The Best Essential Oils for Mental & Emotional Health During COVID-19 Quarantine

Medically reviewed by Scott Johnson
Medically reviewed by Scott Johnson on
Dr. Scott Johnson, Natural Medicine Educator & Author
Updated on April 9th, 2020

Many people are boosting their immune function to protect against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), currently causing a global pandemic.

But, are you also considering your mental and emotional health? If not, you should be! From a holistic perspective, we must consider all aspects of our well-being—mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual—to remain healthy. Here are the best essential oils to guard your mental and emotional health during this pandemic.

Increased stress and anxious feelings are natural when faced with a challenge like SARS-CoV-2 and the requirement to self-isolate. With that stress comes an increased risk of poor health. The body is flooded with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline during a “fight or flight” response to provide the energy to respond to a perceived threat.

In response, heart rate and blood pressure get elevated, breathing becomes more rapid, and body systems like the immune and digestive diminish. Once the threat is neutralized, the release of these hormones decreases, and body functions return to normal. However, if stress is persistent, your body remains in an altered mental and physical state where illness can thrive.

Essential Oils for Mental Health During COVID-19 Quarantine

Fortunately, Mother Nature provides gifts from the earth in the form of essential oils to help reduce stress and anxious feelings. By doing so, these essential oils help us remain in a state of health and can reduce the impact of anxiety surrounding the virus and self-quarantining.

1. Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

Lavender Oil

Likely the most clinically studied essential oil, the overwhelming evidence suggests that lavender oil can help reduce stress and anxiety and balance mood.

Strong evidence from a recent meta-analysis concluded that taking 80 mg of lavender oil in a capsule per day reduced anxiety as well as paroxetine (a drug used for depression and anxiety disorders). When it was taken twice daily (160 mg per day), the lavender oil was more effective than paroxetine.

Another review of clinical studies showed that the ingestion of lavender oil is effective and safe, and doesn’t cause withdrawal symptoms, drowsiness, or interact with medications. (2) Lavender oil is frequently combined with ylang-ylang, marjoram, neroli, and citrus oils to improve its cortisol-, stress-, and anxiety-reducing effects (3),(4),(5).

The great thing is that the research shows that you can apply it topically, inhale it, or ingest it to calm and relax the mind and body.

[Read:  Lavender Oil for Anxiety ]

Massage With Lavender and Geranium (Pelargoneum Graveolens)

Who doesn’t like a relaxing massage? Although a massage alone can boost your mood and reduce stress, the addition of essential oils can improve the results of the massage.

  • This is what was observed by researchers who evaluated the effects of a lavender and geranium oil massage for women whose children were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Parents of children with ADHD report higher levels of stress. A twice-weekly 40-minute massage for four weeks with four drops each of lavender and geranium in 20 mL of jojoba oil significantly improved mood and reduced stress.
  • The researchers noted that cortisol levels declined, and brain wave activity changed to a more relaxed state. Next time you get a massage, request calming essential oils be included or bring your own.

2. Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia)

essential oils for mental health

When you have anxiety or stress, you need relief fast. That is exactly what inhalation of bergamot essential oil does, according to research.

Inhalation of diffused bergamot essential oil for 15 minutes reduced cortisol, stress, and anxiety in a short time. Surgery can provoke anxious feelings and stress. A clinical study found that inhalation of bergamot essential oil reduced anxiety in people prior to surgery (8).

Teaching elementary school is a high-stress profession. Clinical research suggests that teachers could benefit from bergamot essential oil. Inhaling bergamot oil for 10 minutes from a diffuser reduced blood pressure and calmed the nervous system to reduce stress in elementary school teachers (9).

A review of the benefits of bergamot reported additional studies showing the citrusy, fruity, and floral aroma of bergamot essential oil helps improve mood state and relax the mind (10). 

[Read: Health Benefits of Bergamot ]

3. Orange (Citrus Sinensis)

Going to the dentist can be a frightening experience for young children and even provoke anxious feelings in teens and adults. Three separate clinical trials demonstrated that diffusing sweet orange essential oil in the waiting room of dental offices reduces anxiety about going to the dentist. 

Another study found that topical application of orange oil (10 drops of a 2% dilution, three-time daily) improved mood better than oral Prozac (an antidepressant). The sweet, citrusy scent of orange is one that makes you smile and helps you feel more tranquility.

4. Yuzu (Citrus Junos)

A less common citrus essential oil obtained from a fruit with a rich tradition in Japan, yuzu essential oil has a unique zesty aroma. Inhaling yuzu essential oil for ten minutes resulted in improved mood and reduced anxiety, anger, and confusion (13). 

In addition, the oil reduced chromogranin A (CgA) in the saliva of healthy female college students. CgA is a protein released from neuroendocrine cells and used as a marker for stress levels. This demonstrates the profound and far-reaching benefits that are simply inhaling essential oils have on your well-being.

5. Hinoki (Chamaecyparis Obtusa)

Hinoki is a member of the cypress family native to Japan. It is considered a precious wood and carries a distinct aroma and chemical composition. Blood pressure and nervous system activity decreased after inhaling hinoki oil for only five minutes.

Furthermore, the oil prompted a more pleasant mood state. Both findings suggest that hinoki can help reduce stress and anxiety quickly, while simultaneously promoting a positive mood.

6. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus or C. citratus)

Lemongrass Oil

A strong-smelling and potent essential oil, lemongrass, is obtained from the leaves of Cymbopogon flexuosus or C. citratus. Both are very rich in citral (geranial + neral), but C. citratus can have higher levels of myrcene.

Researchers reported that inhaling three or six drops of lemongrass (C. citratus) oil, immediately followed by participating in an anxiety-provoking activity, reduced anxiety and tension (15). They also fully recovered from the anxiety-provoking task within five minutes, unlike the control groups. This research demonstrates that brief exposure to lemongrass aroma can reduce anxious feelings. 

[Read: Benefits of Lemongrass ]

Other Essential Oils & Absolutes

While the above essential oils have clinical evidence to support their use for anxiety, stress, and mood, many other essential oils have been used to improve mental and emotional health for centuries. These include:

  • Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carterii, B. sacra, B. papyrifera, B. frereana)
  • Lemon (Citrus limon)
  • Rose (Rosa damascena)
  • Neroli (Citrus x Aurantium)
  • Virginia cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana)
  • Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album, S. paniculatum, S. austrocaledonicum, S. spicatum)
  • Jasmine absolute (Jasminum grandiflorum)
  • Osmanthus absolute (Osmanthus fragrant)

Bottom Line

Because of their versatility and potency, essential oils are a great way to guard your mental and emotional health during significant challenges like now. Diffuse one or a combination of the above oils daily to promote a tranquil environment.

Dilute essential oils in carrier oil and massage to the shoulders and feet to relax. Or, take pure lavender essential oil in a capsule with some olive oil to reduce the stress and anxious feelings you feel. Your resilience to stress will be improved, and you will emerge from the pandemic with improved mental and emotional health. 

About the Author:

Dr. Scott Johnson, Natural Medicine Educator & Author

Scott Johnson tirelessly explores the solutions Mother Nature has provided and the science that reveals how these solutions help you be your healthy self. His diverse educational background and no-nonsense approach to natural healing have helped empower tens of thousands of individuals to realize greater wellness naturally.

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