Have you experienced rapid heartbeat? Does fear for no definite reason constantly knock at your door? If you have experienced all these, then, you might be struggling with anxiety. What is anxiety? Anxiety is normal emotion that causes increased alertness, fear, and physical signs, such as a rapid heart rate (1). It is a normal reaction to danger, the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a challenging situation, such as a job interview, exam, or first date. With minimal anxiety, it helps you to stay alert and focused, excite you to do something, and inspire you to solve problems (2). Anxiety could be somewhat normal and not a bad thing, but if it becomes constant or overwhelming and interferes with your relationships and daily life, that is another story. Anxiety disorder may just be around the corner.

Anxiety has become a common issue in our fast-paced lives as we constantly fight for significant place in this world we live in. Unfortunately, this constant struggle has led to a rise in stress-related health issues, negatively impacting both our mental and physical health. Because of this growing and alarming issue, many experts have continuously looked for ways to address this. Introducing – aromatherapy! Aromatherapy is used since ancient times to promote feelings of calm and relaxation. Inhaling and topically applying pure essential oils can help to alleviate stress, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Essential oils are said to have wonderful effect to one’s senses giving them a soothing feeling.

Top 10 Essential Oils for Anxiety

Holy Basil

Holy basil is a powerful antioxidant with demonstrated antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Holy basil, as a powerful adaptogen, enhances the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress (3). These adaptogens work to help the body function optimally during times of stress. An estimated amount of 500 milligrams of holy basil capsules taken two times a day after meals can significantly lower the intensity of generalized anxiety disorder, according to a study published in the September 2008 issue of the “Nepal Medical College Journal” (4). Another animal study is published in the October 2010 edition of the “Indian Journal of Pharmacology” indicates that holy basil extracts have the ability to attenuate depression and anxiety in laboratory animals (5).


Bergamot oil comes from bergamot oranges and has an invigorating citrus scent. Bergamot, citrus bergamia, helps relieve anxiety and improve mood, according to a 2015 study conducted on both animal and human trials (6). A 2015 study in the journal “Research in Complementary Medicine” reveals that people who inhaled bergamot essential oil, diffused with water vapor, had reduced levels of stress hormones, improved mood, and reduced fatigue when compared with a control group (7). It has distinctive floral aroma and flavor. In addition, bergamot oil has been shown to reduce fatigue and even lower levels of stress hormones in participants of a 2015 study. Yet another study found that bergamot oil appeared to have calming, anxiety-reducing properties (8).


Chamomile is a fresh, sweet, apple-like aroma that soothes nervous tension. It acts as an antidote for stress and anxiety (9). An exploratory study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found chamomile oil having antidepressant qualities in addition to treating anxiety (10). It may help with irritability and worry. A study found that the chamomile oil capsules ease anxiety symptoms when taken by mouth (11). Chamomile has a calming effect and is effective in relieving anxiety and stress, according to another study (12).


The name Jasmine is derived from the Persian yasmin which means ‘a gift from God’. It got it name as such because of the intense fragrance of the blooms (13). Jasmine oil contains anti-depressant, anti-bacterial, and aphrodisiac qualities. According to a study published in the Journal of Health Research, the vaporized jasmine has the potential to affect the autonomic nervous system, increasing blood oxygen saturation and alertness (14). By penetrating the skin, oil from the jasmine flower have an effect on a number of biological factors — including heart rate, body temperature, stress response, alertness, blood pressure and breathing (15).  


Lavender essential oil is one of the most popular and versatile essential oils used in aromatherapy. It promotes relaxation and is believed to treat anxiety, fungal infections, allergies, depression, insomnia, eczema, nausea, and menstrual cramps (16). Several studies show the lavender’s anxiety-reducing effects. A single observational pilot study in postpartum women with anxiety demonstrated reduced anxiety levels using a lavender oil blend for 15 minutes twice weekly during the course of 4 weeks (17). Another study published in the journal Phytomedicine shows that lavender oil is as effective as the pharmaceutical drug lorazepam (Ativan) and has no sedative effects (18).


With a sweet lemon fragrance, the Melissa plant, also known as Melissa officinalis or lemon balm, contains strong soothing properties. When used aromatically or topically, it can help promote feelings of relaxation and can assist in calming tension and nerves. Melissa oil is also valued for its fresh, sweet, and citrus-like aroma (19). It also has antidepressant, hypnotic and sedative properties, and it may create a feeling of peace and warmth. It can promote emotional balance and has uplifting compounds. A 2013 study conducted at the University of Melbourne found that this essential oil helps to improve anxiety, depression, neuroprotectivity and cognition (20).


Musky patchouli is used in ayurvedic medicine to relieve anxiety, stress, and depression and promotes calmness and relaxation (21). It also has a characteristic scent that might be described as woody, sweet, and spicy (22). It is used in aromatherapy because of its depressant remedying properties. Because of the impact that inhaling patchouli oil has on our hormones, it encourages the release of serotonin and dopamine; these hormones ease feelings of anger, anxiety and anxiousness (23).


Rose essential oil is very settling to the emotional heart and very much popular at relieving anxiety and depression, helping with panic attacks, grieving and shock. In a study of women who were pregnant, the aromatherapy and footbath with this oil reduces anxiety in active phase in nulliparous women (24). The smell of roses helps relieve depression and releases feel-good hormones in the brain. This can also help to reduce anxiety and bring you to a peaceful place (25).

Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang is derived from the steam distillated flowers of the Cananga odorata botanical. As aromatherapy applications, ylang ylang soothes stress, anxiety, sadness, tension, and sleeplessness (26). In a small 2015 study involving 34 nurses, researchers found that aromatherapy with ylang ylang may not have a significant effect on anxiety but did improve the participants’ self-esteem (27). Low self-esteem may also trigger anxiety especially in front of people.


Valerian is a powerful anxiety-fighting essential oil and herb. It also increases levels of GABA and other relaxing and sedating neurotransmitters in the brain and body. One study suggests that Valerian extract may cause GABA to be released from brain nerve endings and then blocks GABA from being taken back into nerve cells, which increases its concentration in the nervous system. In addition, its medicinal compound, valerenic acid, inhibits an enzyme that destroys GABA, which is another way that valerian helps reduce anxiety, again by causing elevated levels of GABA in the brain and body (28).


Although evidences may have pointed out the efficacy of these essential oils for anxiety relief, it is still advised for everyone to see a doctor. You may need aromatherapy sessions for simple cases like having a stressful day at work or getting anxious. But when it is chronic, call your doctor or a mental health professional. They can work with you to develop a management plan fitted for your needs.