Essential Oils for Every Mood

Need a lift? Whiff these fragrances

Photo: Young woman smelling a fresh flower

When you feel down, frazzled, or lethargic, sniffing the right aroma can turn things around. “Sense of smell is the first sense that reaches the brain. It evokes memories and feelings,” says Stephanie Veilleux-Welch, certified holistic & clinical aromatherapist and a representative for the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.

Researchers have examined the role of aromatherapy in mood alteration as well as how our sophisticated olfactory systems can detect even the slightest change in scent. Smell is interpreted in the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for your emotions. “Sense of smell really affects [emotional] change,” she says. Next time you need a mood turnaround, try these solutions from Veilleux-Welch. You’ll find these fragrances in everyday products.

The Mood: Drowsy
The first thing fatigue affects is your immune system so Veilleux-Welch suggests using warming scents, which are antiseptic, antibacterial, and immunity-boosting.

Sniff This: Cooking spices
“If you deal with a lot of fatigue, eat more Mediterranean and Indian foods,” she says. You’ll get black pepper, cardamom, citrus, clove, lemongrass, and rosemary, all of which have fatigue-alleviating fragrances.

The Mood: Anxious
Worrying can leave you frazzled over a dozen things, but floral scents are grounding and counteract uneasiness, Veilleux-Welch says. “For anxiety that’s flighty and ‘out there,’ you need to root and ground it.”

Sniff This: Chamomile tea
When you're feeling jumpy, look to chamomile, lavender, neroli (orange blossom), resin, or vetiver scents. Have a cup of chamomile tea with orange blossom honey to relax, Veilleux-Welch says. “Smelling orange can make you feel really at peace and calm.” For kids who are worked up, put a drop of lavender oil on their favorite stuffed animal or blanket, she suggests.

The Mood: Scatter-Brained
When you can’t focus, zone in on your respiratory system by (literally) taking a breather, Veilleux-Welch says. Breathing in wilderness scents enhances concentration by simulating the refreshing sensation of walking through the woods, she says.

Sniff This: Woodsy-smelling soap
Balsam fir, cedar, and pine oils improve attention span and are beneficial to the mind and lungs, she says. Keep a bar of wood-scented soap in your work desk or linens drawer to whiff when you’re feeling dotty.

The Mood: Low Sex Drive
Stress is a barrier for sexual appetite, Veilleux-Welch says. “Sex is not just a physical thing. By using essential oils to release stress, you allow your body to perceive emotions coming through.”

Sniff This: Cinnamon massage oil
Cinnamon is an aphrodisiac for both sexes, Veilleux-Welch says. Add 10 drops of cinnamon oil (or any of the oils below) to 1 ounce of carrier oil, unscented body lotion, or castile soap to make body wash. Or simmer 3-4 cinnamon sticks in a pot of water to release the fragrance. Looking for something gender-specific? Men gravitate toward nurturing “baking scents” like nutmeg, vanilla, and lavender, while women tend to like exotic or “risky” aromas like jasmine, patchouli, or ylang-ylang, she says.

The Mood: Bummed
Feeling down has a lot to do with the heart—you may feel a loss, longing, or miss someone close to you, Veilleux-Welch says. Nurturing and uplifting scents work best to relieve these feelings.

Sniff This: Fresh roses
Cypress, lemon, and rose notes ease emotions associated with bummin’ out. Keep a bouquet of roses in your home, sip lemon tea, or sniff uplifting cypress for relief. “For grief, rose, especially, is a very nurturing, passionate, and fulfilling aroma,” she says.