Essential Oils for High Blood Pressure

What is high blood pressure?

It is estimated that nearly 1.28 billion adults worldwide, aged between 30-79 years, suffer from high blood pressure.1 Blood pressure is also known as hypertension and is a common condition where the arteries in the body cannot withstand the force with which blood flows around.2 Two numbers can determine our blood pressure. One is systolic pressure (high number), which measures the force of blood flow around the body. The second is the diastolic pressure (low number), which measures the resistance against this blood flow. They are measured as pressure units in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The normal blood pressure for adults is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.2 However, if you suffer from high blood pressure, this can be 140/90mmHg or higher. 

Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure

Hypertension is often a silent killer, and it is estimated that 46% of adults are unaware that they have high blood pressure.1 In most cases, blood pressure causes are unknown, and most individuals have no latent symptoms. Some symptoms, such as headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, aren’t specific and don’t occur until the condition becomes life-threatening. 

However, certain risk factors are associated with high blood pressure. They are:

  • Being overweight
  • Excessive consumption of high salt or fat diets
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee (or other caffeinated drinks)
  • Smoking
  • Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep
  • Being over 65
  • Familial history of high blood pressure
  • Poor quality or stressful lifestyles
  • Being of African or Caribbean descent

High blood pressure can be treated with medication such as:

  • ACE Inhibitors: Drugs that lower blood pressure by blocking hormones that regulate them, e.g. enalapril, lisinopril, perindopril and ramipril.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers: These drugs prevent calcium from entering the heart and arteries; as a result, the vessels can relax to accommodate better blood flow, e.g. amlodipine, felodipine and nifedipine or diltiazem and verapamil.
  • Diuretics: These drugs help to remove sodium and water from your blood, thereby decreasing the amount of blood flowing through your body, e.g. indapamide, bendroflumethiazide, amiloride and spironolactone.
  • Beta Blockers: Drugs that relax the heart muscles so that the heart rate is slower, blood pressure drops and less strain is put on the heart, e.g. atenolol and bisoprolol.
  • Alpha Blockers: These are drugs that prevent a hormone called norepinephrine from tightening the muscles in the blood vessels, e.g. doxazosin.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are oils that are extracted from plants to capture their scent. These oils can be extracted through distillation (steam or water) or mechanical methods (cold pressing). Once the extraction process is completed, they are combined with a carrier oil to be ready for use. Carrier oils include coconut, jojoba, apricot kernel, sweet almond, olive, argan, rosehip, black seed, grape seed, avocado, or sunflower oil.  

Essential oils are mainly used for aromatherapy, where they can be inhaled to reap the benefits. Aromas from the essential oils can stimulate the limbic system, which is associated with parts of the brain responsible for emotions, behaviours, sense of smell, and long-term memory.3 However, studies have shown that some of the plant compounds can be absorbed when applied to the skin.4

Although limited studies have been conducted on their use to treat diseases medically, essential oils have been used as contemporary treatments to alleviate the symptoms of some conditions. These include:  

Stress & Anxiety

Studies have used psychological parameters (anxiety, tension, calmness, and sedation) 

And physiological parameters (heart rate and muscle movements of the intestines) to analyse stress and anxiety before, during and after inhalation of essential oils.5 However, due to various environmental factors that can affect stress, it is difficult to deduce that the essential oils themselves have reduced stress. 

Headaches & Migraines

In the past, some natural remedies such as chamomile and sesame oil have been used in Persian culture to treat headaches.6 Studies have further shown that applying oils such as peppermint to the forehead, temples, and skin can relieve the symptoms of headaches.7

Sleep & Insomnia

Lavender oil and its soothing properties have been shown to improve sleep quality, primarily due to its chemical components such as linalool and linalyl acetate.8 Furthermore, oils such as bergamot, ylang ylang, chamomile, cedarwood and clary sage oil have also been shown to improve sleep.9

Reducing Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s coping response to biological stressors such as infection, tissue injury, or diseases. The use of essential oils such as chamomile, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender, can negate the effects of inflammatory responses by suppressing the activity of signalling molecules responsible for mediating inflammation.10 

