Curious How To Use Aromatherapy For Anxiety Relief? Start With These 4 Essential Oils

essential oils for anxiety

Having always been intrigued by natural medicine and the role it can play in our physical and mental health, I find myself curious what role if any aromatherapy can play in helping us cope with life turned upside down. With so much uncertainty and fear, anxiety has reached even higher levels in our country, with Americans reporting an almost threefold increase in anxiety and other mental health symptoms since the pandemic began.

Essential oils have been shown to be effective in cultivating calm, and managing mild to moderate anxiety. A concentrated oral lavender oil preparation, called Silexin, for example, was even shown to be as effective as Lorazapam (Valium) for patients with anxiety disorders. Essential oils holding their own against traditional pharmacotherapy I found particularly impressive.

That’s why I was delighted to sit down via Zoom with Dr. Judith Boice, Naturopathic Physician and and best-selling author of The Green Medicine Chestto discuss the top essential oils known to cultivate anxiety relief. In our interview below, you’ll get a brief primer about aromatherapy, learn which essential oils have been shown to be most effective for anxiety, and how you can use them.


Top picks for anxiety relieving aromatherapy

1.  Bergamot

2. Lavender

3. Geranium

4. Coriander (Cilantro)

Make sure to choose the scents you enjoy and with which you have positive associations. If you don’t like the smell of Coriander, for example, it’s ok. Choose another scent you find soothing, and pleasant. Also, make sure to purchase organic products wherever you can as Dr. Boice warns pesticides are, “absorbed through the entire plant…and are particularly likely to be extracted with essential oils because they are around the same molecular size.”

How to use essential oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated, and breathing their vapor is the most common way to use them. Whether it’s through a personal inhaler, a room diffuser, or putting a few drops on a cotton ball, Dr. Boice recommends smelling essential oils for 5-10 minutes at a time, several times a day for two weeks to start. Choose the scent you like the best, and working with that before trying others.

You can also apply directly to your skin, or use a few drops in a bath. Don’t do what I did at first, and rub the undiluted oils directly on your skin, because they are so concentrated that it can be overpowering (I had to wash my hands). Instead, dilute the essential oil with oil or a lotion (not water) before applying directly to your skin. One drop for every teaspoon of oil is the dilution that is safe.


In addition to deep belly breathing, grounding techniques, and resetting expectations, aromatherapy can be part of a balanced and natural approach to managing anxiety and mental wellness. Breathing in these soothing scents can help tame the irritability and anxiety we all are feeling these days.

No matter what you decide to do, the important thing is that you do something to turn the tables on distress. When it comes to anxiety, taking control in whatever we we can is the most effective thing we can do to reduce it.


If you’re looking for more help navigating anxiety amidst the outbreak, my free online course Coronavirus Anxiety Toolkit compiles evidence-based strategies and tools to help and is available for access here. I will be adding to it as the need continues, and if there are topics you want to see covered, please reach out to me by email, or simply add a comment below. 

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD