Treating Stress with Essential Oils

Stress, anxiety and other mental states such as feelings of being overwhelmed, low depressed moods and more is something that everyone can recognise and may well have experienced at one time or another.

According to a new World Health Organisation study not only are depression rates significantly higher in affluent nations but cases of major depression are on the rise throughout the world. The study concludes that depression is a severe global problem that will change from being the world’s fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, to being the second leading cause of disability by 2020.

Stress is known to be one of the main triggers of depression, and in nations such as the UK a still growing number of men and women succumb to the pressures that seem embedded in our value system and social structure. It’s not just depression that stress can lead too, it has been noted to be a key factor in many illnesses and if not treated can physically manifest itself into other symptoms such as headaches, muscular tension and digestive issues.

Ho wood has a beautiful, light, woody-scent that is calming, relaxing and peace-inducing for the mind and body. The main chemical component is linalool, which has been found to have a relaxing effect upon the central nervous system one study from a small trial of 24 human subjects, using physiological parameters of heart rate, blood pressure, electrodermal activity and salivary cortisol, suggests that linalool has an anxiolytic effect (Hofel, Christ and Buchbauer, 2006).

Linalool also constitutes up to 45% of lavender so can explain why for so many centuries many have turned to its comforting scent for stress. Traditionally lavender has been used for its sedative purposes along with being a great skin rejuvenator as discovered by gattefosse and as an insect repellent among many other things. Now science is catching up to create evidence to substantiate our aromatic claims. One recent study even showed it had a powerful anxiolytic effect and brought about a similar behavioural profile to treatment with diazepam.

Ylang Ylang is a deep floral scent that many fall in love with, it has an exotic edge to it and studies show that it significantly increased calmness and relaxation of a small group of participants compared to controls. Hongratanaworakit and Buchbauer (2004; 2006) also found a significant decrease in heart rate and blood pressure with topical application and inhalation of ylang ylang aroma, supporting the relaxing properties of the oil. It also happens to be one my favourites!

These are just three oils that I have focused on there are so many more with equally goof benefits out there. The choice of blend will always be different from person to person and if you feel essential oils could help you manage your stress then seek out a qualified clinical aromatherapist for advice.


Hofel, Christ and Buchbauer (2006) Chirality Influences the Effects of Linalool on Physiological Parameters of Stress. Planta Medica, 72 (13), pp. 1188-1192.

Moss, M. et al. (2003) Aromas of Rosemary and Lavender Essential Oils Differentially Affect the Mood and Cognition of Healthy Adults. International Journal of Neurosience, 1 (13), pp. 15-38.

Hongratanaworakit, T. and Buchbauer, G. (2006) Relaxing Effect of Ylang Ylang Oil On Humans After Transdermal Absorption. Phytotherapy Research, 20, pp. 758-763.

Hongratanaworakit, T. and Buchbauer, G. (2004) Evaluation of the Harmonizing Effect of Ylang-Ylang Oil on Humans After Inhalation. Planta Medica, 70, pp. 632- 636.

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