Five Essential Oils to Combat Anxiety and Depression

Updated on February 8, 2017
SarahLMaguire profile image

Sarah has a PhD in Classical Civilisation from Swansea University. She continues to write on the Ancient World and other topics.

The Cultivation of Lavender in Provence, Southern France.
The Cultivation of Lavender in Provence, Southern France.

Essential Oils and the Emotions

Many Essential Oils, the pure extractions from plants and trees, can make your home smell wonderful when a few drops are added to an oil burner or vaporiser.

The aromas from essential oils can also have a notable effect on your state of mind and emotions. Some oils, such as lemon, grapefruit or peppermint, can help you to feel more alert and energised, while others such as cedarwood or patchouli have a calming, grounding effect.

While it is possible to generalise about the effect of such oils on one's state of mind, it should also be understood that the response to different aromas can be very individual and personal. Just as not everyone enjoys certain popular tastes such as chocolate or banana, so the response to an aroma will vary according to the individual.

Scent also has the ability to evoke memories in the human brain in what can be quite a powerful and unexpected way. This can also affect the individual's response to different aromas. If as soon as you smell lavender, you immediately recall unpleasant childhood visits to a disagreeable relative in a stuffy room smelling strongly of lavender, it doesn't matter how famed lavender is for promoting calm, happy feelings; it won't work for you.

On the other hand, scents that are associated with particularly happy memories will be even more effective at promoting a positive mood.

Enjoying essential oils is a very personal adventure, involving all the fun of exploration. Guides such as this can only serve as a roadmap.

Below are five essential oils with a reputation for promoting a more tranquil and cheerful frame of mind. I have enjoyed using all five of these oils in different blends.

Flowers of the Cananga Odorata tree, from which Ylang Ylang oil is distilled.
Flowers of the Cananga Odorata tree, from which Ylang Ylang oil is distilled.

Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang oil is distilled from the flowers of the tropical Cananga Odorata tree, native to Indonesia and the Philippines.

A powerful, sweet floral scent, Ylang Ylang is valued for soothing anxiety and stress and promoting feelings of happiness. It is also reputed as an aphrodisiac. Ylang Ylang blends well with Patchouli, Cedarwood, Vetiver, Cinnamon Leaf, and Bergamot.

The Bergamot Orange Fruit.
The Bergamot Orange Fruit.


The Bergamot is a small citrus fruit, native to South Asia, but now extensively cultivated in Calabria, in Southern Italy and on the Ivory Coast of Africa.

Bergamot oil has a most distinctive citrusy, smoky flavour, famously used to perfume Earl Grey Tea. This very pleasant scent is wonderfully uplifting and cheering and relaxing and is highly valued by aromatherapists for combating anxiety and depression.

Bergamot can add a refreshing top note to many blends. It blends particularly well with Lavender, Frankincense, Cypress and other citrus oils among others.

Foliage and cones of the Cypress tree.
Foliage and cones of the Cypress tree.


Cypress oil is derived from the twigs and needles of the cypress tree which grows wild throughout the Mediterranean regions and beyond. Cultivation of the cypress tree and distillation of its oil mostly takes place in France and also Spain and Morocco.

The cypress tree was traditionally planted around cemeteries and churchyards. Despite this somewhat melancholy association, the Latin name of the tree Sempervirens (always living) suggests vitality and renewal, life in the midst of death.

The scent of cypress oil is subtly woody, sweet and balsamic, and has the quality of being both warm and comforting while also quite fresh and enlivening. Its mild yet distinctive scent makes it a particularly useful oil to blend with as it adds its character to the blend without overwhelming the other scents. Cypress oil blends especially well with; Lavender, Cedarwood, Peppermint, Rosemary, Pine, and Bergamot.

Lavender flowers.
Lavender flowers.


Perhaps the most familiar and widely used essential oil, Lavender is extracted from the distinctive purple flowers. Native to the Mediterranean, Lavender grows throughout the world but is cultivated particularly in France and also in parts of Southern England.

The fresh floral scent of Lavender is valued for its relaxing, calming and cheering qualities. It is an excellent oil to use when feeling sad or anxious and also for promoting peaceful sleep. Some people place a few drops of Lavender on their pillow at night.

Lavender oil blends very well with most other essential oils. In particular, Lavender combines well with Bergamot, Cedarwood, Cypress, Pine, Lemon, Patchouli, and Vetiver among others.

Flowers of the Patchouli Shrub.
Flowers of the Patchouli Shrub.


A flowering shrub, native to Indonesia, Philippines and surrounding regions, Patchouli is now also cultivated in India, China, Malaysia and South America. The essential oil is extracted from the dried leaves. The oil is notably reddish in colour. Patchouli has a very strong and distinctive sweet, musky, herbal odour. It is a scent that people tend to love or hate.

For those who find it agreeable, the aroma of Patchouli can have a very calming, grounding effect and it can be a good oil to use when dealing with depression and especially with a sense of disconnectedness from oneself and one's body. It is also said to have aphrodisiac properties.

Patchouli oil was very popular in the 1960s amongst hippies and others who began exploring more alternative and holistic lifestyles.

Patchouli blends well with citrus, floral and woodsy oils. Due to its powerful odour, care must be taken not to let Patchouli take over a blend, smothering more delicate scents such as Cypress. It works best with other bold and assertive scents. Suggestions include; Bergamot, Lavender, Cinnamon Leaf, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Ylang Ylang and Sweet Orange.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      My pleasure Sarah. It was really interesting too.

    • SarahLMaguire profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from UK

      Thanks, Kristen - really glad you found this useful!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub Sarah. I always wondered about the patchouli oils and other essential oils. Voted up for useful!

    • SarahLMaguire profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from UK

      Citrus oils are all wonderfully uplifting - they have a very energising 'wake up' feel to them too.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thumbs up. Of your list I'd have to go with lavender and bergamot at the top of my list but anything citrus lifts me :)

    • SarahLMaguire profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from UK

      Thanks for commenting! I've never come across wisteria essential oil before - it sounds intriguing. I'll have to look out for it.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      5 years ago

      Yes, I love these. I like wisteria myself as my go-to oil, but I enjoy all of these oils on the list.

    • SarahLMaguire profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from UK

      Thank you, glad you liked it! Lavender is one of my favourites too, but I think Cypress is my favourite.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Useful and informative hub about the essential oils. I love the aroma of all of them, but Lavender is my personal favorite.

      Thanks for sharing this informative hub. Voted up!


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