What are essential oils?
Essential oils have been around for thousands of years, but the Western world seems to have caught on only recently to their countless benefits, from religious and spiritual to cosmetic, dietary, and even emotional. Essential oils are extracted from plants, providing countless micro and macro nutrients that nourish the body, reducing inflammation, lowering stress, balancing hormones and fighting against aging. “The therapeutic effect of plants can be concentrated into medicinal powders, tinctures, and essential oils and, when used appropriately, can help you feel better, sleep better and think more clearly,” says Joseph Clarke, nationally certified Diplomate of Oriental Medicine, acupuncturist and integrative medicine. Though many promotional claims are exaggerated, essential oils are not pseudo-scientific quackery. “Many effective drugs were originally derived from plants: Aspirin comes from willow bark, statin drugs are a synthetic form of red rice yeast, and antibiotics got their start with penicillin, which is a common bread mold.” So it only makes sense that we would use botanicals—in their natural state—to treat and alleviate illnesses of all kinds, mental, emotional, and physical. For example, many people are unaware that essential oils can be used to treat acne.
How do essential oils help with anxiety?
With growing interest in natural holistic healing and integrative medicine, essential oils are being actively researched and applied in the United States. “There is compelling research on the antiviral and antibacterial properties of oils as well as studies on the impact of essential oils on emotional health, including anxiety, depression, mood, and concentration,” says Jan Stritzler, corrective yoga instructor at Complete Wellness NYC. Her practice is just one of thousands across the U.S. that combines the use of therapeutic grade essential oils with relaxation techniques that include deep breathing, yoga, meditation, massage, and acupuncture, to heal patients from the inside out. “Oils must be kept away from eyes and should not be used on people with high skin sensitivity,” she adds. “Oils are potent and only very small amounts are needed if the quality is therapeutic.” Essential oils can also be combined with a carrier oil, such as pure coconut oil, which is used to dilute the potency as well as prevent skin sensitivity for massage. The following oils, though they are strongly linked with other specific health benefits, have been shown to be helpful in lessening anxiety, boosting mood, and improving sleep. Check out these additional natural remedies for anxiety.
Juniper berry oil
With a sweet scent and a hint of balsamic, juniper berry essential oil is most frequently used to cleanse the renal (urinary) system, fight infection, and improve skin health. “In traditional medicine, this oil was used for its antibacterial properties,” says Nada Milosavljevic, MD, board-certified, Harvard-trained physician and founder of Sage Tonic. “Those prone to urinary tract infections may find that it acts as a natural cleansing and detoxifying agent and supports healthy kidney and urinary function.” In fact, one study by the Institute of Chemistry, Tallinn University of Technology, found that juniper berry oil contains over 87 different active compounds, including antioxidants, antibacterials, and antifungals. Although it’s not discussed as often, juniper berry may offer emotional support as well. “Several traditional healing cultures have used it as a calming agent to help with cases of burnout, stress, and anxiety,” Milosavljevic says.