Are you looking for ways to lower your daily stress levels but don’t want prescription meds or can’t find the time to meditate? As a holistic health therapist, I use essential oils for this and so can you! Several essential oils have demonstrated abilities to lower stress fast - in as little as 10-15 minutes, measured by reductions in cortisol (i.e. - stress hormone) levels, and subjectively as well. Bergamot, lavender, sweet marjoram and neroli are some of the best essential oils for stress relief.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are derived from plants. They’re not like the coconut or olive oil you find in your kitchen cabinet – aromatherapists call those “carrier oils.” Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile substances, naturally produced by plants in small amounts for a variety of reasons, e.g. - self-defense, protection from bacteria and viruses, and cell regeneration.
Essential oils are extracted from plant stems, flowers, leaves, seeds, roots, bark, etc. Breathing in the volatile molecules produces noticeable changes in brain chemistry and body chemistry, as does applying them to the skin directly or diluted with another oil or cream. There are well over 80 essential oils in regular use by aromatherapists today.
How Do Essential Oils Lower Stress?
Bergamot (citrus bergamia) and neroli (citrus aurantium) essential oils have high levels of esters, which contribute to their “lifting” effects on mood and emotional state. In one study for instance, breathing in bergamot essential oil diffused in water vapor significantly lowered cortisol levels (measured in saliva) within just 15 minutes. Lavender (lavendula angustifolia/officinalis) and sweet marjoram (origanum majorana) similarly have anti-depressant, blood pressure-lowering effects that have been demonstrated repeatedly in scientific studies. Links to studies are appended below.
Other helpful essential oils for stress conditions include rose, lemon, sweet orange, frankincense, and rosemary.
Where Can I Find Essential Oils and How Do I Use Them?
To get the desired effects, it’s important to use therapeutic-grade essential oils. Many products out there claim to be “pure” or “natural,” but unfortunately these labels are poorly regulated under the laws of most countries. The result is that these products are weak or even useless. Some trustworthy brands include: Essential Therapeutics, Veriditas Botanicals, Aura Cacia, and Doterra. You can find these brands in any large online retailer like Amazon, or in most natural foods stores.*
How Do I Use Them?
For stress relief, it is best to diffuse essential oils in water vapour with a water diffuser. You can buy a diffuser almost anywhere that you can find essential oils. To use one you remove the top, fill the internal cup with water and 2-5 drops of your favourite oils, replace the cap, plug it in and turn it on. It should emit a steady stream of very light mist into the air. This “diffuses” the essential oil molecules evenly into the room. Use any combination of bergamot, lavender, sweet marjoram or neroli essential oils that you enjoy - 5 drops maximum - and keep the diffuser on for at least 15 minutes or as long as you like.
If you don’t have a diffuser, you can boil some water, carefully pour it into a bowl, add your desired essential oils (2-3 drops total) and stir it. Then keep your head near the bowl so that you can breathe it in. A side benefit of this method is that you can place your head over the bowl and put a towel over your head and enjoy a nice steam facial (just keep your eyes closed and be careful not to get burned).
You can also ask your local aromatherapist or health food store consultant for an inhaler like this one - a small capped tube with a piece in the center that contains several drops of your chosen essential oils in it. Then you can carry it with you and open it as needed.
If diffusers and inhalers aren't an option, you can dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil like coconut oil or almond oil (try 1-2 drops total of essential oils per teaspoon of carrier oil), stir thoroughly and rub into your wrists, and smell as needed. Some of these oils also have skin-enhancing, regenerative effects on skin, so some even prefer this method.
As much as you may be tempted to, DO NOT ingest essential oils. This is neither necessary nor safe.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me. Thanks.
*I am not affiliated with any essential oil brand. I only list the brands I have used in my aromatherapy practice in the United States and in Australia.
James L Poole
I am a holistic health therapist: Emmett Technique practitioner, aromatherapist, nutritional therapist, and Reiki healer. This is my blog about natural healing.