. Other lavender uses include lessening acne, treating inflammation, smoothening skin, and improving hair health.


Bergamot essential oil gets its name from the bergamot orange, a type of citrus. It is extracted from the skin of the fruit through cold-pressing. The a-Pinene constituent in the oil has a strong aroma that helps to soothe and uplift mood.

This essential oil also helps to stimulate the production of bile and insulin, which are responsible for breaking down sugars and lowering blood pressure. This, in turn, decreases the body’s stress responses.


Chamomile essential oil comes from flowers of the same name and is obtained through steam distillation. This essential oil contains flavonoids and sesquiterpenes, which have mild sedative effects that enhance mind relaxation and prolong sleep durations.

Coupled with various carrier oils, chamomile essential oil is used as a soothing massage oil or lotion that provides stress relief. The oil also has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from irritation and promote faster wound healing.

Ylang Ylang

Ylang-ylang essential oil comes from the cananga odorata tree. It is traditionally used to add flavor to food and fragrance to perfumes. The oil is rich in linalool acetate, which is incorporated in soaps and lotions to pacify feelings of sadness, reduce stress, and counter insomnia.

This essential oil option also acts as an antidepressant that improves mood and relieves anxiety by lowering the tension exerted on nerves.


Frankincense essential oil is extracted from the gum resin of the Boswellia tree through steam distillation. Typically used in ancient ceremonies, this essential oil has a soft and light scent. The sweet aroma helps to relax muscles between the ribs to create more lung volume and allow for deeper breaths.

The increased air intake slows down breathing and calms the body, thus alleviating anxiety and depression symptoms. Frankincense essential oil also assists in balancing hormones to boost mood and relaxation.


Rose essential oil is obtained from the petals of rose flowers through steam distillation. It acts as a natural antidepressant with calming effects. The molecules of rose essential oil interact with neurotransmitters in the brain to facilitate the reduction of cortisol levels and impact positive mood changes.


Jasmine essential oil has a sweet and floral aroma and is extracted from jasmine flowers. The process of obtaining this essential oil, known as enfleurage, is one of the most time-consuming.

The use of jasmine essential oil in skin care routines and aromatherapy helps to relieve depression symptoms and promote a sense of overall well-being. The oil also stimulates brain activity to improve mood and raise alertness levels.

How to Use Essential Oils

Essential oils penetrate the body in two primary ways: inhalation and topical application. However, the method of use depends on the essential oil chosen and the desired effect.

Below are guidelines on how to use essential oils with each method.


The sweet and floral aroma of most essential oils makes inhalation a preferred method of use among many people. The oil is inhaled with the help of a gadget such as a diffuser or a spray, while others choose to do it directly through dry evaporation or steam.


With diffusers, the essential oil is placed in the device with water. The device then heats the oil and water mixture to release the oil fragrance into a room, where it spreads and can be picked up by a person’s olfactory receptors.

However, it’s advisable not to burn essential oils directly since this changes their chemical structure and may give off foul odors.


Using spray involves mixing water with drops of essential oils and then spraying into the air. The resulting scent helps to set a mood or deodorize a room. It is advisable to shake the water-oil solution before spraying for better results.

Dry evaporation

In dry evaporation, you pour essential oils in drops onto a tissue, piece of cloth, or cotton ball and then leave them to evaporate. You can sniff these items directly for a more intense dose or place them at a distance for mild exposure.

You can also use calming patches to inhale essential oils. These stickers have essential oils and constantly release their scents when pinned on clothes or wrists to calm or stimulate a person.


Steam inhalation involves adding drops of essential oils to hot water and inhaling the resulting steam. Since this is a more potent method, the volume of oil used should be restricted to one or two drops to avoid strong, overwhelming scents.

Topical application

Topical application entails applying essential oils on the skin through different methods. However, most oils are highly irritating in their pure form; it’s not advisable to apply them directly on the skin without diluting.

Carrier oils help to dilute essential oils when mixing them in small quantities. Some common diluting oils include avocado, apricot, almond, and grapeseed oils.

Once diluted, you can use the essential oils as lotions through massaging, in baths, and through compression with heat or cold.

Safety Tips

Since essential oils are not water-soluble, it’s crucial to take care, especially when taking baths. You can add bath salts to disperse the essential oils and prevent them from floating or coming into contact with bare skin.

