There’s tons of research on Lavender helping sleep and anxiety (see this post) but what does the science say about other daily-use oils.
For those who’d love to try something different, there’s a great many other essential oils have been shown to have anxiety and depression-reducing properties in laboratory studies.*
The aroma of Sweet Orange essential oil has been shown to reduce anxiety.
Sweet Orange has been the subject of a number of studies. Simple inhalation of the oil produced a significant reduction in anxiety scores in this study: “Effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on salivary cortisol and pulse rate in children during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial”1.
Sweet orange essential oil is wonderful with kids, as they enjoy the aroma, perhaps more than they would that of Lavender. In this randomized research, children who inhaled Sweet Orange before visiting the dentist had significantly lower levels of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) as well as pulse rate, with the authors concluding: “It seems that the use of aromatherapy with natural essential oil of orange could reduce salivary cortisol and pulse rate due to child anxiety state.”
As a side note, Red Mandarin may work even better for children than Orange. It’s called the “Children’s Remedy” in France, not only for its potential to calm kids down, but even works for tummy troubles when massaged on the abdomen. If you’re thinking of giving Sweet Orange a go for your young ones, you might also take a look at Red Mandrin. It has a sweet-candy aroma, loved by the little ones, a constituent found only in this oil that seems most effective on those in per-pubecense.
Sweet orange also worked for adults in another study, “Effect of sweet orange aroma on experimental anxiety in humans.2” This study 40 men were subjected to a standard anxiety examination, and divided into 5 groups to inhale a variety of scents (including Tea Tree, water, and varying amounts of Orange. Those inhaling Orange showed statistically significant lowered amounts of stress than those inhaling the ‘placebo’ aromas.
Clary Sage, often used in "women's" formulas, made up 25% of the essential oils in these blend.
Next up: Clary Sage, studied as an anti-depressant oil. In a study titled: “Changes in 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-htp) and cortisol plasma levels in menopausal women after inhalation of clary sage oil.3” A group of 22 50+ year old women in menopause were tested for their levels of depression. They were then seperated into two groups. For both groups: “After inhalation of clary sage oil, cortisol levels were significantly decreased while 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP) concentration was significantly increased.” And self-depression scores dropped dramatically.
If one hasn’t tried Clary Sage essential oil yet, it may be the perfect addition to the collection of any woman seeking to reduce symptoms of depression.
Bergamot is an essential oil widely-researched for its anti-anxiety properties.
Bergamot essential oil is, somewhat like lavender, an old “stand by” for relieving anxiety and lifting mood. It is pressed from the rids of the Bergamot fruit, which is an orange so bitter you probably wouldn’t eat it, but it essential oil has been used for decades both aromatically and therapeutically.
The authors of this study: The ”Acute effects of bergamot oil on anxiety-related behavior and corticosterone level in rats” begin their abstract by noting:”Bergamot essential oil…is used widely in aromatherapy to reduce stress and anxiety despite limited scientific evidence. A previous study showed that BEO significantly increased gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)levels in rat hippocampus, suggesting potential anxiolytic properties.” That alone gets you thinking you might need some!
The study goes on to note that Bergamot oil significantly reduced actions which indicate stress, and was compared to diazapam in its activity. Diazepam is a well-know anxiolytic drug. The authors have written in conclusion:”both BEO and diazepam exhibited anxiolytic-like behaviours and attenuated HPA axis activity by reducing the corticosterone response to stress.”
And then of course, Lavender: There’s so much data on Lavender, it’s impossible not to ignore. Inhalation and controlled ingestion of the oil has been the subject of much research, noting both its ability to reduce anxiety, as well as improve sleep in many cases. See our complete review of the science supporting Lavender here: http://www.anandaapothecary.com/weblog/2015/01/studies-show-ingested-lavender-essential-oil-effective-for-anxiety-relief-sleep-support/
In conclusion, if you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety or anxiety-related depression, inhalation of one or more of these oils may be of great benefit. We run these oils in our diffusers regularly simply to ‘lighten the mood’ in our homes and workplaces. Bergamot may be a favorite of many of our staff, though all these oils are used at one time or another to brighten our day.
We’ll also carry small bottles (or pocket diffusers) with these oils to inhale from whenever we feel the need. This is a great, simple way of getting scientific results from your essential oil collection. And know, for sure, other oils may work well for different people! Neroli, Rose, Sandalwood and Coriander are all mentioned in the scientific research. We highly recommend giving one or more of these oils a try.
Know that this is just a small part of the research on essential oils. And know too, that many other essential oils are noted in the aromatherapy literature to have calming properties. A few of our favorites include Neroli, Sandalwood, Rose and many more.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
The Research Abstracts
1. Effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on salivary cortisol and pulse rate in children during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Published in Biomed Res. 2013 Mar 6;2:10. doi: 10.4103/2277-9175.107968. Author information: Jafarzadeh M1, Arman S, Pour FF.
Essential oils have been used as an alternative and complementary treatment in medicine. Citrus fragrance has been used by aromatherapists for the treatment of anxiety symptoms. Based on this claim, the aim of present study was to investigate the effect of aromatherapy with essential oil of orange on child anxiety during dental treatment.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
Thirty children (10 boys, 20 girls) aged 6-9 years participated in a crossover intervention study, according to the inclusion criteria, among patients who attended the pediatric department of Isfahan Dental School in 2011. Every child underwent two dental treatment appointments including dental prophylaxis and fissure-sealant therapy under orange aroma in one session (intervention) and without any aroma (control) in another one. Child anxiety level was measured using salivary cortisol and pulse rate before and after treatment in each visit. The data were analyzed using t-test by SPSS software version 18.
