Essential oils don’t just smell nice (although, naturally, that’s a big part of their appeal). There are a million and a half essential oil uses, whether you want to get rid of a headache — try peppermint oil on your temples — or fall asleep after a stressful day — lavender oil on your pillow. And if your ~vibe~ is off more generally, essential oils for clearing negative energy can help you restore the chill in a room.

Naturopathic doctor and nurse practitioner Erica Matluck, ND, NP, founder of integrative medicine and holistic coaching service Seven Senses, defines negative energy as “a vibration that feels uncomfortable or a dissonant frequency.” You can think of this as that feeling in the pit of your stomach when something doesn’t feel right, whether you’re feeling extra anxious, or your mind’s going a million miles an hour, or you just got some bad news. The “potent aroma” of essential oils, Matluck says, can influence your emotional state, and help you cope with those bad vibes.

The research behind essential oils finds that they’re generally safe in small quantities, and they do have some measurable benefits. But essential oils — which are just plant extracts — aren’t a magic cure for that “off” feeling (or any illnesses), and Matluck stresses that individual experiences with oils are highly variable.

“How we experience scent and the emotional state an aroma stimulates can vary from person to person. Scent also has a strong relationship with memory and sometimes the properties of an essential are experienced differently in different individuals because of the memories associated with that scent,” she says. “I encourage people to experiment with different scents and really pay close attention to what their personal experience is.” (It’s also worth mentioning that essential oils marketed as cosmetic don’t have to be approved by the FDA before they’re sold, so it’s important to pay attention to concentration, sourcing, and dilution of the oils you use.)

Below are a few essential oils that can help clear negative energy, according to people who like them.

1

Try Lavender To Calm Down

Lavender is pretty much everyone’s fave when it comes to clearing out bad energy. “It’s safe, effective, most people love the smell, and it’s relatively inexpensive,” Matluck says. “Lavender is a mild sedative. It impacts the neurotransmitter GABA, which calms the nervous system and quiets the brain.” Some research has shown that in large quantities, lavender can be a skin irritant and even an endocrine disruptor, so use sparingly.

2

Use Eucalyptus Oil To Wake Yourself Up

Jordan, 26, keeps a spray bottle of eucalyptus oil in her shower to give her brain a pick-me-up. “It really wakes me up and makes me feel ready for the day,” she says, adding that she feels it helps her clear out her sinuses, Vicks VapoRub style. “I feel like the coolness of it gets my brain going.” Eucalyptus’ benefits are wide-ranging: A small 2013 study published in Evidence-based Complementary Alternative Medicine found that eucalyptus essential oil was effective in reducing pain, swelling, and inflammation in people who’d undergone knee replacements, while a 2019 review of studies in Molecules found it even seemed to have “immune function enhancing properties.”

3

Bergamot Can Help You Feel Grounded

You know that citrus-y undercurrent in Earl Grey tea? That’s bergamot. Matluck suggests the essential oil of this lime-green orange to brighten a dark mood. “I prefer Bergamot for a chronic depressed mood when the trigger is something that happened in the past,” Matluck says. “The deep, earthy scent of Bergamot helps get the mind into the present.” She adds that bergamot has a mild sedative effect and impacts your brain’s limbic system, which regulates emotions and memory.

4

Try Ylang Ylang For A Pick-Me-Up

If it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, Matluck suggests Ylang Ylang, a flowery scent you might recognize if your mom wears Chanel No. 5. “I prefer Ylang Ylang for grief or sadness related to a situation in the present,” Matluck says. “The sweet, floral scent is a great pick-me-up but one’s tolerance for the fragrance and its effects may be temporary.” Like bergamot, ylang ylang has been shown to be calming, lightly reducing anxiety and improving self-esteem in a small, 2014 study by Brazilian researchers.

5

Look To Sage Oil To Cleanse A Space

Burning sage, or smudging, is widely associated with clearing negative energy. It is also a traditional ritual sacred to Native communities, whose ability to access this plant has been hampered by its sudden trendiness. Since it’s white sage that’s most often used for smudging, however, you can turn towards clary sage essential oil, from a similar but different plant. A 2019 review of studies, published in the Journal of Caring Sciences, found that clary sage aromatherapy helped people with anxiety during labor.

6

Frankincense Is Associated With Purification

You might remember frankincense from church around Christmas time. It’s still used in religious ceremonies today to purify spaces for rituals, but the peppery, fruity scent is also a go-to for relaxing. “My favorite yoga teacher used to spray frankincense oil around the room before starting class and I remember feeling such a difference in the air and energy of the space,” Scout, 30, says. “It cleared out all negativity, inviting me to begin my practice.” In a 2019 study on rats, published in Journal of Oleo Science, the essential oil was found to aid in relieving sleep debt, thereby reducing stress.

