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What smell reduces anxiety?

Anxiety is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While anxiety is often treated with therapy and medication, certain smells may help provide relief from anxious feelings. The smell of certain essential oils, flowers, herbs, and fruits have been shown to have anti-anxiety and stress-reducing benefits.

Essential Oils

Essential oils derived from plants are commonly used in aromatherapy for their therapeutic effects. Some essential oils are believed to help promote calmness and relieve anxiety. Here are some of the best essential oils for reducing anxiety:

  • Lavender Oil: Lavender is one of the most popular anti-anxiety essential oils. It has a light, floral scent that is soothing and pleasant for most people. Studies show lavender aroma can decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
  • Rose Oil: Rose oil has an uplifting floral scent that is said to ease anxious feelings and promote a sense of wellbeing. A 2017 study found rose oil had anti-anxiety effects in humans.
  • Bergamot Oil: This citrusy oil has a refreshing aroma that can improve mood and reduce stress. Bergamot oil was found to reduce anxiety and enhance the quality of life in a 2015 study.
  • Ylang Ylang Oil: This sweet, floral oil acts as a sedative and relieving anxiety. One study showed ylang ylang aroma reduced physiological stress signals in humans.
  • Clary Sage Oil: Clary sage has a woody, herbal scent. It contains compounds like linalyl acetate that have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in animal studies.
  • Frankincense Oil: This oil has an earthy, uplifting aroma. A 2010 study showed inhaling frankincense had anti-depressive effects that reduced anxiety in mice.
  • Chamomile Oil: This common herbal oil has anti-anxiety and sleep-enhancing effects. Chamomile was shown in research to reduce GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) symptoms.

To use essential oils for anxiety, you can diffuse a few drops at home, add to bath water, apply diluted to the skin, or inhale directly from the bottle when needed. Lavender and rose oils are especially gentle oils even for sensitive skin.


The sweet aroma of flowers can help stimulate relaxation. Here are some of the best smelling flowers and blooms to help reduce anxiety and tension:

  • Jasmine: This night-blooming flower has an exotic, floral scent. Jasmine aroma is thought to promote emotional wellbeing and reduce anxiety.
  • Rose: As an essential oil or fresh cut flower, roses have a relaxing effect. The aroma of roses is said to lower stress hormones.
  • Lavender: Lavender has medicinal benefits as well as a pleasant, calming fragrance from its purple flowers.
  • Cherry Blossoms: The smell of these blossoms is believed to relieve anxiety and induce tranquility.
  • Chamomile: Chamomile flowers release a fruity, herbal scent when steeped as tea. The aroma has anti-anxiety benefits.
  • Gardenia: Gardenias have a sweet, floral aroma that is unique. Some studies indicate the gardenia scent helps reduce anxiety.
  • Plumeria: With a scent similar to jasmine, creamy white frangipani flowers promote relaxation.
  • Magnolia: This blossom has a citrusy, spicy fragrance. Inhaling magnolia essential oil has anxiety-reducing effects.

Having a bouquet of fresh flowers or a potted plant can provide anxiety relief long-term. Cut flowers like lavender and jasmine will give off the strongest relaxing scents.


Herbs have many beneficial uses, including their anxiety and stress-reducing aromas. Here are some great smelling anti-anxiety herbs:

  • Basil: With its refreshing, peppery scent, basil is an uplifting herb for anxious moods.
  • Chamomile: The floral aroma of chamomile tea is well-known for its relaxing properties.
  • Lavender: This popular herb has medicinal properties and a pleasant, clean aroma.
  • Lemongrass: The citrusy scent of lemongrass essential oil helps balance emotions.
  • Mint: Spearmint and peppermint have a cooling, crisp scent that can relieve stress.
  • Rosemary: This invigorating scent can boost mood and concentration when feeling anxious.
  • Sage: Clary sage has relaxing effects, while common sage has an earthy, energizing scent.
  • Valerian: Often taken as a supplement, valerian has an herbal aroma that reduces anxiety.

You can use fresh or dried herbs to make relaxing scented teas. Essential oils of herbs like lavender, mint, and chamomile can also be breathed in or used topically for anxiety relief.


Delicious fruits contain beneficial vitamins, antioxidants, and plant compounds. The natural fragrances of some fruits can also help lift mood and induce calmness. Here are some of the best smelling anti-anxiety fruits:

  • Citrus Fruits: Fruits like lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime, and bergamot have fresh, uplifting citrusy scents that increase positive feelings.
  • Apple: This beloved fruit has a sweet, fruity aroma that may reduce anxious thoughts and irritability.
  • Banana: With its tropical, creamy scent, banana has properties that may relieve anxiety.
  • Pineapple: Pineapple has a unique tangy aroma and contains bromelain which helps relieve stress.
  • Peach: This juicy fruit has a sweet floral scent that has calming properties when inhaled.
  • Pear: The delicate fragrance of pear is soothing and may reduce anxiety and stress.
  • Vanilla: Real vanilla extract has a comforting, nostalgic aroma that may ease anxiety.

Having a bowl of fresh fruit out can provide an uplifting aroma in your environment. Diffusing or making a water spray with citrus essential oils offers anxiety relief as well.