The mean ± SD and mean difference of salivary cortisol levels and pulse rate were calculated in each group before and completion of treatment in each visit. The difference in means of salivary cortisol and pulse rate between treatment under orange odor and treatment without aroma was 1.047 ± 2.198 nmol/l and 6.73 ± 12.3 (in minutes), which was statistically significant using paired t-test (P = 0.014, P = 0.005, respectively).
It seems that the use of aromatherapy with natural essential oil of orange could reduce salivary cortisol and pulse rate due to child anxiety state.
2. Effect of sweet orange aroma on experimental anxiety in humans. From the J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Aug;18(8):798-804. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0551. Authors: Goes TC1, Antunes FD, Alves PB, Teixeira-Silva F.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential anxiolytic effect of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) aroma in healthy volunteers submitted to an anxiogenic situation.
Forty (40) male volunteers were allocated to five different groups for the inhalation of sweet orange essential oil (test aroma: 2.5, 5, or 10 drops), tea tree essential oil (control aroma: 2.5 drops), or water (nonaromatic control: 2.5 drops). Immediately after inhalation, each volunteer was submitted to a model of anxiety, the video-monitored version of the Stroop Color-Word Test (SCWT).
Psychologic parameters (state-anxiety, subjective tension, tranquilization, and sedation) and physiologic parameters (heart rate and gastrocnemius electromyogram) were evaluated before the inhalation period and before, during, and after the SCWT.
Unlike the control groups, the individuals exposed to the test aroma (2.5 and 10 drops) presented a lack of significant alterations (p>0.05) in state-anxiety, subjective tension and tranquillity levels throughout the anxiogenic situation, revealing an anxiolytic activity of sweet orange essential oil. Physiologic alterations along the test were not prevented in any treatment group, as has previously been observed for diazepam.
Although more studies are needed to find out the clinical relevance of aromatherapy for anxiety disorders, the present results indicate an acute anxiolytic activity of sweet orange aroma, giving some scientific support to its use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.
3. Changes in 5-hydroxytryptamine and cortisol plasma levels in menopausal women after inhalation of clary sageoil. From: Phytother Res. 2014 Nov;28(11):1599-605. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5163. Authors: Lee KB1, Cho E, Kang YS.
The purpose of this study was to examine the antidepressant-like effects of clary sage oil on human beings by comparing the neurotransmitter level change in plasma. The voluntary participants were 22 menopausal women in 50′s. Subjects were classified into normal and depression tendency groups using each of Korean version of Beck Depression Inventory-I (KBDI-I), KBDI-II, and Korean version of Self-rating Depression Scale. Then, the changes in neurotransmitter concentrations were compared between two groups. After inhalation of clary sage oil, cortisol levels were significantly decreased while 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) concentration was significantly increased. Thyroid stimulating hormone was also reduced in all groups but not statistically significantly. The different change rate of 5-HT concentration between normal and depression tendency groups was variable according to the depression measurement inventory. When using KBDI-I and KBDI-II, 5-HT increased by 341% and 828% for the normal group and 484% and 257% for the depression tendency group, respectively. The change rate of cortisol was greater in depression tendency groups compared with normal groups, and this difference was statistically significant when using KBDI-II (31% vs. 16% reduction) and Self-rating Depression Scale inventory (36% vs. 8.3% reduction). Among three inventories, only KBDI-II differentiated normal and depression tendency groups with significantly different cortisol level. Finally, clary sage oil has antidepressant-like effect, and KBDI-II inventory may be the most sensitive and valid tool in screening for depression status or severity.
4. Acute effects of bergamot oil on anxiety-related behavior and corticosterone level in rats. From Phytother Res. 2011 Jun;25(6):858-62. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3325. Authors: Saiyudthong S1, Marsden CA.
Bergamot essential oil (BEO), Citrus aurantium subsp. bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn. (Rutaceae), is used widely in aromatherapy to reduce stress and anxiety despite limited scientific evidence. A previous study showed that BEO significantly increased gamma-aminobutyric acid levels in rat hippocampus, suggesting potential anxiolytic properties. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of BEO (1.0%, 2.5% and 5.0% w/w) administered to rats on both anxiety-related behaviours (the elevated plus-maze (EPM) and hole-board tests) and stress-induced levels of plasma corticosterone in comparison with the effects of diazepam. Inhalation of BEO (1% and 2.5%) and injection of diazepam (1 mg/kg, i.p.) significantly increased the percentage of open arm entries on the EPM. The percentage time spent in the open arms was also significantly enhanced following administration of either BEO (2.5% and 5%) or diazepam. Total arm entries were significantly increased with the highest dose (5%), suggesting an increase in locomotor activity. In the hole-board test, 2.5% BEO and diazepam significantly increased the number of head dips. 2.5% BEO and diazepam attenuated the corticosterone response to acute stress caused by exposure to the EPM. In conclusion, both BEO and diazepam exhibited anxiolytic-like behaviours and attenuated HPA axis activity by reducing the corticosterone response to stress.