Best Essential Oils to Reduce Stress

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When stress hits, what natural essential oils can relieve the pressure and help you to relax more?

Stress is a natural reaction to changes that occur in your life.[i] When you become overwhelmed by stress, this chronic long-term stress can affect you physically (headaches, sleep problems, muscle pain, high blood pressure, stomach issues), mentally (excessive worrying, panic attacks, depression) and emotionally (anxiety, moodiness, sadness, lack of motivation, restlessness)[ii],[iii] and increase your risk for disease (heart, lungs, immune system, cancer, cognition, liver, gut, mental health).[iv]

The essential oils that follow -- lavender, rose, citrus family and mint family -- are most effective in managing stress. Aromatherapy essential oil (EO) blends also help to de-stress and restore your health.

Lavender

Lavender is the most highly researched stress-reducing essential oil. In a human study of stress from performing math tests, compared to a control group lavender aromatherapy lowered two stress markers (cortisol -- the stress hormone -- and chromogranin A, or CgA).[v]

In 60 coronary artery patients in the ICU, inhaling lavender EO (2%) for 15 days increased sleep quality and reduced anxiety.[vi] Results showed a nearly 11% variance in anxiety and 70% decrease in blood cortisol from lavender oil inhalation in a study of 90 open-heart surgery patients.[vii]

A hot foot-bath with lavender EO produced a significant increase in blood flow and relaxation.[viii] Three stress-related symptoms (pain, anxiety and satisfaction) were significantly improved by lavender aromatherapy with patients who had an IV catheter inserted before surgery, compared to a non-lavender control group.[ix]

Lavender aromatherapy in 15 pre-surgery volunteers significantly decreased stress levels, bispectral index score (lower score indicates anesthesia is working) and pain intensity of needle insertion,[x] and reduced stress and increased relaxation in 20 healthy adults.[xi]

Rose

In a study of 40 healthy adults, rose oil significantly decreased breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and systolic blood pressure compared to the placebo group and subjects felt more calm, relaxed and likely to sleep than in the control group.[xii] In a labor/delivery study of 110 women, the use of rose oil aromatherapy reduced the severity of pain and anxiety in the first stage of labor.[xiii] In animal studies, there is evidence of rose oil's anti-stress effects.[xiv]

Citrus Family (Orange, Bergamot)

Orange oil, from the citrus family, compared favorably to lavender oil in reducing fatigue.[xv] Petitgrain (bitter orange) aromatherapy can improve workplace performance by reducing stress and increasing attentiveness and alertness.[xvi] In a statistical analysis of 200 dental patients in the waitroom, both orange and lavender aromatherapy groups (50 patients each) had reduced anxiety and improved mood.[xvii]

In 72 dental patients, women exposed to orange EO had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood and a higher level of calmness than men and the aromatherapy group (men and women) was more relaxed than the non-aroma group.[xviii] Orange oil also reduced stress and anxiety for women in labor.[xix] In an animal study, navel orange EO lowered the depression-like behaviors of mice due to its limonene compound.[xx]

Bergamot (citrus-based) aromatherapy combined with listening to soft music showed improved relaxation in experimental research of 119 healthy young adults (average age 25)[xxi] and in 57 eligible participants waiting for mental health treatment, the bergamot group experienced 17% higher positive feelings than the control group.[xxii]

Mint Family (Rosemary/Thyme/Sage/Peppermint)

The mint family (Lamiaceae) has very aromatic members (including rosemary, thyme, sage and peppermint), which exhibit stress-related benefits.[xxiii] Saturna plants (rosemary/thyme family) were compared; Saturna brevicalyx (highest linalool content of 21.2%) beat S. boliviana (which had 12.8% linalool) in decreasing anxiety.[xxiv] Both rosemary and lavender oils effectively decreased cortisol in 25 healthy subjects.[xxv] The results of 33 employees in a chemical plant, who drank rosemary-infused tea, indicated positive effects on occupational burnout (reduced stress, fatigue and mental fatigue).[xxvi]

In a mice study, exposure to rosemary compounds led to lower depression and anxiety while performing tests.[xxvii] Inhaled linalool used on mice showed anti-anxiety properties and resulted in increased social interaction and decreased aggressive behavior performing tasks; linalool-rich EOs (lavender, sage, rosemary, marjoram, orange, bergamot) increase relaxation and counteract anxiety.[xxviii]

