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Anxiety Relief with Lavender, Bergamot, and Palo Santo Essential Oils

What do Lavender, Bergamot, and Palo Santo essential oils have in common? Well for starters they possess antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, but they are also excellent anxiety reducers! (You’ll find reference to all this research at the end of this post). Not to mention they smell fantastic when blended together (woody, citrusy, with a floral touch….mmm). [...]

What do Lavender, Bergamot, and Palo Santo essential oils have in common? Well for starters they possess antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, but they are also excellent anxiety reducers! (You’ll find reference to all this research at the end of this post). Not to mention they smell fantastic when blended together (woody, citrusy, with a floral touch….mmm).

Stress and anxiety are some of the most common central nervous system (CNS) disorders worldwide. Stress alone causes anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Therefore if you can control your stress and anxiety, you can experience positive moods and improved sleep. Many people that struggle with stress and anxiety are often treated with benzodiazepines (BZD) and selective serotonin receptor inhibitors (SSRI’s).

palo santo essential oil

Palo Santo incense sticks ~ our Palo Santo essential oil is distilled from fallen dead wood of the tree, and the distillers are planting new trees at the same time. It’s a very, very wonderful oil for clearing negativity and relieving anxiety.

BZD produce calming effects by binding on GABA receptors this produces a calming effect that reduces anxiety. As a result, they also make one sleepy, drowsy, and impair cognitive function, which may not be great for everyday activities. SSRI’s are prescribed as antidepressants because they work on a different biochemical pathway in the brain. They selectively bind to serotonin transporters causing an increase in serotonin, elevating your mood. Much like BZD’s, the use of SSRI’s come with a cost: sexual dysfunction, suicidal tendencies, and sleep disorders. BZD and SSRI’s have a high dependency and are known to have withdrawal and “rebound effects” after discontinuing use. associated with them, making them difficult to cease treatment. Both groups of medicines are also involved in withdrawal and “rebound effects” as a result of discontinuing their administration. SO, how about we look at taking care of ourselves with this natural route!?!

All of our Lavenders are from Lavendula angustifolia, the species highest in Linalool and Linalyl Acetate

Lavender & Linalool

Lavender essential oil and its active components have been heavily researched. Lavender is primarily composed of monoterpenes, most notably linalool and linalyl acetate. It is common knowledge that linalool can interact with GABAnergic pathways in the brain, such as NMDA receptors. NMDA receptors are involved in neurological and psychiatric disorders like epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease. Many pharmacological drugs target these receptors in order to produce a calming effect. Lopez et al reported lavender has the ability to bind to NMDA receptors, exhibiting the soothing effect Lavender is well known for. Additionally lavender may possess neuroprotective effects by blocking glutamate receptors and may have an antidepressant effect similar to SSRI’s that have been observed in both human and animal models.

Another study further illustrated lavender’s ability to bind to calcium channels that ultimately reduces anxiety, and ultimately various other biochemical processes in the body. To read more in-depth about lavender and its effect on calcium channels click here.

Something to take note of: here at Ananda Apothecary we carry several types of lavender. Although lavender’s effects do not differ drastically from oil to oil, lavender CO2 should be used with caution. It contains high levels of camphor which is known to be toxic to children and should not be ingested.

Bergamot is one of our citrus favorites. Not too sweet, and not too tangy, it is sure to leave you feeling stress-free.

Bergamot & Stress

Bergamot, like many citrus essential oils, is another effective stress-reducing oil with a low toxicity profile. There have been numerous studies published that report its effectiveness in reducing anxiety and stress, but the mechanism on how it exerts its effects is rather unclear. It is hypothesized that due to the physiological effects observed, bergamot works on the autonomic nervous system which includes sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

Typically, when people feel stressed or anxious, sympathetic activity is increased and can easily be observed by physiological parameters like increased heart rate, breathing rate, perspiration, and blood pressure. Time and time again, studies prove inhaling the aroma of bergamot alone is quite effective. A study reported that diffusing bergamot in a waiting room was enough to reduce anxiety and stress in patients by decreasing heart rate and blood pressure. Another study provided similar results and compared them to that of diazepam, a standard medication used to treat anxiety. When compared to diazepam, bergamot functioned in a similar fashion by decreasing heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

Even though there is no clear mechanism as to why bergamot works, there are a few ideas on the topic.  An article published in Molecules, a public access journal, reported decreased anxiety in mice when they orally administered bitter orange essential oil. Bitter orange essential oil has a similar chemical profile to bergamot essential oil like all citrus oils. Even though there were no changes in serotonin or dopamine levels in the brain, there was evidence of serotonin mediation, suggesting the essential oil acts similarly to SSRI’s and/or BZD’s. Furthermore, a review of bergamot essential oil on mice produced measurable reduced levels of corticosterone. Corticosterone is a steroid hormone that is secreted due to stress, therefore lower levels may indicate a stress reduction-like response.
Palo Santo & Anxiety

Palo Santo has a lemony odor due to its primary constituent, Limonene.

