Stress is an ever-present companion in our lives these days. When we experience a stress in our lives, our adrenal glands respond by releasing cortisol. This hormone is what fuels the body with a burst of energy our body needs to deal with stressful situations. In an ideal world, this burst of cortisol would be used for the stress and then return back to normal.
However, when stress becomes chronic, this constant release of cortisol wreaks havoc on the body, leading to hyper adrenal function, adrenal fatigue and even complete burnout.
A few common symptoms of chronic stress include:
• Belly fat – excess cortisol encourages the body to store fat on the abdomen
• Cardiovascular disease – chronically elevated cortisol levels stress the heart and cardiovascular system
• Chronic anxiety – cortisol triggers an alarmed response in the body which creates feelings of anxiety
• Chronic infections – since cortisol depresses the immune system, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral infections are more common and take longer to overcome
• Digestive distress – cortisol essentially turns off our digestion which causes ulcers, acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation, and bacterial overgrowth to occur
• Feelings of impatience – cortisol causes us to feel fidgety and restless
• High blood pressure – cortisol constricts the blood vessels which causes high blood pressure
• Insulin resistance – cortisol increases blood sugar. Chronically elevated blood sugar causes insulin resistance
• Irritability – chronic stress prevents us from calming down
• Physical agitation and restlessness – cortisol instills a need for constant movement which manifests itself in nervous and twitchy gestures
• Premature aging – cortisol breaks down muscles and other tissues making us look older and worn out
• Short-term memory loss – chronic stress actually shrinks the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory
• Wired at night and tired in the morning – complaints of feeling tired but feeling restless
When stress hits, the adrenals start firing away, filling the body with a constant flow of cortisol. Over time, this can begin to degrade muscle tissue in order to keep up with the demand for energy. The immune system begins to shut down, our digestion becomes sluggish, we’re unable to detox optimally, our sleep cycle is turned on its head, and our body’s inability to regenerate itself makes it looked like we’ve aged 10 years.
This is where hyper adrenal function sets in which soon leads to adrenal fatigue and eventual burnout.
Excess Cortisol and Essential Oils
So how can we help protect ourselves from an overabundance of cortisol in our systems?
Paired with mindful practices to overcome stress, essential oils can help lower cortisol, relax the mind, protect our hippocampus (which is an important part of the brain that regulates cortisol), and alleviate feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and irritability.
Some of the best essential oils for controlling excess cortisol levels include:
• Cajeput – calming, reduces stress, and promotes restful sleep
• Celery seed – reduces mental fatigue, feelings of anxiety, and stress
• Cistus – aka “rock rose”, this oil is known to help the body regenerate cells
• Holy basil (aka tulsi) – helps the body maintain harmonious balance and instills a sense of calm, virtue, and joy. (can only be used at 0.5% dilution)
• Lavender – the universal oil! Has sedative and calming properties that help one overcome stress
• Roman chamomile – calms and relieves symptoms of restlessness, insomnia, and nervous and muscular tension.
• Rosemary – known to reduce cortisol levels in minutes when used aromatically
• Spearmint – mentally clarifying, uplifting, and stress relieving
• Tangerine – a truly cheerful oil, tangerine contains esters and aldehydes that are sedating and calming in nature.
• White grapefruit – anti-depressant and uplifting. An excellent detoxifier for the body.
Lowering Cortisol with Essential Oils
Stress Relief Blend #1
This blend especially promotes relaxation, a deep sense of peace, and helps relieve tension and uplift negative emotions. It works well diffused but can also be diluted in carrier oil and applied to the soles of the feet before bed to encourage restful sleep.
In a small empty 5ml essential oil bottle, mix the following:
• 50 drops lavender essential oil
• 30 drops roman chamomile essential oil
• 20 drops tangerine essential oil
• 10 drops cistus essential oil
Add all of the essential oils one by one, cap closed, and roll between your palms to mix.
Allow the blend to synergize for a few days if possible before use in order to “age” the oils.
When stress hits, add 5-10 drops of Stress Relief Blend #1 to a diffuser and diffuse for 20-30 minutes up to twice daily.
Be sure to take deep calming breaths while visualizing your stress melting away.
Stress Relief Blend #2
This blend is all about switching your brain from feelings of negativity to feelings of ease and contentment. When applied as described below, this blend will drastically lower cortisol levels, relieve stress and anxiety, and help calm ones nerves.
In an empty 5ml essential oil bottle, mix the following:
• 30 drops white grapefruit essential oil
• 20 drops spearmint essential oil
• 20 drops rosemary essential oil
• 10 drops celery seed essential oil
• 10 drops cajeput essential oil
• 6 drops holy basil essential oil
Add each essential oil one by one, cap closed, and roll between the palms to mix.
Allow the oils to synergize for a few days before use if possible.
Add 6 drops of Stress Relief Blend #2 to a 1oz dropper bottle of your favorite carrier oil. Roll between your palms to mix, then add one drop to your fingertips.
Apply to the soft spot between the outer edge of your eyebrows and your hairline.
Breathe in slowly and deeply for a few breaths to help relieve stress.
What have been your favorite essential oils for lowering cortisol? Please let me know in the comments!
You may also enjoy:
Essential Oils for Stress
How to Make a Parasympathetic Roll-on Blend for Stress Free Eating
Stress Reducing Kava Kava Massage Oil
Could Herbs Be Your Answer For Stress Relief?
This post contains affiliate links. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Please read my full disclosure and disclaimer.
Can you diffuse Stress Relief Blend 2? Or is on the temple the only effective use?
You can definitely diffuse these blends! 🙂
I have low cortisol levels, is there an essential oil to help raise my levels?
There isn’t an oil that with RAISE cortisol unfortunately 🙁 What is the reason your cortisol levels are low? because there are certainly oils that can help correct the root cause of low cortisol 🙂
I had the same question, though I see the article was written a few years ago. One non-pathological reason for lower than normal cortisol is PTSD, which would be my case. I am postmenopausal and I suspect my adrenals and thyroid are struggling because my ovaries aren’t making estrogen anymore. When I tried to make a blend for my adrenals, within a couple of days I was having trouble with dizziness with standing (orthostatic low blood pressure); seems the oils often suggested for adrenal nourishment have the effect of *lowering* cortisol and I must need the opposite. When I try to do searches for EOs that raise cortisol or at least balance as needed in an adaptogenic way, I don’t find anything. My PTSD could be summed up as being caused by decades of abuse, and I know basil is great for that but I can’t handle that smell for very long.