Peppermint oil, high in menthol/menthone, improved performance on demanding cognitive tasks and lowered mental fatigue associated with extended task performance in 24 healthy adults studied[xxix] and also enhanced memory and alertness in a study of 144 volunteers.[xxx]

Aromatherapy Blends

The research shows EO aromatherapy blends improve stress-caused symptoms. For example, terminal cancer patients reported less pain and depression with aromatherapy (lavender/bergamot/ frankincense) hand massages when compared to a control group.[xxxi]

Similarly, 20 arthritic patients who were treated with an aromatherapy blend (lavender/marjoram/eucalyptus/rosemary/peppermint) lowered their pain and depression levels.[xxxii] In a research study comparing the impact of lavender oil, an oil blend (lavender/sage/marjoram) and acupressure massage, quality of life was improved with each intervention, but sleep improved the most with the blended aromatherapy and acupressure massage together.[xxxiii]

In 42 hypertensive patients, the aromatherapy group (lemon/lavender/ylang ylang) lowered their systolic blood pressure and heart rate variability, when compared to the control group.[xxxiv] For 52 hypertensive clients, lavender/bergamot/ylang ylang blend reduced psychological stress responses, serum cortisol levels and blood pressure.[xxxv]

Compared with the placebo group, the 20 healthy subjects who had bergamot/lavender oils rubbed on their bellies significantly decreased pulse rate and blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) and self-rated as "more calm" and "more relaxed."[xxxvi]

Burn patients reported decreased pain and anxiety from rose/lavender aromatherapy.[xxxvii] In a meta-analysis of 12 research experiments, aromatherapy (different blends) was found to be an effective sleep enhancement[xxxviii] and reduced anxiety and depression in four trial studies of postmenopausal and elderly women.[xxxix] In addition, dementia patients treated with aromatherapy (rosemary/lemon/lavender/ orange) showed cognitive functional improvement, and those with Alzheimer's had the highest gains.[xl]

De-Stressing With EO Aromatherapy

Combining increasing numbers of human studies with previous animal research of essential oils and stress, a holistic picture of aromatherapy's benefits emerges. For science-based evidence of these de-stressing impacts, see GreenMedInfo.com's research databases for aromatherapy, essential oils and stress/anxiety.


References

[i] My Cleveland Clinic, Stress. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

[ii] Medicine Net, What are the Signs and Symptoms of Poorly Managed Stress? https://www.medicinenet.com/stress/article.htm#what_are_the_signs_and_symptoms_of poorly_managed_stress

[iii] WebMD, What Is Stress? https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/what-is-stress#2

[iv] Help Guide, Stress - Symptoms, Signs and Causes. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm

[v] Masahiro Toda, Kanehisa Morimoto. Effect of lavender aroma on salivary endocrinological stress markers. Arch Oral Biol. 2008 Oct;53(10):964-8. Epub 2008 Jul 16. PMID: 18635155

[vi] Ezgi Karadag, Sevgin Samancioglu, Dilek Ozden, Ercan Bakir. Effects of aromatherapy on sleep quality and anxiety of patients. Nurs Crit Care. 2015 Jul 27. Epub 2015 Jul 27. PMID: 26211735

[vii] Seyed Abedin Hosseini, Alemeh Heydari, Mohammad Ali Vakili, Shahram Moghadam, Sadegh Ali Tazyky. Effect of lavender essence inhalation on the level of anxiety and blood cortisol in candidates for open-heart surgery. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2016 Jul-Aug;21(4):397-401. PMID: 27563324

[viii] Y Saeki. The effect of foot-bath with or without the essential oil of lavender on the autonomic nervous system: a randomized trial. Complement Ther Med. 2000 Mar ;8(1):2-7. PMID: 10812753

[ix] Tugba Karaman, Serkan Karaman, Serkan Dogru, Hakan Tapar, Aynur Sahin, Mustafa Suren, Semih Arici, Ziya Kaya. Evaluating the efficacy of lavender aromatherapy on peripheral venous cannulation pain and anxiety: A prospective, randomized study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 May ;23:64-8. Epub 2016 Mar 25. PMID: 27157961

[x] Sioh Kim, Hyun-Jae Kim, Jin-Seok Yeo, Sung-Jung Hong, Ji-Min Lee, Younghoon Jeon. The effect of lavender oil on stress, bispectral index values, and needle insertion pain in volunteers. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Sep ;17(9):823-6. Epub 2011 Aug 19. PMID: 21854199

