Plants for Peace: The Top 10 Best Essential Oils for Relieving Anxiety and Stress


The Top 10 Best Essential Oils for Relieving Anxiety and Stressessential oils are one of the most powerful natural treatments for anxiety and stress due to their highly concentrated medicinal properties.

Why You Should Be Using Essential Oils for Anxiety and Stress

When it comes to natural treatments for anxiety and stress, there are few things quite as powerful as essential oils when properly used. In order to understand why that is, you need to first understand how essential oils are made.

Depending on the plant and oil in question, it takes fairly large—sometimes huge—amounts of raw plant material to make tiny quantities of essential oils.  For example, to make just one half ounce of lavender essential oil it takes 27 square feet of lavender plants. To make the same amount of lemon essential oil it takes 75 lemons and to make the same amount of rose essential oil takes 22 pounds of rose petals. On average essential oils are approximately 75-100 times more concentrated than dried herbs.

Because of this extreme level of concentration, essential oils contain extraordinarily high levels of medicinal compounds—far more than the amount found in the raw plant materials used in herbal supplements for anxiety and stress. That means that each drop of essential oils that are good for anxiety and stress contain, on average, the equivalent medicinal benefit of many pounds of raw herbal materials—far more than you could ever take in one day in any practical way. As such, they are able to deliver very potent medicinal effects that have been shown in many studies to have borderline miraculous abilities for lowering anxiety and stress.

The Importance of Quality and Purity

When using any herbal product, including essential oils for anxiety and otherwise, it’s extremely important to only use wildcrafted/wild-harvested or organic products that are grown without chemicals, herbicides and pesticides and distilled without the use of solvents and chemicals.  Wildcrafted means it is grown wildly in nature, just as it would in its native habitat, without any synthetic inputs from man whatsoever. Hence, so long as it is grown in a wild area away from cities, it is virtually as clean as it can get. Organic is similar in that no synthetic chemicals and pesticides may be used in the growing and extracting of the oil, which makes them of similarly high quality. Biodynamic is even one step better but can be hard to find.

The Top 10 Essential Oils for Healing Anxiety and Stress

1. Jatamansi

Nardostachys Jatamansi

This is hands-down the most powerful essential oil for anxiety on the planet. Jatamansi is widely regarded as the most powerfully relaxing and anxiety-reducing herb in the ancient Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda. It has been revered and used for this purpose for thousands of years and up until this very day in India and many parts of Asia.

Modern scientific studies have confirmed this traditional use and found that Jatamansi and its essential oil increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) in the brain. It is also believed to reduce depression and anxiety by increasing the levels of monoamines in the brain. [1,2] Both GABA and monoamines are key neurotransmitters that cause relaxation of the nervous system. Many pharmaceutical drugs for anxiety like Xanax and Valium work by causing the brain to increase levels of GABA artificially, whereas Jatamansi is a safe and non-addictive, natural alternative.

The great thing about Jatamansi essential oil is that it is powerfully relaxing and sedating without making you overly sleepy or tired, which is important for being able to treat anxiety during the day. Many herbs and essential oils for anxiety can also make you tired, which is not ideal if you have social anxiety and need something that allows you to be alert and awake during the day but very relaxed mentally and emotionally. However, Jatamansi does also help with insomnia and anxiety-related sleep issues as well due to its generally calming effects on the nervous system as a whole.

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Jatamansi-essential-oilAmrita Organic Jatamansi Essential Oil
Amrita is one of the only essential oil companies currently offering organic Jatamansi essential oil, and it is sustainably grown in pristine, remote native growing regions in its native habitat. This is an ultra high quality, medicinal-grade essential oil with powerful anxiety- and stress-reducing effects.

2. Holy Basil (Tulsi)

Ocimum sanctum

One of the most revered herbs in the ancient Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda, Holy Basil essential oil has powerful anxiety- and stress-reducing effects, among many other beneficial medicinal properties. Holy Basil is what’s known by herbalists as an adaptogen, meaning that it works to bring the body and mind into balance based on what it most needs in that moment. For example, if you are constantly stressed out and anxious, Holy Basil essential oil will be calming and relaxing. On the other hand, if you are tired and exhausted all the time, Holy Basil can help rejuvenate your body and restore your energy levels.


