10 Of The Best Herbs + Essential Oils For Stress
The material in this post is for informational/educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please see a qualified health professional for specific health concerns. Herbs & essential oils are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
When was the last time you felt stressed? If you’re like many in our modern, fast-paced culture, you don’t have to think very far back to remember being stressed out. Maybe you are feeling anxious or stressed right now.
Chronic stress is becoming a big problem for many Americans (not that it’s limited to the U.S.). We get used to living with a low-level of stress all the time, and it doesn’t take much for our stress-levels to rise.
If this sounds like anything you’re dealing with right now, there’s some good news! Nature has some wonderful plants that can help us find some stress relief.
Of course, the best solution is to reduce or remove the sources of stress in you life, but that’s not always possible.
So here are 10 of the top herbs and essential oils for stress that can give you some all-natural relief.
Adaptogenic Herbs For Stress
Adaptogenic herbs have slightly different effects than other herbs do. They are a category of herbs that will adapt to your body’s needs instead of just having a specific effect.
Adaptogenic herbs are especially helpful for stress because they will actually support your body’s normal response to stress and work with your body. Adaptogens can support, balance, protect, and restore your body during stress. (1)
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Ashwagandha (also known as Indian ginseng) has been getting more and more attention as a natural remedy for dealing with stress. I wrote about this herb in my post on the top herbs for women’s health.
Because it is adaptogenic, ashwagandha will have different effects based on what your body needs. For example, one of the most common ways it’s used is to help with sleep. But if you are feeling fatigued from chronic stress, ashwagandha can also support your body by providing energy.
One study showed that a root extract of ashwagandha “improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.” (2) It may also help with food cravings and sleep problems that are stress-related as well as improving emotional health. (3)
How to use: Ashwagandha is available as capsules, tablets, liquid extract, and powder form. I buy mine from Banyan Botanicals. Not recommended for use during pregnancy.
Asian ginseng (also known as Panax ginseng) is another adaptogenic herb that can help with stress and stress-related hormones.
Panax ginseng has antioxidant effects that have been shown in a few studies to help improve mood and even mental health. It can also help to fight the physical and mental fatigue that often comes along with chronic stress. (4).
How to use: Ginseng root can be added to your diet by eating it raw, lightly steaming it before eating, or steeping it in water to make a tea. It’s also available in capsule, tablet, powder, and extract form. Not recommended for pregnancy and may interfere with anticoagulant drugs.
Cordyceps is actually a mushroom that has strong antioxidant properties. While not a traditional adaptogenic herb, cordyceps functions in much the same way.
Cordyceps can help your body deal with stress, regulate cortisol levels, and also fight fatigue and burnout. Like other adaptogens, the effects it has will vary depending on what your body needs.
How to use: Cordyceps is most often found and used in powder form. It can be blended in with smoothies and shakes or used in capsules. I drink this Burnout Blocker tea from the Republic of Tea that contains cordyceps (it doen’t taste anything like mushrooms!).
More Herbs + Essential Oils
Wait, isn’t this what you put on pizza or eat with tomatoes? Yep, but there’s a lot more to basil than meets the eye.
Sweet basil (the kind you normally see) does have its own benefits but when it comes to stress, holy basil is the one you want to go for.
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine to nourish the mind, body, and spirit and to protect against stress. (5) It’s another adaptogenic herb that can also help to balance and restore an overloaded nervous system.
Basil (the sweet kind) is also used as an essential oil and can help to calm the mind and fight mental stress and fatigue.
How to use: One of the easiest ways is to make a tea by using fresh or dried tulsi leaves, adding boiling water, and letting it steep for 15-20 minutes. Basil essential oil can be diffused or inhaled from the bottle to calm and clear the mind.
Lavender is one of the more familiar and well-known herbs. It has calming and relaxing properties that can help with stress and nervous tension.
Lavender can also help to promote sleep (maybe you’ve heard of putting it under your pillow), especially when stress is the reason for poor sleep or difficulty falling asleep.
