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12 Essential Oils That Help You Relax, Aromatherapy Experts Say

These relaxing scents will give you a new sense of calm.

Finding moments of zen between work, family, friends, and errands isn't always easy. Even when we do have time for relaxation, our racing thoughts are often too close for comfort. But while lounging on the couch or taking a bath to enjoy some "me" time are great options, you may also want to introduce a fragrance to help you truly unwind. Essential oils are one tried and true method to help you relax, whether you like putting them in a diffuser, inhaling the scents directly, or rolling them right on your skin.

"Every essential oil has its own unique set of properties. When we breathe in essential oils we take in the scent molecules through our olfactory system," says Kerri Repta, esthetician, certified aromatherapist, and beauty educator for Katari. "This system is linked to our limbic system, which is responsible for regulating our heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels, and breathing."

Ready to find out which essential oils you should diffuse after a long day? Read on for aromatherapists' top 12 recommendations.

RELATED: 10 Science-Backed Ways to Calm Down Fast.

1
Clary Sage

sage plant and essential oils
Elena Pavlovich / Shutterstock

First up on the list of relaxing essential oils is clary sage.

"An earthy, grounding oil, it can help center the mind and body, and has been shown to decrease cortisol levels related to stress," Tammy Mastroberte, author of The Universe is Talking to You and The Higher Help Method, tells Best Life.

2
Ylang Ylang

ylang ylang essential oil
wasanajai / Shutterstock

Kiran Dintyala, MD, MPH, CEO and president of Stress Free Revolution, recommends ylang ylang essential oil.

"Ylang-ylang essential oil (YYO) is another commonly used essential oil for relaxation, depression, and anxiety disorders," says Dintyala, also known as "Dr. Calm." "Exposure to YYO has been shown to increase 5-HT concentration in the hippocampus."

According to the Cleveland Clinic, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) is another name for serotonin, which plays a key role in mood, sleep, digestion, sexual desire, and other functions.

RELATED: 7 Ways Breathwork Can Ease Stress and Improve Your Health.

3
Rose

Essential rose oil
iStock / kazmulka

Rose essential oil can help diffuse tension, specifically for those who struggle to sit still.

"This highly sought-after essence is known for many uses and is especially helpful for restlessness," Repta shares. "It has been shown to slow your breathing rate and instill an atmosphere of calm. Rose has the highest vibrational frequency of any plant, the closest frequency to love."

Mastroberte points out that rose can also help relax the central nervous system, and calm anxiety and panic.

4
Geranium

geranium essential oil
rawf8 / Shutterstock

Geranium is frequently recommended by aromatherapists for relaxation, and is similar to rose in terms of use. However, geranium has its own "distinct aroma," according to Betsy Miller, MS, CNS, certified aromatherapist and American Herbalists Guild (AHG) registered herbalist at Aura Cacia.

"Geranium has a fresh, green, and softly floral scent with a grounding and relaxing middle note," Miller notes. "Diffusing geranium essential oil is an easy way to enjoy its benefits, and it goes well with other scents, like lavender, rose, bergamot, and patchouli."

RELATED: 4 Ways the Scent of Sage Can Boost Your Mood and Health.

5
Orange

simple orange essential oil blend
iStock / DianaHirsch

If the smell of a freshly peeled orange sparks joy in you, orange essential oil may be a great option for helping you relax.

"This bright citrus is uplifting while bringing a sense of peace," Repta explains. "It has the curious duality of calming while still energizing in a positive way, without stimulating. It can actually reduce your pulse rate and help bring you to a positive state of mind."

6
Blue Tansy

blue tansy flowers
S.O.E / Shutterstock

Moneslete Bowden, ACC, a certified aromatherapist, suggests blue tansy as a unique oil with "cooling and calming effects."

"It has anti-inflammatory properties and helps alleviate stress, transform emotions, and reconnect with your core, letting go of the worries of the day," she shares. "Beyond its striking color, blue tansy works like a cooling balm for the soul, easing emotional turbulence and soothing the mind."

The essential oil has a "transformative nature" that can help remedy stress and turmoil, effectively "bringing a sense of peace and clarity," Bowden adds.

7
Bergamot

Bergamot citrus essential oil
iStock / leonori

This scent might be a bit bold, but it's still relaxing.