Other Aromas

There are many other scents in nature that have relaxing, anti-anxiety benefits. Here are a few more aromas that can help calm anxious nerves:

  • Cedarwood: With its warm, woody aroma, cedarwood essential oil promotes inner calm and reduces stress.
  • Eucalyptus: This minty, medicinal scent enhances relaxation and positive thinking.
  • Black Pepper: Black pepper essential oil has a stimulating aroma that dispels anxious thoughts.
  • Coffee: Research shows the aroma of coffee can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Vanilla: In addition to vanilla fruit extract, vanilla essential oil has a sweet, comforting scent.
  • Rosemary: This herb has an invigorating, refreshing pine-like aroma that improves mood.
  • Licorice Root: Used for tea, licorice root has a woody, earthy scent that may ease anxiety.

Natural aromas that you enjoy can help stimulate the senses and provide anxiety relief. You can display natural items like pinecones, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, or fresh herbs to benefit from their calming scents.

What the Research Says

Studies have shown smelling certain fragrances can influence mood, emotions, and mental state. Here is some of the research surrounding smell and anxiety relief:

  • A 2015 systematic review found smelling pleasant odors lowered anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate.
  • A 2020 study showed smelling rose and orange essential oils lowered pre-operative anxiety in patients.
  • Research in 2018 indicated lavender aroma decreased anxiety in intensive care unit patients.
  • A 2019 study concluded smelling jasmine tea odor reduced anxiety and improved sleep.
  • Citrus fragrances were found to reduce anxiety, enhance mood, and increase calmness in a Japanese study.
  • 14 herbs including lavender and chamomile were found to reduce anxiety when inhaled, in a 2021 study.
  • A 2020 study showed lemon and ginger aroma decreased anxiety in rats during recovery from anesthesia.

Overall, studies support the anxiety-reducing effects of smelling relaxing plant oils and aromas. More high-quality research is still needed to confirm their benefits.

How Scent Affects Anxiety

Smell is closely linked to the limbic system in the brain, which controls emotions, behavior, motivation, and memory. When you inhale pleasant aromas, they can activate your limbic system and influence your mood, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Soothing scents also increase production of serotonin and other neurochemicals that regulate mood.

When you smell something pleasant, it also often evokes happy memories and positive emotions associated with that scent. This interplay of scent associations, chemical signals, and limbic system activation is why aromatherapy can ease anxiety.

Choosing the Right Smells

The smells that reduce anxiety can vary by individual, as scent association connects to your own experiences. However, smells from plants and nature tend to have more universal relaxing qualities.

Choose aromas like lavender, rose, citrus fruits, chamomile, eucalyptus, coffee, vanilla, and fresh flowers. Avoid synthetic perfumes and fragrances, which can sometimes trigger headaches, allergies, and anxious feelings.

When using essential oils, always follow safe dilution guidelines and discontinue use if any skin irritation occurs. It is also important not to rely solely on essential oil scents to treat severe anxiety, but use them alongside prescribed treatments and therapies.

Methods to Use Scents

There are many ways to incorporate anxiety-reducing scents into your daily life. Here are some of the most effective methods:

  • Essential oil diffusion: Use a diffuser to disperse calming essential oils like lavender into the air.
  • Direct inhalation: Open an essential oil bottle and breathe in the aroma directly when you feel anxious.
  • Personal inhalers: Devices allow you to sniff anxiety-reducing essential oils whenever needed.
  • Candles or incense: Burn candles or incense sticks made with relaxing scents.
  • Bath or shower: Add a few drops of essential oils to your bathwater or shower steam.
  • Topical use: Apply diluted essential oils to pulse points like wrists, temples, or neck.
  • Aromatic sprays: Make a room spray by adding oils like lavender to water in a mister.
  • Potpourri: Place flower petals and herbs like rose and lavender in bowls around your home.
  • Sachets: Sew small bags filled with scented flowers, herbs, or essential oils to smell.
  • Tea: Drink herbal teas made with anxiety-reducing herbs like chamomile.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to using scents strategically, making certain lifestyle changes can reduce anxiety long-term:

  • Increase time spent outdoors in nature
  • Have house plants to benefit from their scents
  • Open windows regularly to bring in fresh air
  • Limit use of chemical cleaners and air fresheners
  • Buy organic fruits and herbs whenever possible
  • Drink herbal teas throughout the day
  • Use natural soy or coconut wax candles instead of paraffin candles
  • Take relaxing baths with Epsom salts and essential oils
  • Practice mindfulness and be present in pleasing aromas
  • Reduce stressors and stimulants like too much caffeine

Other Anxiety Relief Strategies

While using calming scents can help, anxiety may require more comprehensive treatment. Other evidence-based strategies and lifestyle changes to reduce anxiety include:

  • Seeing a mental health professional for therapy
  • Practicing breathing techniques and meditation
  • Exercising regularly to reduce stress
  • Getting enough quality sleep every night
  • Avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Eating a balanced, healthy diet
  • Spending time on hobbies and activities you enjoy
  • Learning stress management and coping skills
  • Joining an anxiety support group

For moderate to severe anxiety, doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or SSRIs. Alternative remedies like aromatherapy should complement medical treatment options.


Using aromatherapy and calming scents can help manage and reduce anxiety naturally for many people. Reaching for essential oils like lavender, taking a relaxing bubble bath, or sipping chamomile tea are simple ways to benefit from soothing aromas.

Complement anxiety-reducing scents with lifestyle changes like spending time outdoors, exercising, and seeing a therapist to help overcome anxiety long-term. With a multifaceted approach, you can find natural relief from anxious feelings and worries.