Essential Oils For Stress Relief

  • Polina Terechova Bachelor of Science - BSc, Biomedicine, University of East Anglia
  • Chimdi Okoye Bachelor of Science - BS, Pharmaceutical Science with Regulatory Affairs, Kingston University

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In the present day, stress has almost become normalised. It affects many people across the globe, sometimes leading to more serious problems like burnout or depression. As a response to these tendencies, society has been searching for solutions that can help with stress management. One of the things that was found to be effective is aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is an ancient technique, that is now proven to be effective. Essential oils were used to promote physical and mental well-being. It was recently found to interact with our nervous system, reducing stress whilst inducing relaxation.

In this article, we will explore the top 10 essential oils that are proven to promote relaxation. We will also explore some tips on how to use essential oils effectively and how to incorporate them into our busy daily lives effectively. Sounds intriguing? Then join us in our journey through the fragrant realms of aromatherapy, where each drop of oil carries the potential to soothe the mind, body, and spirit.

Understanding essential oils

Essential oils are produced from various parts of plants, such as flowers, leaves, bark, and roots, through processes like steam distillation, cold pressing, and resin tapping. The quality and therapeutic properties of essential oils depend on the method the oil was produced, where steam distillation is one of the most common and effective techniques.

Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, China and Greece, essential oils were used to aid the body and soul. Aromatherapy, as we know it today, continues to draw on this rich heritage, blending traditional knowledge with contemporary scientific research to support health and well-being.

When the scent of aromatic oils is inhaled, olfactory receptors in our nose recognise it and send signals to the part of the brain that regulates emotions, memory, and arousal. Because of this direct connection, the reaction is instant. For example, Lavender oil leads to the signal of relaxation as well as anxiety and stress relief. Similarly, scents of citrus oils can uplift the mood and improve mental clarity; demonstrating the diverse and powerful ways in which essential oils can be harnessed for stress relief.

Top essential oils for stress relief

Each oil, with its distinct aroma and health benefits, offers a unique approach to mitigating stress and enhancing well-being. The following list introduces the most effective essential oils known for their ability to soothe the mind, uplift the spirit, and foster an environment of tranquillity. Let us explore these natural allies in our quest for a more serene and balanced life.


Very well-known and proven to be effective, lavender oil can help relieve anxiety and foster a night of restful sleep. Floral notes serve as a balm to the agitated mind, making it a staple in stress relief and night-time routines.


Gentle and apple-like fragrance, chamomile oil has similar effects as its tea. Ideal for decreasing anxiety and nurturing relaxation, it's a beacon of calm in tumultuous times.


Exotic and sweet, ylang-ylang oil is a balm for the weary soul, easing tension, reducing anxiety, and enveloping the senses in a blanket of calm. Its soothing effect makes it a favourite for stress alleviation and promoting emotional balance.


Bergamot oil blends citrus brightness with floral notes. The uplifting spirit of it not only eases stress and lightens the mood, but also promotes relaxation.


Earthy and grounding, sandalwood oil is often used during meditative practices because of its ability to deepen mental clarity and calm the mind. Its rich, woody scent is a guide to inner peace, making it invaluable in stress management.


With its warm, spicy aroma, frankincense oil is a key to transcending the mundane, offering relief from stress and anxiety while fostering a sense of inner peace and contentment.


Jasmine oil, with its intoxicating floral fragrance, is a potent ally against stress, capable of soothing the nerves and enhancing well-being. It's often sought after for its uplifting and relaxing properties.

Sweet orange

The bright, cheerful aroma of sweet orange oil is an antidote to stress and anxiety, radiating warmth and positivity. It's known for its ability to boost the mood and provide a refreshing sense of well-being.


Peppermint oil, with its cool, invigorating scent, offers relief from stress and tension headaches, providing a refreshing oasis that reinvigorates the mind and soothes the senses.


Sweet and floral fragrance of the rose oil, eases stress and anxiety. It's revered for its ability to promote emotional balance and a sense of tranquillity.