Palo Santo, also known as Holy Branch, is a tree that grows in dry forests on the north coast of Peru. This tree is commonly used in Peruvian medicine to treat symptoms of flu and asthma, reducing inflammation, and aiding relaxation. Palo Santo is also known to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antimycotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties.
The primary constituent in Palo Santo that is also present in both Bergamot essential oil and Lavender essential oil, is limonene. Limonene is a well documented and researched chemical constituent of a broad range of essential oils. Many studies suggest an anxiolytic-like activity, and maybe why Palo Santo is great for relieving anxiety and stress.
A mouse study indicated that mice who inhaled limonene showed lower levels of stress and anxiety than those that were not exposed to limonene. d’Alessio PA et al also reported that rats pretreated with limonene orally exhibited less stress and anxiety than those who were not pretreated. Limonene exerts a significant anti-stress action measurable by behavioral and physiological parameters on the nervous system similar to bergamot essential oil.
Although the mechanism of action isn’t fully defined, limonene has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety in animal models. Furthermore, limonene is present in many essential oils, such as Lavender and Bergamot essential oil, which may contribute to their anxiolytic effects. Inhalation of Lavender, Bergamot, and Palo Santo proves to be sufficient in reaping the benefits these oils have to offer, so why not put them in your diffuser next time you’re feeling a little stressed?

1. d’Alessio PA, Bissom JF, Bene MC. (2014). Anit-Stress effects of d-limonene and its metabolite perillyl alcohol. Rejuvenation research. (2):145-149.
1.Chang, KM. and Shen, CW. (2011). Aromatherapy Benefits Autonomic Nervous System Regulation for Elementary School Faculty in Taiwan. Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine. Published online 2011 April 10, doi: 10.1155/2011/946537.
2.Han, X., Gibson, J., Eggett, DL., Parker, TL. (2017). Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil Inhalation Improves Positive Feelings In the Waiting Room of a Mental Health Treatment Center: A Pilot Study. (5):812-816.
3.Lima, NGPB., De Sousa, DP., Pimenta, FCF., Alves, MF., De Souza, FS., Macedo, RO., Cardoso, RB., Morais, LCSL., Melo Diniz, MdFF., Nobrega de Almeida, N. (2013). Anxiolytic-like activity and GC-MS analysis of (R)-(+)-limonene fragrance, a natural compound found in foods and plants. Pharmacology Biochemsitry and Behavior. 103(3):450-454.
4.Lopez, V., Nielsen, B., Solas, M., Ramirez, MJ., Jager, AK. (2017). Exploring Pharmacological Mechanisms of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Central Nervous System Targets. Frontiers in Pharmacology. (1)8:280.
5. Pergention de Sousa, D., de Almeida Soares Hocayen, P., Nalone Andrade, L., Andreatini, R. (2015). A Systematic Review of the Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Essential Ouls in Animal Models. Molecules. 20(10): 18620-18660.
6.Pimenta, FC, Alves, MF, Pimenta, MB, Melo, SA, De Almeida, AA, Leite, JR, Pordeus, LC, Diniz MDE F, De Almeida RN. (2016). Anxiolytic Effect of Citrus aurantium L. on Patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Phytotherapy Research. (4):613-617.
7. Mendez, A.H.S., Cornejo, C.G.F., Foral, M.F.C., Arnedo, M.C.A. (2017) Chemical Composition, Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Activities of the Essential oil of Bursera graveolens (Burseraceae) from Peru. La Molina Calidad Total Laboratorios -Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Av La Universidad. 51(3): S429-S436.
8. Schuwald, A.M., Noldner, M., Wilmes, T., Klugbauer, N., Leuner, K., Muller, W.E. (2013). Lavender Oil-Potent Anxiolytic Properties via Modulating Voltage-Dependent Calcium Channels. Plos One Journal. Retrieved from

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