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Treating Mental Illness with Essential Oils (an overview)

The use of aromatherapy for mental health is no new thing. For thousands of years, practitioners have known the benefits of the healing of plants, but until recent studies, no one quite knew why essential oils were effective for treating mental illnesses.

How Aromatherapy Works

“The profound and complete therapeutic effects of essential oils derive from more than their pleasant fragrance. They have vital electromagnetic properties and vibrational energies that invigorate the mind, the soul, the body’s energy, and thus their functioning.” Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.

Aromatherapy works by delivering molecules from essential oils directly to the limbic system of the brain through the olfactory (smell) system. The limbic system is considered the emotional center of the brain and communicates with the nervous system to affect things such as heartrate and hormone secretion. For this reason, scent is said to be 10,000 times stronger than the sense of taste. Scent has an impact on memory recall, emotions, and hormone balance.

The results are also scientifically measurable. According to Gayle Eversole, DHom, PhD, CRNP, AHG, “The psycho-physiological effect essential oils can be observed with EEG. Cortical activity is altered in alpha, beta, delta, and theta waves. Research in Japan established that jasmine oil increases alertness and attention through beta-wave activity. Jasmine oil can also offer a stimulating effect.”

Essential Oils for Mental Health Conditions         

Most essential oils will have profound effects on mental health. The following are the most recommended for specific conditions:

Depression: jasmine, orange, sandalwood, geranium, ylang ylang, bergamot, frankincense, lemon, mandarin, angelica, basil, clary sage

Anxiety: bergamot, lavender, frankincense, neroli, cypress, marjoram, rose, cedarwood, chamomile, roman chamomile, juniper

Neurological Conditions: peppermint, rosemary, basil, cinnamon

Low Self-Esteem: pine, frankincense, angelica, basil, clary sage

ADD/ADHD: roman chamomile, lavender, clary sage, frankincense, bergamot

Paranoia: clary sage, cypress

Anorexia Nervosa: bergamot, frankincense, ylang ylang

Bipolar Disorder: rosemary, cinnamon, lavender, ylang ylang, basil, rose, thyme, mint, eucalyptus, bergamot, frankincense

How to Use Them

When using essential oils for treating symptoms of mental health issues, there are 3 methods. It’s important to try each one and decide on the best course of action for you.

  • Inhalation

Inhalation can be achieved in various ways. The simplest way is to inhale the essential oils directly from their containers. You can also diffuse the essential oils, drop them into your bath water, or make a spritzer with water to mist in your face when needed.


  • Skin Application

Applying the essential oils to the skin is another effective method for delivering the active ingredients of the oils to the blood stream. Studies have shown that once the oil is applied, it is present in the blood stream within 5 minutes.

  • Ingestion

Ingestion is not advised unless under the care of a trained practitioner, but this method works by delivering the ingredients to the blood stream through the intestinal wall.

Blend Measurements

Essential oils are used in different quantities for the various methods. You can choose the oils you’d like to try for your specific symptoms and mix them with carrier oils such as fractionated coconut or almond oil. Here’s a simple guide for the amounts of essential oils that work best for each method, so that you can choose your own:

Diffusers: 10-12 drops

Baths: 8 -10 drops

Skin Application: 2-3 drops mixed with 2.5 ml carrier oil

Spritzer: 50 ml purified water with 20-30 drops

Blends for Mental Ailments


This blend acts as a strong sedative and should not be used prior to operating a vehicle or heavy machinery. It’s extremely effective for total relaxation and sleep.

  • 10 drops lavender
  • 10 drops ylang ylang
  • 10 drops chamomile
  • 5 drops frankincense

Combine ingredients in a glass roller bottle and fill with a carrier oil of your choice. Apply to wrists, back of neck and bottoms of feet as needed. This blend can also be diffused using 3 drops of each essential oil in your diffuser.


  • 10 drops lavender
  • 10 drops frankincense
  • 5 drops clary sage
  • 5 drops bergamot

Add essential oils to a glass roller bottle and fill with a carrier oil. Apply to the bottoms of feet and back of neck in the morning.


  • 10 drops bergamot
  • 10 drops ylang ylang
  • 5 drops clary sage
  • 5 drops lemon

Combine essential oils in a glass roller bottle and fill with a carrier oil. Apply to wrists, temples and bottoms of feet, or inhale from bottle as needed.

In Conclusion

No one knows your symptoms like you do, so the best blends are the ones you choose yourself to treat your specific symptoms. For chronic conditions, try diffusing your chosen essential oils daily for 15 minutes every hour. Never discontinue use of prescribed medication without a doctor’s consent, but don’t be afraid to experiment with essential oils as a supplement to traditional treatment.


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