Each essential oil offers a unique path to relaxation and stress relief, inviting us to explore the aromatic richness of the natural world. Whether diffused, applied topically, or inhaled directly, they serve as gentle reminders of the serenity that can be found in moments of mindful presence. As we integrate these natural essences into our daily routines, we open ourselves to the profound peace and balance they can bring into our lives.

How to use essential oils for stress relief

There are many methods and gadgets through which essential oils can be used. Let’s explore some of them together with some safety tips and important considerations to keep in mind.

Different methods for using essential oils


One of the most popular ways to enjoy essential oils. A few drops of oil are added to the water which is then diffused into the air creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere. It can also improve the ambience of your home or office.

Topical application

Essential oils can be applied directly to the skin. Sometimes application to specific areas can be a sensible decision to target specific areas of tension, such as the temples, neck, and wrists.

For safe use, it is crucial to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil (like coconut, jojoba, or almond oil) to minimise skin sensitivity and maximize absorption. Massage the diluted oil into your skin with gentle, circular motions, allowing the therapeutic properties to soothe stress-related symptoms directly.

Bath salts

Combining essential oils with bath salts (Epsom or Himalayan) and adding them to a warm bath can create a deeply relaxing experience. The warm water enhances the absorption of the essential oils through the skin, while the steam inhalation amplifies their calming effects, making it a perfect pre-bedtime ritual for stress relief.


Direct inhalation involves breathing in the essential oils straight from the bottle or a cotton ball. For a quick stress-relieving effect, place a few drops of oil on a cotton ball or pad and inhale deeply several times. This method is particularly effective for immediate relief from anxiety or stress on the go.

Safety tips and best practices

  • Dilution is Key: Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them to the skin to prevent irritation or allergic reactions. When using the diffuser, only use a few drops and dilute them in a decent amount of water
  • Skin Sensitivity: Perform a patch test on a small area of skin before using a new essential oil topically to ensure there is no adverse reaction
  • Quality of Oils: Invest in high-quality, pure essential oils from reputable suppliers to ensure safety and effectiveness

Important consideration

  • Pregnant Women. Certain essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy. It’s best to consult with a healthcare provider before using any essential oils
  • Children. Use milder essential oils and lower concentrations for children. Some oils may not be suitable for young children, so it's important to do research or consult a professional
  • People with Health Conditions. Individuals with underlying health conditions, especially those affecting the skin, respiratory system, or immune system, should consult a healthcare provider before using essential oils

By integrating essential oils into your stress management routine with mindfulness to the methods and safety practices outlined, you can harness the natural power of aromatherapy to nurture your well-being and navigate life's stresses with greater ease. Whether through diffusion, topical application, a relaxing bath, or direct inhalation, the essence of nature's tranquillity is just a breath away.

Scientific evidence and research

The exploration of essential oils as a tool for stress relief is not just based on anecdotal evidence; it is increasingly supported by scientific research.1 Research has demonstrated the potential of essential oils to mitigate stress, anxiety, and related symptoms. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis focusing on the use of lavender oil found it to be effective in reducing anxiety levels in various clinical settings. Similarly, studies on bergamot essential oil have shown its ability to lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone, and improve mood and relaxation.2

Another notable study involved the inhalation of ylang-ylang oil, which was associated with a decrease in stress and anxiety levels, as well as an enhancement of self-esteem.3,4 Meanwhile, chamomile, widely revered for its calming properties, has been studied for its impact on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), with results suggesting significant reductions in anxiety symptoms compared to the placebo.5,6

Integrating essential oils into a stress relief routine

Incorporating essential oils into your daily routine offers a simple yet profoundly effective way to manage stress and enhance overall well-being. By seamlessly integrating these natural wonders into your life, you can create a personalised toolkit for tranquillity that also complements other stress-relief practices.