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Multiple scientific studies conducted on the plant have found that supplementation with various extracts of Holy Basil decreased stress hormone levels and corticosterone in particular. [3,5,6,7,8] Corticosterone is associated with feelings of stress and anxiety when released by the adrenal glands. In experiments on rats, the compound Eugenol, which is found in abundance in Holy Basil, has been shown to reduce neurochemicals and hormones related to stress and anxiety as well. [9]

Meditators have also traditionally used Holy Basil and its essential oil to calm the mind and reduce nervous thoughts in preparation for deep meditation. Many people also use Holy Basil essential oil to treat panic attacks with good success.

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Tulsi-OilAmrita 100% Organic Holy Basil (Tulsi) Essential Oil
Amrita offers a therapeutic-grade, ultra pure, organic Holy Basil essential oil harvested sustainability in its native growing region in India by fair trade workers and extracted without the use of any chemicals and solvents.

3. Sweet Basil

Ocimum basilicum

Not to be confused with the more exotic Holy Basil described above, regular Basil, which millions worldwide enjoy as a spice and salad green, also acts as a powerful anxiety-reducing herb in essential oil form. According to a meta-study of all research done on essential oils at Hainan Medical University, Basil was found to be one of the most powerful essential oils for reducing anxiety and stress out of the hundreds of oils surveyed. [10]

Another study done in Iran, where Basil has been used for centuries for its calming and relaxing properties, showed its essential oil measurably reduced anxiety and stress in rats even more powerfully than a regular herbal extract of the plant. [11]

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Sweet-Basil-OilNature’s Answer Organic Sweet Basil
Nature’s Answer offers a 100% pure, chemical and solvent free organic Sweet Basil essential oil. This ultra-concentrated Basil oil is therapeutic grade and rich in anxiety and stress reducing medicinal compounds.

4. Lavender

Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender is one of the most widely used and popular relaxing and calming essential oils of all time, and it’s not hard to see why: it smells great, it works, and it has quite a bit of science to back it up. Researchers studying the medicinal effects of Lavender have consistently found that its essential oil powerfully reduces anxiety and stress when applied on the skin or taken internally both in animals and humans. [12,13]

Lavender essential oil, which is rich in the calming medicinal compounds linalool and linalyl acetate, when taken internally in capsules, was found to be effective for alleviating anxiety, stress, and related sleep disturbances. These two medicinal compounds balance neurotransmitter levels in the brain and body, which counteracts the over-excitation of nerve cells and reduces anxiety and stress.

Lavender is so powerful for treating anxiety in essential oil form, in fact, that it is currently approved for use as an anxiolytic in Germany under the name Lasea. In a survey paper on Lavender and the nervous system published in 2013 researchers stated that “there is growing evidence suggesting that lavender oil may be an effective medicament in treatment of several neurological disorders.” [12,13]

Don’t be fooled by its presence in cosmetics, soaps and body care products—Lavender essential oil is a major anxiety- and stress-reducing herb when used therapeutically.

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Lavender-Essential-OilUS Organic’s Bulgarian Lavender Essential Oil
Made from freshly harvested Bulgarian Lavender flowers, this ultra-pure organic essential oil has a rich floral scent and is high in both Linalool and Linalyl acetate, the two primary medicinal compounds in the plant producing anxiety reducing and calming effects.

5. Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm and its essential oil has been used medicinally for millennia to reduce anxiety, alleviate stress, improve sleep disorders (from restlessness to insomnia) and generally induce a state of calm and peace. Lemon Balm has been fairly well studied by researchers over the last few decades and has been found to have a variety of active medicinal compounds, such as flavonoids, polyphenols and more, with a number of impressive health benefits, including the ability to modulate neurotransmitter activity in the nervous system, making it one of the top essential oils for reducing anxiety and stress.