Antibiotic & Antimicrobial Effects

Essential oils can kill or slow the growth of bacteria, fungi, or viruses that cause infections by destroying their cell membranes.11 Some of the essential oils commonly used for their bactericidal or fungicidal effects come from garlic, ginger, clove, black pepper, green chile, cinnamon, clove, pimento, thyme, oregano, tea tree, and rosemary.11

Essential oils to lower blood pressure

Cedarwood Essential Oil

There has been very little research on cedarwood oil and its potential to improve high blood pressure. However, cedarwood oil has a chemical component called ‘cedrol’, which has been shown to have a sedative effect.12 The research has shown that it can improve sleep quality by targeting the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for involuntary actions (e.g. heart rate, digestion, sleep regulation, and reproduction).13 

Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender oil is a common choice amongst essential oil users to promote relaxation and a restful night’s sleep. Studies have shown that using lavender oil or blending it with other essential oils can alleviate cardiac excitations and lower blood pressure and palpitations.14 Additionally, lavender oils and their constituents such as linalool and linalyl acetate has been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression by reducing the levels of stress hormone such as cortisol.15 

Helichrysum Essential Oil

Helichrysum essential oil is derived from Helichrysum italicum, also known as the curry plant. The use of helichrysum essential oil and its medicinal effects are still being discovered. However, studies have shown that the plant has vasodilatory properties, which is useful when managing high blood pressure as it can widen the blood vessel to manage hypertension.16 

Clary Sage Essential Oil

Clary sage oil and its constituents, such as linalyl acetate and linalool, have been studied for their potential abilities to boost mood. It is found to lower stress levels and have antidepressant effects by activating the dopamine pathway, also known as the 'feel-good’ hormone.17 Its exact role in lowering blood pressure has yet to be determined.

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Ylang ylang oil and its use as a therapeutic agent have grown extensively over the past few years. It has been used to treat depressive behaviours, nervousness, and, in some cases, lower blood pressure. It can elicit its physiological behaviours by absorption through the skin and lowering heart rate, subsequently lowering blood pressure.18 

Lemon Essential Oil 

Lemon oil has been reported to change neuronal circuits in the brain related to anxiety, pain and behaviour. Studies have further suggested that lemon essential oil can lower blood pressure by modulating these parameters.19 The exact mechanism by which this essential oil has this effect is yet to be discovered.

Lime Essential Oil

The use of lime essential oil and its effect on lowering blood pressure has been poorly studied. Studies have shown that lime essential oils have cholesterol-lowering properties, contributing to better heart health.20 However, the mechanism by which it does this requires further investigation. 

Neroli Essential Oil

Neroli essential oil promotes emotional soothing and comfort. Furthermore, it is effective in diminishing cardiac palpitations as a result of shock or fear. Studies have shown that using neroli essential oil as a blend alongside lavender, ylang ylang, and marjoram essential oil can lower blood pressure.14

Sage Essential Oil

Studies have not directly proven the effect of sage essential oil in reducing blood pressure. However, inhalation of this essential oil has been effective in improving cognition (e.g. alertness, calmness, and contentedness), memory speed, and mood. The proposed mechanism for improving memory is by increasing the efficiency of neuronal communication.21

Citronella Essential Oil

Citronella essential oil has been known as a mosquito repellent; however, its benefit on heart health has been recently explored. Studies have shown that the inhalation of citronella oil can reduce blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. Specific components of this essential oil, such as citronellal,  geraniol and citronellol, may reduce the heart muscle’s contractile response to hormones that increase the heart rate. Subsequently, this leads to muscle relaxation and lowers blood pressure and heart rates.22 

Marjoram Essential Oil

Studies have shown that inhaling marjoram essential oils can lower the sympathetic nervous system activity (the body’s involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations). It further stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxes the individual once an emergency has passed), resulting in reduced cardiac strain and decreased blood pressure.23 

How can essential oils be used?

Lotion recipe

Essential oils in lotions can be used on their own or in combinations. A personalised lotion recipe can be created by adding a few drops of the essential oil of choice into a fragrance-free lotion or a customised lotion recipe created from scratch. However, it is important to understand your skin type, how to make lotions, and the nature of carrier/essential oils because too much of the chosen oil in the lotion can irritate the skin.

Diffuser recipe

Essential oils can also be added to a diffuser or oil burner, on their own or as a blend. For use in oil burners, it is important to know the safety information of the essential oils, as some of them may be flammable or toxic when heat is applied to them.