"This beautiful citrus is known to calm the nerves and is wonderful for feelings of anxiousness," Repta says. "It has an uplifting effect to elevate your mood, along with promoting feelings of relaxation."

When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol after adrenaline (those pesky "fight or flight" hormones). However, studies have found that inhaling bergamot actually attenuates the rise in cortisol levels in response to stress, Dintyala points out.

RELATED: The 6 Best Meditation Styles for Relieving Stress If You're Over 50.

8
Frankincense

bottle of frankincense essential oil
Madeleine Steinbach / Shutterstock

Repta describes this scent as calming and grounding—and thanks to its sedative effect, it can "work wonders when you are experiencing a feeling of being overwhelmed."

Mastroberte adds, "Often used for meditation and in spiritual practices, [frankincense] can offer a calming effect on the mind and body, reduce stress, and promote a sense of relaxation."

9
Chamomile

Herbal chamomile tea and chamomile flowers
iStock / ValentynVolkov

Chamomile tea might already be a part of your stress-relief routine, but the corresponding scent should be, too. According to Annabelle DeGrazio, founder of TAJA Collection, chamomile helps relieve tension.

"Chamomile has a calming impact on the neurological system, which aids in stress reduction and relaxation," says Caleb Backe, aromatherapy expert for Maple Holistics. "Chamomile's aroma can also aid in relaxing the senses and relieve stress, making it easier to fall and remain asleep."

Roman chamomile is specifically known for its "gentle, non-irritating properties," according to Bowden.

"It's more soothing than lavender," Bowden notes. "It effortlessly harmonizes the mind, senses, and body. Its gentle aroma possesses the remarkable ability to anchor one's focus inward, untethered from external pressures."

She continues, "Particularly beneficial for individuals prone to excessive worry, impatience, overthinking, and emotional turbulence, this oil's tranquil influence helps restore equilibrium to even the most agitated minds, cultivating a serene and balanced disposition."

10
Lavender

lavender essential oils
iStock / netrun78

Lavender is one of the best-known relaxing scents—and for good reason.

"When we inhale the fragrance of lavender, it can cause the brain to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which serve to regulate mood and induce relaxation," Backe explains.

There's science to back it up, too.

"Lavender scent has also been found in studies to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, all of which are physical signs of relaxation," Backe says. "Moreover, the lavender aroma has been shown to improve sleep quality and lessen anxiety and depression symptoms."

Bowden specifically suggests highland lavender from France, as other "poor-quality" lavender essential oils might not be as effective for relaxation.

"Nurtured in pristine altitudes, [highland lavender] exudes a sweeter aroma owing to its pollution-free environment and cleaner air. Beyond its fragrant allure, this oil possesses a remarkable ability to cleanse both emotions and the atmosphere, bringing balance and ease into one's life," Bowden shares. "An ally for panic, insomnia, and stress, it soothes and restores the mind and body making it a cherished essence for holistic well-being."

RELATED: 6 Mindfulness Tips to Feel Amazing Every Day in Retirement.

11
Neroli

neroli essential oil
AmyLv / Shutterstock

Neroli is a lesser-known scent that could be a great addition to your chill-out routine.

"This intoxicating orange blossom reduces stress by calming the nervous system and lowering blood pressure," Repta says. "Neroli has been shown to encourage the brain to release serotonin, the happiness hormone."

It's similar to petitgrain, which Dintyala recommends for improved performance and relaxation in the workplace.

12
Sandalwood

A bottle of sandalwood essential oil with red sandalwood chips
iStock / Madeleine_Steinbach

As a warm and earthy essential oil, sandalwood can help keep you grounded.

"Sandalwood is well known for its woodsy aroma as well as its centering and grounding capacities," Miller says. "It has a deep and meditative base note, which facilitates a sense of calm and peace. It goes well with other scents like bergamot, patchouli, and jasmine."

Add it to your routine by putting sandalwood essential oils into a diffuser. Miller also recommends blending drops of sandalwood oil with a teaspoon of argan oil for a "relaxing scalp massage," or applying a mixture of the essential oil (four drops) and fractionated coconut oil (two teaspoons) to your pulse points.

This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

We offer the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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