At higher doses—like those found in essential oils—Lemon Balm has a sedative effect. Multiple studies have shown that it has significant anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects and works to improve mood and reduce stress. One study found that 300mg of a Lemon Balm extract taken for 15 days significantly improved anxiety disorders and reduced insomnia symptoms. [14] For those experiencing anxiety or stress accompanied by sleep disorders, Lemon Balm should be your first line of defense. It is one of the most well-studied and safest essential oils for anxiety and stress, making it great to keep on hand for daily use.

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Lemon-Balm-oilMedicinal Grade Organic Lemon Balm (Melissa) Essential Oil
Fresh, organic Spanish Lemon Balm (Melissa leaves) are steam distilled to extract their potent calming essential oil and create a truly medicinal product for soothing the nervous system and reducing stress and insomnia.

6. German Chamomile

Matricaria recutita

The quintessential calming herb, Chamomile has been used for thousands of years to calm the nervous system, reduce anxiety and induce sleep gently but effectively. And its essential oil is equally effective for reducing anxiety, stress and calming the nervous system.

What’s interesting about Chamomile is that it is also good for calming, healing and reducing inflammation in the digestive tract as well. Most people are not aware that a major portion of our nervous system is located in our intestines, also know as the “enteric nervous system” by doctors or, more commonly, as our “second brain” or “gut brain.” In fact, more than 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine. Furthermore, your intestines produce and co-regulate 30 other neurotransmitters identical to those found in your brain that are used by your central nervous system to regulate mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, mental functioning and any number of other essential body processes.

Inflammation and disturbances in the digestive tract can have powerful effects on our mood and have been linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression and countless other diseases. As such, Chamomile essential oil can help reduce anxiety and stress by also working to heal and relax the intestines.

When using Chamomile essential oil for anxiety or stress reduction, you can try applying it on your solar plexus and the areas around the belly button to help it penetrate directly into the intestines. Chamomile essential oil can also be safely taken internally, which allows it to get straight into the digestive tract for a more potent healing effect.

In one study using Chamomile to treat anxiety and insomnia, over 95% of the people who participated had a noticeable improvement of their symptoms. [15] The researchers report that consistent use of Chamomile is best for maximum medicinal benefit. As such, when using the essential oil for reducing anxiety, be sure to regularly apply it on the areas suggested above for best effects. As always, however, when taking the essential oil internally it should be limited to one or two drops per day maximum.

Chamomile essential oil can also be used as needed for helping to calm the symptoms of panic attacks so it’s a good oil to keep on hand in case of emergency.

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

German-Chamomile-Essential-OilAlteya Organic German Chamomile Essential Oil
This wonderfully rich, deep blue essential oil is made from German Chamomile leaves that are organically grown in the pristine Balkan mountain ranges of Southern Europe and concentrated to a therapeutic grade final product that is powerfully relaxing and healing.

7. Clary Sage

Salvia sclarea

The wonderfully fragrant Clary Sage is also a fantastic essential oil for calming anxiety and stress. Like Lavender, it is rich in linalool and linalyl acetate, two compounds which have been demonstrated in multiple scientific studies to calm and relax the central nervous system.  Furthermore in one study on rats [16] Clary Sage was shown to positively affect dopamine levels in the brain and body, which is in lock step with traditional uses of the plant as an antidepressant. All in all, Clary Sage is a wonderful, pleasant-smelling essential oil for anxiety, stress and uplifting mood that makes a nice natural, non-toxic perfume as well.

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Clary-Sage-Essential-OilAura Cacia Organic Clary Sage Essential Oil
One of the most respected essential oil purveyors on the planet, Aura Cacia’s Clary Sage essential oil is organically grown in the countryside of France and is distilled into a highly concentrated final product that is wonderfully fragrant and relaxing.

8. Valerian

Valeriana officinalis

Like Jatamansi (Valerian is in the same family of plants), Valerian is a powerful anxiety-fighting essential oil and herb. It too increases levels of GABA and other relaxing/sedating neurotransmitters in the brain and body, however, it does so in interesting ways. 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. [17] In addition, Valerian’s 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. [18]

Furthermore, valerenic acid and valerenol, two medicinal compounds contained in Valerian root extract and its essential oil, have demonstrated anti-anxiety effects themselves as well, although it’s not fully understood how they work. [19]

Additionally, Valerian also has been shown to help with some of the psychological aspects of stress, which is unusual for a plant. Placing a few drops of the essential oil on your temples, away from your eyes can help reduce stress and tension rapidly.