Massage oil recipe

Essential oils on their own or as a blend can be diluted into a carrier, such as coconut oil or sweet almond oil, to create a massage oil. 


Sprinkle a few drops of the essential oil on its own or blend into a warm bath to reap the benefits of inhalation or absorption through the skin.

Are essential oils safe?

Essential oils do not pose a significant health risk if used as directed. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most essential oils are deemed safe to use.

However, when using essential oils, be mindful of these precautions:24

  • Essential oils are only meant to be used externally - do not ingest them!
  • Unless explicitly stated that the oils can be used directly on the skin. Be sure to dilute essential oils into a carrier oil, as undiluted oils can cause skin irritation.
  • Avoid using essential oils in sensitive areas of the skin - face, eyes, nose, and genitalia. If the oil gets into any of these areas, rinse it thoroughly with water and contact a doctor.
  • Only use branded essential oils, and make sure that the oils haven’t expired before use.
  • Keep essential oils away from children and animals - some oils are toxic to children and pets.
  • Be mindful of others in the area when diffusing essential oils, as some oils can cause harm to vulnerable people or pets.
  • People with asthma, migraine, headaches, and taking supplements or medications may need to avoid inhaling some essential oils - consult a doctor before trying essential oils.
  • Pregnancy - Do not use certain essential oils topically or through inhalation on a pregnant woman. Oils such as bitter almond, basil, cedarwood, cinnamon, rosemary, peppermint, rose, sage, thyme, wintergreen, clary sage, cypress, hyssop, clove bud, marjoram, myrrh, juniper, geranium and fennel are harmful to them.25 If using any essential oils during pregnancy, consult with a doctor.
  • Sun exposure - some oils can render the skin photosensitive and cause pigmentation. Oils that have these effects include bergamot, lime, cumin, mandarin, lemon, tangerine, orange, verbena, angelica, caraway, cassia, cinnamon bark, grapefruit, honeysuckle, laurel leaf, patchouli, cedarwood and dill weed.25

Are essential oils safe to ingest?

Unless explicitly stated on the bottle, do not attempt to ingest essential oils, as many are toxic and life-threatening when taken internally. If a person consumes an essential oil, adverse effects can be noticeable within 30 minutes, though they may take up to 4 hours to appear.24 Some of these effects include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Eye pain, soreness, or irritation
  • Persistent cough
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Is it important to seek medical advice before using essential oils?

As general advice, if you suffer from any life-threatening diseases that concern you, it is always best to seek medical advice before using essential oils. Conditions such as epilepsy, asthma, pregnancy and high blood pressure warrant specific training in the safe use of essential oils. While some oils may amplify these conditions, others may be beneficial.


Some health professionals (particularly ayurvedic practices)  and enthusiasts advocate using essential oils to treat high blood pressure. Although essential oils may help temporarily, it is unlikely to be a suitable alternative to medication, dietary alterations, and lifestyle changes for people with hypertension. This is partly because research on the use of essential oils needs to be conducted extensively. We continually need to study aromatherapy to learn as much as possible before we can address specific health concerns. Anyone who wishes to use essential oils as a complementary treatment should consult a doctor first.


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  4. Rajmohan, V., and E. Mohandas. ‘The Limbic System’. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 49, no. 2, 2007, pp. 132–39. PubMed Central,
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  10. Miguel, Maria Graça. ‘Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Essential Oils: A Short Review’. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), vol. 15, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. 9252–87. PubMed,
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  12. Kagawa, Daiji, et al. ‘The Sedative Effects and Mechanism of Action of Cedrol Inhalation with Behavioural Pharmacological Evaluation’. Planta Medica, vol. 69, no. 7, July 2003, pp. 637–41. PubMed,
  13. Takeda, Ai, et al. ‘Effects of Inhalation Aromatherapy on Symptoms of Sleep Disturbance in the Elderly with Dementia’. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: ECAM, vol. 2017, 2017, p. 1902807. PubMed,
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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Jade Roberts

Master of Research - (MRes), Biomedical Sciences, Imperial College London
Jade is currently a PhD student at the University of Reading. Her research focuses on how cells can mechanically and electrically interact in response to mechanical movements. Her specialties are cardiovascular biology, electrophysiology, and biomedical engineering.

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