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Essential Oils for Emotional Healing and Well-Being

Your brain's limbic system is why using essential oils for emotional healing can help process unwanted emotions and support desired ones.

Carton showing various emotions.

As soon as the molecules of a scent bind to the olfactory receptors in your nose, stimuli travel from the receptors to the olfactory bulb in the limbic system. That system is largely responsible for your emotional responses.

The molecular structure of an essential oil is important in how that oil affects emotions. For example, the aldehydes and esters in some essential oils are calming and sedating, while other oils contain invigorating components. The emotional effects of aromatherapy also vary from person to person based on a person's physiology and emotional connections to specific scents.

Because people respond differently, the following suggestions are only a place to start. The most effective use of aromatherapy for emotions comes through tailoring the use of essential oils to your individual needs.

Balancing Emotions With Essential Oils

Here are some suggestions for essential oils to balance emotions from Healing With Aromatherapy by clinical aromatherapist Marlene Ericksen:

  • Anxiety, stress, or insomnia:
    marjoram, neroli, lavender, Roman chamomile
  • Boredom or need for stimulation:
    juniper, cardamom, rosemary, lemongrass
  • Depression or mood swings:
    clary sage, grapefruit, rose, jasmine
  • Fear:
    frankincense, cedarwood
  • Lack of confidence or sexual problems:
    ylang ylang, jasmine, clary sage
  • Poor memory, difficulty concentrating, or fatigue:
    basil, rosemary, peppermint, lemon
  • Sadness or grief:
    neroli, melissa, rose

TCM and Essential Oils for Emotional Healing

Another view of aromatherapy and emotions comes from the psychological aspects of yin and yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Gabriel Mojay, in Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance with Essential Oils, makes the following essential oil recommendations for relieving unwanted emotions.

Note: Diffuse the essential oils or mix them with one tablespoon carrier oil for a massage or bath.

  • Abandoned and bereft:
    2 drops rose, 2 drops palmarosa, 1 drop neroli
  • Aggravated and pressured:
    2 drops chamomile, 2 drops bergamot, 2 drops orange
  • Anxious desperation:
    3 drops lavender and 2 drops rose
  • Bitter and brooding:
    2 drops chamomile, 2 drops bergamot, 2 drops helichrysum
  • Burdened and humorless:
    3 drops lemon, 2 drops jasmine
  • Chronic indecisiveness:
    3 drops clary sage, 2 drops bergamot, 1 drop orange
  • Cold and joyless:
    3 drops jasmine, 1 drop ylang ylang, 1 drop orange
  • Depressive self-neglect:
    3 drops vetiver, 1 drop cardamom, 1 drop rose
  • Discouraged and dejected:
    2 drops thyme, 2 drops rosemary
  • Frustrated and irritable:
    2 drops orange, 2 drops bergamot, 2 drops chamomile
  • Frustrated, tense, and negative:
    3 drops bergamot, 2 drops orange, 1 drop neroli
  • Hurt and bitter:
    2 drops rose, 2 drops lavender, 1 drop helichrysum
  • Impatient and intolerant:
    3 drops bergamot, 2 drops lavender, 1 drop peppermint
  • Insecure and unyielding:
    2 drops geranium, 2 drops patchouli
  • Lack of self-worth:
    2 drops rose, 2 drops jasmine
  • Lonely and forlorn:
    3 drops marjoram, 2 drops rosemary, 1 drop myrrh
  • Low morale:
    2 drops thyme, 2 drops pine, 2 drops cedarwood
  • Melancholic and distant:
    3 drops clary sage, 2 drops rosemary, 1 drop thyme
  • Negative and pessimistic:
    2 drops hyssop, 2 drops clary sage, 2 drops orange
  • Nervous and agitated:
    3 drops lavender, 2 drops neroli, 1 drop bergamot
  • Nervous exhaustion:
    2 drops geranium, 2 drops sandalwood, 1 drop jasmine
  • Obsessive overthinking:
    4 drops sandalwood, 2 drops vetiver
  • Oppressive over-attachment:
    2 drops frankincense, 2 drops myrrh, 2 drops cypress
  • Persistent sense of loss:
    4 drops cypress, 1 drop frankincense, 1 drop rose
  • Resistant to change:
    3 drops cypress, 2 drops juniper, 1 drop benzoin
  • Restless and distracted:
    3 drops frankincense, 2 drops geranium
  • Self-condemnation:
    2 drops spikenard, 2 drops lavender, 1 drop rose
  • Sullen and wounded:
    4 drops yarrow, 2 drops hyssop
  • Tense and exhausted:
    3 drops clary sage, 2 drops cypress, 1 drop lavender
  • Touchy and defensive:
    4 drops yarrow, 1 drop chamomile
  • Vague and indecisive:
    3 drops clary sage, 2 drops rosemary
  • Vulnerable and unassertive:
    3 drops pine, 2 drops thyme
  • Vulnerable and untrusting:
    2 drops rose, 2 drops palmarosa, 1 drop lemon
  • Withdrawn and defeatist:
    2 drops juniper, 2 drops thyme

More Aromatherapy for the Emotions

Also see suggestions for depression and grief.

Assertiveness Blend

Want to feel more assertive? Try this blend:

  • 7 drops bay leaf (Laurus Nobilis) essential oil
  • 6 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 3 drops cinnamon essential oil
  • 2 teaspoons carrier oil

Use the blend to massage your solar plexus and lower back every morning or as needed. Do not use this aromatherapy blend at night, as it's likely to keep you awake.

Source: Massage Magazine, March/April 2003, p. 161

Mood Swings

If you are prone to mood swings and want to see if essential oils can help balance your moods, in The Fragrant Mind aromatherapist Valerie Ann Worwood suggests diffusing one of the following essential oils:

  • Cedarwood
  • Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Cypress
  • Geranium
  • Helichrysum
  • Lavender

You can also try this blend:

  • 15 drops cedarwood
  • 5 drops helichrysum
  • 15 drops cypress

Add the blend to one ounce (30 ml or 2 tablespoons) carrier oil for a massage, use a few drops in your bath, or diffuse a few drops.

I also recommend chapter 5 in Worwood's The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy to find more suggestions of essential oils for emotional healing.

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