One thing to note about Valerian is that it is very sedating. So much so, in fact, that it is mainly used as a sleep aid. As such, it is best taken in cases of anxiety where sleep disturbances and insomnia are present. Best used before bed, Valerian essential oil will help reduce anxiety and stress to manageable levels so restful sleep can be achieved fairly easily. Note that Valerian essential oils can produce intense and lucid dreams and so less is often more unless this is something you enjoy and are actively seeking out.

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:
Valerian-OilEden’s Garden Therapeutic Grade Valerian Essential Oil
Eden’s Garden offers a highly potent, Indian grown Valerian Essential oil that is free from all solvents, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and additives. This is an ultra-pure, medicinal oil with powerful anxiety, stress and insomnia reducing properties.

9. Jasmine


Researchers studying fragrances extracted from Jasmine essential oil have found that they are able to increase GABA levels in experimental cell models as much as 5 times more than traditional anti-anxiety medications like Valium. [20]  Although it’s a big jump to claim that it has the same effect in humans, Jasmine has been used traditionally for centuries as an essential oil for reducing anxiety and stress, and calming the nervous system.

Jasmine essential oil is particularly useful for depression, stress and anxiety associated with lethargy and low energy. A number of studies have found that Jasmine essential oil has a stimulating/activating effect on the brain, [21] which also helps improve mood simultaneously. Improved mood and energy levels have been correlated with lower anxiety and stress and a greater tolerance for the two, so in that sense Jasmine essential oil helps with nervousness indirectly as well.

Another interesting study published in Natural Product Communications found that Jasmine essential oil improved emotional state, mood and energy levels when used on the skin over an eight-week period. [22]

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Jasmine-Essential-OilBalinese Therapeutic Grade Organic Jasmine Essential Oil
This premium quality organic Jasmine oil is formulated by a master Indonesian essential oil alchemist in Bali.  A highly potent, uplifting, mood brightening and calming scent.

10. Vetiver

Chrysopogon zizanioides

Throughout Sri Lanka and India, Vetiver essential oil is known as “the oil of tranquility” for its nervous system-soothing and anxiety-reducing properties. In Ayurvedic medicine it has been observed to relax and calm the mind and it is traditionally used as an essential oil for alleviating stress, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, trauma and depression. In Traditional Chinese medicine, Vetiver essential oil was prized for its ability to calm the body and mind and to harmonize the emotions.

A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies found that Vetiver essential oil is good for treating anxiety and stress in part because it is good at relieving inflammation of the nervous system, which plays a major role in our mental and emotional state. [23]

Vetiver has been used in aromatherapy as an essential oil for anxiety and stress for centuries, and recent research is confirming that indeed that plant has effects on anxiety pathways. One study on rats found that Vetiver essential oil attenuated the stress and anxiety response in the amygdala of rats, an area of the brain associated with fear and other similar emotions. [24]

Vetiver was also used in a study on children with ADHD to assess the efficacy of its essential oil in calming their hyperactivity. The study found that of all the plants tested, Vetiver essential oil had the strongest calming and ADHD-reducing effects. [25]

Is it Safe to Take Internally?
Yes, according to the guidelines outlined at the end of this article.

Where to get it:

Vetiver-Essential-OilAura Cacia Organic Vetiver Essential Oil
Aura Cacia offers a medicinal grade Vetiver oil sourced organically from pristine areas of Madagascar rich in highly concentrated medicinal compounds excellent for reducing stress and anxiety and calming the nervous system.

How to Safely Use Essential Oils

Depending on the plant, there are a number of ways you can use its essentials oils for reducing anxiety and stress.