Practical tips for daily incorporation

  1. Start Your Day with Aromatherapy: Begin your morning with an invigorating essential oil like peppermint or sweet orange. A diffuser in your bedroom or bathroom can awaken your senses and set a positive tone for the day
  2. Create a Tranquil Commute: If you spend a significant amount of time commuting, consider using a portable diffuser or a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball in your car. Lavender or chamomile can transform your drive into a more serene experience
  3. Enhance Your Work Environment: Keep a bottle of your favourite calming essential oil, such as ylang-ylang or sandalwood, at your desk. Use it with a personal diffuser or apply it topically to relieve stress and improve focus throughout the day
  4. Mindful Breaks: Incorporate short, mindful breathing exercises with essential oils into your breaks. Inhaling deeply from a bottle of rose or bergamot can provide quick stress relief and recharge your energy
  5. Evening Wind-Down: Establish an evening routine that promotes relaxation by adding essential oils to your bath or shower. Epsom salts mixed with lavender or frankincense oil can prepare your body and mind for a restful night's sleep

Complementing stress-relief practices

Pairing essential oils with practices like yoga and meditation can enhance the stress-relieving effects. For instance, diffusing grounding essential oils like sandalwood during yoga practice can help deepen your sense of presence and relaxation. Incorporating aromatherapy into meditation sessions by applying a calming oil like frankincense to the temples or wrists can also help focus the mind and ease into a meditative state.


To summarize, here are a few main points to recap this article:

  • Essential oils, when integrated into our daily lives, can become an effective tool to decrease stress levels and increase our overall mood and general well-being
  • Depending on current needs, essential oils can be invigorating, mood-lifting or calming and relaxing. Essential oils offer a palette of therapeutic scents that can be tailored to individual needs and preferences
  • When combined with other practices such as mindfulness, yoga, and balanced nutrition, aromatherapy, it can greatly contribute to a more relaxed and centred state of being. We encourage you to view essential oils as allies in your journey toward mental and emotional balance, exploring their benefits as part of a comprehensive approach to wellness
  • It is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals even if you do not know or do not think that you have any underlying conditions. It is even more important for individuals with specific health conditions, pregnant women, and those on medication to consult with a doctor, as some oils may interact with health conditions or treatments. A healthcare provider can offer guidance tailored to your health profile, ensuring that your use of essential oils contributes positively to your overall well-being

In embracing the aromatic world of essential oils, you open the door to an ancient yet enduring form of natural therapy. Whether seeking to calm the mind after a long day, enhance your focus at work, or support a restful sleep, essential oils can be a valuable and versatile component of your stress management toolkit. As you embark on this fragrant journey, let curiosity be your guide and wellness your destination.


  • Hur MH, Song JA, Lee J, Lee MS. Aromatherapy for stress reduction in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Maturitas. 2014;79(4):362-9.
  • Watanabe E, Kuchta K, Kimura M, Rauwald HW, Kamei T, Imanishi J. Effects of bergamot ( Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) essential oil aromatherapy on mood states, parasympathetic nervous system activity, and salivary cortisol levels in 41 healthy females. Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(1):43-9.
  • Gnatta JR, Piason PP, Lopes Cde L, Rogenski NM, Silva MJ. [Aromatherapy with ylang ylang for anxiety and self-esteem: a pilot study]. Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2014;48(3):492-9.
  • Borgonetti V, López V, Galeotti N. Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata (Lam.) Hook. f. & Thomson) essential oil reduced neuropathic-pain and associated anxiety symptoms in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2022;294:115362.
  • Hieu TH, Dibas M, Surya Dila KA, Sherif NA, Hashmi MU, Mahmoud M, et al. Therapeutic efficacy and safety of chamomile for state anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials and quasi-randomized trials. Phytother Res. 2019;33(6):1604-15.
  • Ebrahimi H, Mardani A, Basirinezhad MH, Hamidzadeh A, Eskandari F. The effects of Lavender and Chamomile essential oil inhalation aromatherapy on depression, anxiety and stress in older community-dwelling people: A randomized controlled trial. Explore (NY). 2022;18(3):272-8.

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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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