When used in the essential oil form, Lavender can be diffused or applied topically before bed (if you need help with sleeping) or during the day to calm stressful and tense feelings.
How to use: Use the fresh or dried herb aromatically by putting a sachet where you sleep or somewhere nearby when you are feeling stressed. Dried Lavender can also be steeped and made into a tea. You can dilute and apply Lavender essential oil to the back of your neck or bottoms of your feet before bed, or diffuse in your bedroom.
Chamomile is a beautiful and gentle herb that has calming and soothing effects. It’s a good digestive aid because it can settle the stomach and calm the digestive tract (see my post on best herbs for digestion), and it can also calm the nervous system and reduce stressful feelings.
Chamomile essential oil has calming and relaxing effects (much like Lavender). If stress is hurting your sleep, Chamomile oil is another good one to try, especially if you find that Lavender doesn’t work for you.
How to use: Using the dried or fresh flowers of Chamomile in a tea is one of the best ways to use it. Just pour boiling water over the flowers and let steep for at least 5 minutes. Chamomile essential oil can be diluted and applied topically as ‘perfume’ on especially stressful days. Diffuse or directly inhale the oil to calm your mind.
Other Essential Oils For Stress
Citrus essential oils are some of the best mood-lifters and stress-fighters out there. All citrus oils can have an uplifting effect on your mood, reduce feelings of stress, and promote relaxation.
Orange, Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, and Bergamot all have this mood-lifting effect but each one is slightly different. Citrus oils are definitely worth trying during stressful times to see which one works best for you.
How to use: Diffusing citrus essential oils is one of the best ways to get their positive effects throughout the day. Inhaling directly from the bottle is also a good way to get an instant mood-lift and relief from stress. (Orange essential oil is my go-to.) If applying to skin, try to apply at night since citrus oils may cause photosensitivity.
Cedarwood essential oil is another calming oil that can be used with or in place of Lavender essential oil for reducing feelings of stress and for getting more restful sleep.
Cedarwood has a very sweet and woodsy fragrance and has been used since ancient times. It is one of the more gentle essential oils, which makes it especially good for children and safe to diffuse around pets.
How to use: Apply diluted Cedarwood essential oil to the neck, feet, or chest before going to sleep. You can also apply to your neck, wrists, or forehead during the day to experience its calming fragrance. Cedarwood can also be diffused or inhaled directly. For a ‘super’ calming blend, try diffusing 4 drops Cedarwood, 4 drops Orange, and 2 drops Lavender.
Frankincense essential oil is one of the most beloved essential oils and a personal favorite. It can decrease feelings of stress, promote a sense of comfort and grounding, and lift your mood.
This is another essential oil used since ancient times, especially in spiritual practices like meditation. If you are feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, Frankincense can bring you back to a more peaceful state.
How to use: Frankincense can be diffused, inhaled, and applied topically to help with stress. Try mixing with a carrier oil and applying to your temples or forehead when you feel tense or overwhelmed. Or apply it first thing in the morning when you know you will have a difficult day. I inhale Frankincense directly from the bottle when I get extremely stressed.
Copaiba essential oil seems to be a lesser known oil, but it also has strong calming effects and is one of my go-to oils for stress relief.
Copaiba has a very mild, woodsy fragrance and is another gentle oil that is also good for the skin. I use Copaiba every evening before going to bed because of its relaxing and calming properties.
How to use: Like the other essential oils, Copaiba can be applied topically, diffused, or inhaled to help relieve stress. Try using it in a bath for extra calming power: Mix 4-8 drops of Copaiba with 1 cup of Epsom salts and add to bath water.
Discover Natural Stress Relief!
Stress doesn’t have to be a way of life! Although getting to the root of the stress is important, there are still ways to deal with the everyday stress many of us feel by using the power of plants.
Try out some of these herbs or essential oils the next time you feel overwhelmed!