7

Peppermint Oil Is The Ultimate Freshener

Kaitlyn, 33, calls peppermint essential oil a “vibe freshener” that will “rip you out of a suffocating mood.” Science backs that up, albeit with a few more qualifiers: a 2019 study in Journal of Pain Research of 80 patients undergoing a stress-inducing medical procedure found enough evidence to recommend peppermint essence to help patients relax. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says peppermint oil is a common supplement to calm IBS, as well as to relieve headaches, muscle aches, and itching.

“When I’m having the kind of anxiety that makes me feel like I’m not getting enough air, or when I’m in a heavy mood and can’t lift myself out of it, I put a few drops of peppermint oil in my hands, rub them together to warm it up, and cup my nose and take a few deep breaths,” Kaitlyn adds.

8

Chamomile Oil Can Help Nourish The Spirit

The herb is perhaps best known for its role in your go-to pre-bedtime tea, but chamomile essential oil gets some strong destressing points, too. “After a long day of work, I will make myself a nourishing bath with some drops of lavender, mixed into a chamomile bubble bath, and it helps me let go of the stresses of the day and just focus on caring for myself,” Scout says. Chamomile (as well as frankincense, lavender, and peppermint) was also found to be effective in reducing anxiety during labor in that 2019 Journal of Caring Sciences review. And a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, published in 2020 in Journal of Medicine and Life, found that a combo of music therapy and chamomile-lavender aromatherapy helped lower anxiety for nurses.

Expert:

Erica Matluck, ND, NP, founder of integrative medicine and holistic coaching service Seven Senses

Studies referenced:

Ghiasi, A., Bagheri, L., & Haseli, A. (2019). A Systematic Review on the Anxiolytic Effect of Aromatherapy during the First Stage of Labor. Journal of caring sciences, 8(1), 51–60. https://doi.org/10.15171/jcs.2019.008

Akbari, F., Rezaei, M., & Khatony, A. (2019). Effect Of Peppermint Essence On The Pain And Anxiety Caused By Intravenous Catheterization In Cardiac Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of pain research, 12, 2933–2939. https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S226312

Jun, Y. S., Kang, P., Min, S. S., Lee, J. M., Kim, H. K., & Seol, G. H. (2013). Effect of eucalyptus oil inhalation on pain and inflammatory responses after total knee replacement: a randomized clinical trial. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 502727. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/502727

Peterfalvi, A., Miko, E., Nagy, T., Reger, B., Simon, D., Miseta, A., Czéh, B., & Szereday, L. (2019). Much More Than a Pleasant Scent: A Review on Essential Oils Supporting the Immune System. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(24), 4530. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24244530

Navarra, M., Mannucci, C., Delbò, M., & Calapai, G. (2015). Citrus bergamia essential oil: from basic research to clinical application. Frontiers in pharmacology, 6, 36. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2015.00036

Gnatta, J. R., Piason, P. P., Lopes, C., Rogenski, N. M., & Silva, M. J. (2014). Aderência ao tratamento por estatinas e fatores associados em usuárias do Sistema Único de Saúde [Aromatherapy with ylang ylang for anxiety and self-esteem: a pilot study]. Revista da Escola de Enfermagem da U S P, 48(3), 492–499. https://doi.org/10.1590/s0080-623420140000300015

Cardia, G., Silva-Filho, S. E., Silva, E. L., Uchida, N. S., Cavalcante, H., Cassarotti, L. L., Salvadego, V., Spironello, R. A., Bersani-Amado, C. A., & Cuman, R. (2018). Effect of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Acute Inflammatory Response. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2018, 1413940. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1413940

Ramsey, J. T., Li, Y., Arao, Y., Naidu, A., Coons, L. A., Diaz, A., & Korach, K. S. (2019). Lavender Products Associated With Premature Thelarche and Prepubertal Gynecomastia: Case Reports and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemical Activities. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 104(11), 5393–5405. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2018-01880

Okano, S., Honda, Y., Kodama, T., & Kimura, M. (2019). The Effects of Frankincense Essential Oil on Stress in Rats. Journal of oleo science, 68(10), 1003–1009. https://doi.org/10.5650/jos.ess19114

Zamanifar, S., Bagheri-Saveh, M. I., Nezakati, A., Mohammadi, R., & Seidi, J. (2020). The Effect of Music Therapy and Aromatherapy with Chamomile-Lavender Essential Oil on the Anxiety of Clinical Nurses: A Randomized and Double-Blind Clinical Trial. Journal of medicine and life, 13(1), 87–93. https://doi.org/10.25122/jml-2019-010

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