Also, when diluting with carrier oils, the correct concentration for skin tolerance should be no more than 3%. To attain this, mix one to three drops of essential oils with 5 milliliters of carrier substance. However, if you are applying the oil on infants and toddlers, it’s prudent to mix one drop of essential oil with 5 milliliters to make a concentration of 1%.

Precautions and Considerations

While exploring the many benefits of essential oils, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying oils that are not genuine or pure. This can have negative effects on your health as well as deny you the desired results.

Only 100% pure and natural essential oils with deep and strong aromas are potent and effective in anxiety alleviation. Many synthetic oils contain fillers that decrease their purity.

To confirm if an essential oil is genuine:

  • Check the smell since diluted oils have a weak scent compared to pure ones.
  • Check the price. Some oils have complicated extraction methods, which is reflected in their cost.

Nonetheless, even though pure essential oils are better, it’s necessary to exercise caution while using them. This is because these oils have a high concentration and can cause severe skin irritations and burns when used in their natural form. They may also cause allergic reactions such as skin rashes and swelling.

Additionally, essential oils can cause poisoning when ingested, even in small quantities. Moreover, individuals with pre-existing conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may experience negative effects, such as throat and lung irritation.

Therefore, it is advisable to properly dilute essential oils and consult with a healthcare professional before taking any aromatherapy regimen or while on medication.

Integrating Essential Oils to Your Wellness Routine

You might be looking forward to getting some of the many mental and physical benefits that come with essential oils. But how do you integrate them into your wellness routine?


One way of using essential oils is by adding a few drops in warm bath water to create a scented and relaxed atmosphere. Alternatively, you can use natural essential oil body wash. Since these oils don’t contain chemicals, they are suitable for all skin types.


Another way of integrating essential oils is mixing them with carrier oils and using the mixture as massage oil. It will relieve soreness and tenderness and cause muscles to relax. Moreover, it will help to moisturize, soften, and smoothen the skin.


If you are experiencing insomnia, you can add a sleep patch for adults with essential oils to your routine. These give off sedative effects that promote and improve sleep quality. Typically, the patches are adhered to wrists, the nape of the neck, or pinned on clothes. You can also get a sleepy patch for kids to ensure a restful night for your youngsters.

Tips for Creating a Calming Environment at Home or Work

A calm atmosphere goes a long way in helping to tackle anxiety and depression symptoms. Here are tips on how to create a relaxing environment at home or work.

  • Get a diffuser to distribute soothing essential oils across a room.
  • Install adaptive lighting that adjusts color temperature and intensity and mimics natural daylight progression.
  • Get a focus patch with essential oils to keep you alert and motivated.

Although essential oils have many mental and physical benefits, it’s important to understand that they don’t cure mood disorders. As such, you should use them alongside other forms of treatment like therapy and make lifestyle choices that promote mental well-being.

Add Essential Oils to Your Wellness Journey

Essential oil aromatherapy triggers the brain to release hormones that help counter feelings of anxiety and depression. In addition, the deep and strong scents of these oils enhance calmness, relaxation, and a sense of well-being that helps improve overall physical and mental health.

While essential oils can be a valuable tool, they can have negative effects when used inappropriately. They are also most effective when combined with professional medical advice and other therapeutic modalities.

Explore NatPat

Mental well-being is equally important as physical well-being. One way of taking care of mental health is by using essential oils. NatPat has all the essential oils you can think of. However, if it’s your first time using essential oils, you can experiment with one or two oils and see the effect on mood and anxiety. With continued use, you’ll get more comfortable exploring other essential oils. Also, take a look at NatPat’s health and wellness patches.


What foods are good for anxiety and depression?

There are no foods that treat anxiety and depression. However, fresh and whole foods such as grains, leafy greens, and fatty fish, which are high in nutrients, can help improve mood and balance hormones.

Where do you put essential oils for anxiety?

Essential oils can be put in diffusers or sprays and inhaled to reduce anxiety. However, you can also apply them on body parts, such as wrists, nape of the neck, wrists, and chest. This ensures a continuous flow of their soothing scents.

What essential oil blends reduce anxiety?

Essential oils can be blended to give more potency in anxiety reduction. Some of these blends include bergamot oil and lavender oil, rose oil and lavender oil, and frankincense oil coupled with geranium oil.

How can I feel less anxious?

Taking slow breaths helps deal with anxiety by reducing the amount of stress hormones produced by the body. Inhaling or applying essential oils to your body also gives off a calming effect that improves relaxation and counters anxiety feelings.

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