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Aromatherapy to Relieve Anxiety: Part B

Marcey Shapiro, MD

Aromatherapy, or the use of therapeutic use of essential oils, can be a wonderful adjunct in relief of anxiety and general mood support. Since the sense of smell is closely linked with the limbic system, the area of the brain where we process emotions, there are many soothing essential oils can help put people at ease via the sense of smell.

Essential oils can be added to baths, massage oil, compresses, inhalations, and aromatherapy diffusers. It is important to note, though, that some essential oils can be irritating or caustic. While a few are used directly on the skin or even internally (orally), this should always be done under supervision of a physician or an advanced practitioner. Generally oils applied topically are quite dilute (5-15 drops in one ounce of neutral oil) and blended with a carrier oil like sweet almond, jojoba, coconut, olive, or avocado oil. Never ingest any essential oils or apply them undiluted to the skin without proper training or medical supervision.

Last month we looked at several popular oils for relief on anxiety, here are a few more popular, common, and safe essential oils choices used for emotional support, anxiety relief, and stress reduction.

Frankincense, Boswellia carteri or Boswellia sacra

Emotional: Calming and tranquil energy, as well as spiritually grounding. Included in many types of incense to help deepen meditation and quiet the mind.

Physical: Used often in respiratory blends for calming spasmodic cough. Moistening, and used in many cosmetic blends for aged or dry skin. Decreases gas, supports healthy immune function.


Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

Emotional: This is the most common oil used for calming anxiety and is the base of many popular soothing blends. It is considered a nervous system restorative and helps with inner peace, sleep, restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous stomach, and gen- eral nervous tension.

Physical: Alleviates menstrual cramps, spasmodic cough, ten- sion headache, and skin problems and has mild antibacterial properties.


Lemon, Citrus limon

Emotional: Cheerful scent, encourages optimism, has an expan- sive happy energy that supports people who feel constrained or hemmed in.

Physical: Antibacterial, decongestant, supports the liver and the immune system; used in many household cleaners, as lemon is also a good de-greaser.

Generally safe but like all members of the citrus family, lemon is photosensitizing, meaning it can increase the risk of sunburn and rash. So do not use it topically in blends within 12 hours of sun exposure. For this reason it is most commonly used in a diffusor. Use only organic oils, as citrus is heavily sprayed.

Rose, Rosa damascena

Emotional: Very settling to the emotional heart, perhaps the second most popular essential oil after lavender for anxiety and depres- sion. Associated with love and promotes feelings of love and spiritual connection. Nervous system restorative and tonic; helps with panic attacks, grieving, and shock.

Physical: Used often in cosmetics and perfumery. Anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, excellent for dry or aging skin. Helps with hormonal balance, especially for women.


Vetiver, Vetiveria zizanioides

Emotional: Tranquil, grounding, and reassuring energy, used in trauma, helps with self-awareness and is calming and stabilizing. A nervous system tonic, it decreases jitteriness and hypersensitiv- ity; useful in panic attacks and shock.

Physical: Antifungal, immune support, helps vitality. Widely used in perfumery and cosmetics. A powder of this root is used in Ayurveda to reduce fever.


Enjoy your exploration of aromatherapy to support positive and calm mood!

Excerpted from Freedom From Anxiety: A Holistic Approach to Emotional Well Being   by Marcey Shapiro, MD, published by North Atlantic Books 1/14/14 , copyright © 2014 by Marcey Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of publisher.

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