[xi] Winai Sayorwan, Vorasith Siripornpanich, Teerut Piriyapunyaporn, Tapanee Hongratanaworakit, Naiphinich Kotchabhakdi, Nijsiri Ruangrungsi. The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity. J Med Assoc Thai. 2012 Apr ;95(4):598-606. PMID: 22612017

[xii] Tapanee Hongratanaworakit. Relaxing effect of rose oil on humans. Nat Prod Commun. 2009 Feb;4(2):291-6. PMID: 19370942

[xiii] Sepideh Hamdamian, Soheila Nazarpour, Masoumeh Simbar, Sepideh Hajian, Faraz Mojab, Atefeh Talebi. Effects of aromatherapy with Rosa damascena on nulliparous women's pain and anxiety of labor during first stage of labor. J Integr Med. 2018 03 ;16(2):120-125. Epub 2018 Feb 9. PMID: 29526235

[xiv] Ju-Ryun Na, Dool-Ri Oh, SeulHee Han, Yu-Jin Kim, EunJin Choi, Donghyuck Bae, Dong Hwan Oh, Yoo-Hyun Lee, Sunoh Kim, Woojin Jun. Antistress Effects of Rosa rugosa Thunb. on Total Sleep Deprivation-Induced Anxiety-Like Behavior and Cognitive Dysfunction in Rat: Possible Mechanism of Action of 5-HT6 Receptor Antagonist. J Med Food. 2016 Sep ;19(9):870-81. Epub 2016 Jun 22. PMID: 27331439

[xv] Sharare Ahmady, Mansour Rezaei, Alireza Khatony. Comparing effects of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil and orange essential oil on fatigue of hemodialysis patients: A randomized trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019 Aug ;36:64-68. Epub 2019 May 29. PMID: 31383445

[xvi] Lin Huang, Lluis Capdevila. Aromatherapy Improves Work Performance Through Balancing the Autonomic Nervous System. J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Oct 20. Epub 2016 Oct 20. PMID: 27763785

[xvii] J Lehrner, G Marwinski, S Lehr, P Johren, L Deecke. Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. Physiol Behav. 2005 Sep 15;86(1-2):92-5. PMID: 16095639

[xviii] J Lehrner, C Eckersberger, P Walla, G Pötsch, L Deecke. Ambient odor of orange in a dental office reduces anxiety and improves mood in female patients. Physiol Behav. 2000 Oct 1-15;71(1-2):83-6. PMID: 11134689

[xix] Fahimeh Rashidi-Fakari, Mahbubeh Tabatabaeichehr, Hamed Mortazavi. The effect of aromatherapy by essential oil of orange on anxiety during labor: A randomized clinical trial. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015 Nov-Dec;20(6):661-4. PMID: 26793249

[xx] Lu-Lu Zhang, Zi-Yu Yang, Gang Fan, Jing-Nan Ren, Kai-Jing Yin, Si-Yi Pan. Antidepressant-like Effect of Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck Essential Oil and Its Main Component Limonene on Mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2019 Apr 2. Epub 2019 Apr 2. PMID: 30905156

[xxi] Shu-Ming Peng, Malcolm Koo, Zer-Ran Yu. Effects of music and essential oil inhalation on cardiac autonomic balance in healthy individuals. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Jan;15(1):53-7. PMID: 19769477

[xxii] Xuesheng Han, Jacob Gibson, Dennis L Eggett, Tory L Parker. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil Inhalation Improves Positive Feelings in the Waiting Room of a Mental Health Treatment Center: A Pilot Study. Phytother Res. 2017 May ;31(5):812-816. Epub 2017 Mar 24. PMID: 28337799

[xxiii] Britannica, List of plants in the family Lamiaceae. https://www.britannica.com/topic/list-of-plants-in-the-family-Lamiaceae-2035853

[xxiv] Marilú Roxana Soto-Vásquez and Paúl Alan Arkin Alvarado-García, Aromatherapy with two essential oils from Satureja genre and mindfulness meditation to reduce anxiety in humans. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017 Jan; 7(1): 121-125.Published online 2016 Jun 27. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.06.003, PMCID: PMC5198818, PMID: 28053898

[xxv] Toshiko Atsumi, Keiichi Tonosaki. Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva. Psychiatry Res. 2007 Feb 28;150(1):89-96. Epub 2007 Feb 7. PMID: 17291597

[xxvi] Tayebe Mehrabi, Somayeh Gorji, Behzad Zolfaghari, Rasool Razmjoo. The effect of Rosmarinus herbal tea on occupational burnout in Iran Chemical Industry Investment company employees. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015 Jul-Aug;20(4):460-4. PMID: 26257801