Place on Body/Skin

Almost all essential oils are suitable for use on non-sensitive areas of your skin. Essential oils are absorbed through your skin and directly into the bloodstream, making this an effective and medicinally active route for administration. A good spot to use essentials oils to treat anxiety and stress is at the base of the skull where it meets the top of the neck. This is near the brainstem, which mediates all nervous system input and output throughout the body, and can oftentimes be immediately calming to the nervous system, which is majorly implicated in anxiety and stress levels. Other popular places for application of essential oils is the crown of the head, wrists, upper arms, and bottoms of the feet. Theoretically you can apply them anywhere within the realm of common sense (avoid the eyes, ears, noses and genitals, obviously), although some of them can be quite strong and so it’s important to use caution when applying them near the above mentioned sensitive areas. A good rule of thumb, is to test out the oil on a small area of non-sensitive skin to ensure you don’t have any sensitivities or adverse reactions.

Inhaling or Diffusing

Essential oils are extremely volatile meaning they evaporate and diffuse into the air quite easily, allowing you to simply breathe them in and still achieve a fairly strong medicinal effect. This would look like opening the top of the bottle of the essential oil, holding it under your nose and taking a deep inhalation. You can also put a few drops of the essential oil into your palms, rub them together, and then hold them over your face while taking a few deep breaths. Beyond that you can also purchase an essential oil diffuser, which is a special machine that causes the essential oil to become an aerosol, meaning that it evaporates the medicinal compounds in the oil into the air to be breathed in directly when you are near the diffuser (We have had a good experience with this diffuser—it’s stylish, quiet and produces a strong fragrance that fills the room). A good diffuser can easily fill an entire room with a powerful scent of the essential oils making it a good way to stay relaxed while you are at the house and to actually take in a fairly large amount of medicinal compounds in a safe and consistent manner.


Essential oils are powerful, highly concentrated plant medicines. It is not necessary to take them internally to benefit from their effects. However, some people may want a more medicinal, intense experience, for example, in the case of experiencing extreme anxiety or stress.

It is very important to note that not all essential oils are safe to take internally. When in doubt, do not ingest it to be on the safe side. However, those that are will give a strong medicinal effect when taken internally. With that being said there are definitely some very strict precautions you must adhere to when taking essential oils internally since they are so strong. These are very important and not to be ignored.

For an essential oil that is safe to take internally, only use 1-2 drops in a gel capsule (available here) or diluted in 6-8 ounces of water. Remember, one drop can be the equivalent of taking many pounds of raw plant matter so a little goes a long way. If you take an essential oil internally and it feels too strong, try drinking a few ounces of water, eating an absorbent food like organic bread and additionally taking activated charcoal or bentonite clay to soak it up. This should reduce any discomfort significantly. However, if you take one drop as recommended above you should be fine. Remember to start slow and only use essential oils internally that are safe to do so. Also, do not take more than 1 or 2 drops per day and take a break every few weeks to allow your body time to adjust.

Essential Oil Blends for Stress and Anxiety

There are literally hundreds of recipes, formulas and blends of essential oils for anxiety and stress that have been developed over the years. But we actually recommend something slightly different: mix and match your own favorites based on what works best for your body. Try a few of the oils suggested above and figure out which ones work best for you. Then feel free to combine a few together for a stronger medicinal effect.

But if you are feeling stuck and would like some guidance, here are a few suggestions of different blends of essential oils for stress and anxiety depending on your needs. Note: These blends are not to be taken internally as they contain too many drops of essential oils.

Strong Essential Oil Blend for Anxiety, Stress and Insomnia

2 drops Jatamansi
2 drops Holy Basil
2 drops Valerian
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Lemon Balm

Calming Essential Oil Blend for Mild to Moderate Anxiety and Stress

2 drops Clary Sage
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Holy Basil
2 drops Jasmine
2 drops Chamomile



About The Author

Justin Faerman has been studying and writing about holistic health practices, herbalism and natural medicine for over 14 years and is a leading authority on both modern and ancient therapies for creating lasting health and wellness. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has conducted field research into organic and regenerative agriculture practices and eco-social sustainability during his time there. He is also the Founder of Lotus Superfoods, a boutique purveyor of rare herbs and superfoods as well as the Co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and the Flow Consciousness Institute. Learn more about his work at and