Seven Essential Oils for Stress Relief

As COVID-19 cases ramp up again, stress management is key, especially for a travel nurse. If you’re looking for new ways to manage anxiety, natural mind/body remedies can be helpful tools. To some, it might sound like some hippie witchy-woo-woo, but there is research that suggests aromatherapy and essential oils are useful in calming the mind and body. They certainly can’t hurt. 

If you’re new to the essential oil game, here are seven oils that are known to help manage stress. You can rub these on your skin, diffuse them into your room, spray them on your clothes, or take a bath in them. 

Jasmine Oil

A study in 2013 suggested that inhaling Jasmine oil can promote a sense of well-being and even romance. The scent derived from white flowers has always been popular for it’s sweet fragrance. It even shows up in a number of perfumes. Now some scientists believe it has a calming benefit to the central nervous system, and unlike similar oils, it calms without causing sleepiness. So you can diffuse it in the mornings before work!

Lavender Oil 

Lavender is one of the most common essential oils, and a familiar scent to most. But it’s ability to clear and calm the mind has also been backed up by science. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine asked participants to complete a memory-related task after exposing them to a stresser. Those who had inhaled a lavender aroma prior to the stressor performed better on the test than those who were given a placebo oil. It’s thought to calm anxiety through impacting the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions.

Many use lavender oil as a spray. And in fact a study in the International Journal of Nursing Practice showed that using a 3% lavender oil spray reduced work-related stress for up to four days. You can also take a nice lavender bath by mixing the oil with an unscented bath gel. 

Ylang Ylang Oil

Ylang Ylang, a scent derived from the tropical plant native to India, has been proven to reduce blood pressure and stress-hormone levels. It’s an oil better consumed later in the day rather than before work. One study found that while Ylang Ylang limited stress, it also impaired memory and lengthened processing speed. 

Lemon Balm Oil

A 2011 study showed that taking lemon balm capsules may help people with mild to moderate anxiety disorders, as well as improve sleep. And when diffused into a room, lemon balm provides a fresh and uplifting scent. 

Bergamot Oil 

If you’re a fan of Earl Grey, you’ll like this one. Bergamot is derived from a citrus fruit and is the featured aroma in the famous tea. It also may relieve your stress. Several studies show that bergamot can help improve negative emotions. And one study in 2015 linked bergamot to lowering saliva cortisol levels, a hormone often called the body’s “stress hormone.”

If you plan to use bergamot on the skin or in a bath, make sure you combine it with a carrier oil (like avocado or jojoba), as too much bergamot can cause irritation to the skin. 

Holy Basil Oil

If flowery scents aren’t your thing, give a few drops of Holy Basil a try. It’s not quite the same basil you’d use to make garlic bread, but it has a similar smell. It contains a compound called eugenol which gives it a minty scent combined with a spicy aroma. One study in 2014 showed that holy basil has the potential to treat mental and physical stress. 

Remember, just like the Italian food you’d cook with it, a little bit of holy basil goes a long way. You only need a few drops to diffuse the homey smell into your apartment. 

Yuzu Oil 

Yuzu oil has been used in Japanese culture for centuries for its therapeutic properties. It is pressed from the fruit peel of the Citrus Junos Tree. Its scent is somewhere between a mandarin and a grapefruit. It’s also a great natural tool for stress relief.

According to a small study back in 2013, yuzu was found to decrease salivary chromogranin A, an indicator of stress. It’s also thought that the essential oil can suppress the sympathetic nervous system, which produces the body’s fight or flight instinct. So yuzu might not be best for a high stakes situation, but it’s great for relaxation.

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