[xxvii] Abeer Abdelhalim, Nasiara Karim, Mary Chebib, Talal Aburjai, Imran Khan, Graham A R Johnston, Jane Hanrahan. Antidepressant, Anxiolytic and Antinociceptive Activities of Constituents from Rosmarinus Officinalis. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2015 Nov ;18(4):448-59. PMID: 26626245

[xxviii] V M Linck , A L da Silva, M Figueiró, E B Caramão, P R H Moreno, E Elisabetsky. Effects of Inhaled Linalool in Anxiety, Social Interaction and Aggressive Behavior in Mice. Phytomedicine, 2010 Jul;17(8-9):679-83. PMID: 19962290, DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2009.10.002 Epub 2009 Dec 3.

[xxix] David Kennedy, Edward Okello, Paul Chazot, Melanie-Jayne Howes, Samuel Ohiomokhare, Philippa Jackson, Crystal Haskell-Ramsay, Julie Khan, Joanne Forster, Emma Wightman. Volatile Terpenes and Brain Function: Investigation of the Cognitive and Mood Effects of Mentha× Piperita L. Essential Oil with In Vitro Properties Relevant to Central Nervous System Function. Nutrients. 2018 Aug 7 ;10(8). Epub 2018 Aug 7. PMID: 30087294

[xxx] Mark Moss, Steven Hewitt, Lucy Moss, Keith Wesnes. Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(1):53-62. PMID: 18041606

[xxxi] So Young Chang. Effects of aroma hand massage on pain, state anxiety and depression in hospice patients with terminal cancer. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2008 Aug ;38(4):493-502. PMID: 18753801

[xxxii] Myung-Ja Kim, Eun-Sook Nam, Seun-In Paik. The effects of aromatherapy on pain, depression, and life satisfaction of arthritis patients. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2005 Feb ;35(1):186-94. PMID: 15778570

[xxxiii] Yu-Hsiu Kao, Yi-Ching Huang, Ue-Lin Chung, Wen-Ni Hsu, Yi-Ting Tang, Yi-Hung Liao. Comparisons for Effectiveness of Aromatherapy and Acupressure Massage on Quality of Life in Career Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2017 May 15. Epub 2017 May 15. PMID: 28504569, https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2016.0403

[xxxiv] Jung Hee Cha, Sun Hee Lee, Yang Sook Yoo. Effects of aromatherapy on changes in the autonomic nervous system, aortic pulse wave velocity and aortic augmentation index in patients with essential hypertension. J Korean Acad Nurs. 2010 Oct;40(5):705-13. PMID: 21157172

[xxxv] Jin-Hee Hwang. The effects of the inhalation method using essential oils on blood pressure and stress responses of clients with essential hypertension. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2006 Dec;36(7):1123-34. PMID: 17211115

[xxxvi] Tapanee Hongratanaworakit. Aroma-therapeutic effects of massage blended essential oils on humans. Nat Prod Commun. 2011 Aug ;6(8):1199-204. PMID: 21922934

[xxxvii] Alehe Seyyed-Rasooli, Feridoon Salehi, Asghar Mohammadpoorasl, Sakineh Goljaryan, Zahra Seyyedi, Brian Thomson. Comparing the effects of aromatherapy massage and inhalation aromatherapy on anxiety and pain in burn patients: A single-blind randomized clinical trial. Burns. 2016 Aug 26. Epub 2016 Aug 26. PMID: 27575673

[xxxviii] Eunhee Hwang, Sujin Shin. The effects of aromatherapy on sleep improvement: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Feb ;21(2):61-8. Epub 2015 Jan 13. PMID: 25584799

[xxxix] Masoudeh Babakhanian, Masumeh Ghazanfarpour, Leila Kargarfard, Nasibeh Roozbeh, Leili Darvish, Talat Khadivzadeh, Fatemeh Rajab Dizavandi. Effect of Aromatherapy on the Treatment of Psychological Symptoms in Postmenopausal and Elderly Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Menopausal Med. 2018 Aug ;24(2):127-132. Epub 2018 Aug 31. PMID: 30202763

[xl] Daiki Jimbo, Yuki Kimura, Miyako Taniguchi, Masashi Inoue, Katsuya Urakami. Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's disease. Psychogeriatrics. 2009 Dec ;9(4):173-9. PMID: 20377818

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.
Sayer Ji
Founder of GreenMedInfo.com

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