5 Essential Oils That May Increase Happiness

The healing power of aromatherapy helps elevate your mood.


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Have you ever been immersed in something when suddenly you detect a distinct fragrance in the air?  It is so powerful, you stop in your tracks and look around. A detailed memory is triggered and you are taken back to a sweet childhood moment or a perhaps a first outing with a loved one. You remember and smile. Such is the alluring potency of smell.

Our sense of smell is intoxicatingly powerful. As described by the nonprogfit organization Fifth Sense, upon inhaling, a signal is turned on that travels to the olfactory cortex in the limbic system, which then stimulates the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine. The limbic system, home to memories and emotions, is the most primitive part of the brain and when it is stimulated, people can access memories and emotions from early childhood.

With such potency, it is no surprise that plant aromas have been an important part of spiritual ceremonies throughout the ages. Spices, resins, and essential oils are used in religious rites to purify and anoint. Chinese medicine and holistic health practitioners also believe in the healing power of aroma, while the hugely successful perfume industry is based on the premise that scent is captivating, enticing, and stimulating.

Alternative health practitioners often use aromatherapy to assist in healing physical ailments, yet essential oils are also prescribed to improve your well-being psychologically as mood enhancers. There have been a few, small scientific studies to explain this, but there is no major research to date. The proof, however, may be in the nose; the best test is to open a bottle of essential flower oils, close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath. The results can be exhilarating!

Essential oils are extracted from aromatic plants. Painted Brain recommends splashing a few drops of essential oil into a diffuser with water or add drops to a carrier oil such as coconut, almond, or olive oil. Be creative and combine the scents you love best. Dab a drop on your wrist in the morning or onto your sleeve so you can get an instant pick-me-up from your favorite aroma later on in the day. Here are five essential oils that are best known to inspire positive emotions.


This is the oil associated with calm. With a soft and gentle smell, it is also used as a mood stabilizer and helps relieve depression. One study successfully showed that the: “effect of lavender was superior to placebo in 221 patients suffering from anxiety disorder. In addition, lavender improved associated symptoms such as restlessness, disturbed sleep, and somatic complaints and had a beneficial influence on general well-being and quality of life.”

Dentists who place lavender drops in diffusers report calmer patients, while midwives and doulas offer it to soothe women in labor. Looking to reduce stress and anxiety or improve a sad mood? Splash some lavender oil into your bath – you may even get a better night’s sleep.

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This is the anointing oil that was burned on altars by many religions to purify and exorcise. A resin from the boswellia carterii tree grown mainly in the Middle East, the purest version is becoming harder to acquire and is treated as liquid gold. It has a musky, spicy, almost earthy smell that sometimes reminds people of an old, darkened cathedral.

Frankincense has an active ingredient that emits warmth. Prohealth reports, “Another way in which frankincense may assist with the emotions is by calming and sedating the nervous system through compounds called aldehydes and esters. It may therefore alleviate anxiety that results from inflammation, pathogens, and other factors.” For peace of mind, a reduction in anxiety and balancing hormones in women, massage frankincense with a carrier oil into the soles of your feet.

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Made from the peel of fresh lemons, breathing in this essential oil will quickly pick you up. If you are feeling exhausted or run down, this is the oil for you. A Turkish study on fourth-grade students learning English showed that diffusing lemon oil in the classroom increased attention and learning performance. Generally known for its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties, lemon oil can also help clean the mind, making you feel clear and alert. Use it in a diffuser or with a carrier oil.

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Bergamot is made from the fragrant rind of the bergamot orange, commercially grown in southern Italy and France. With a light and flowery citrus scent, bergamot can induce feelings of happiness. In fact, an American study showed that diffusing bergamot essential oil increased levels of serotonin in women who smelled the bergamot. When you feel down and want a sense of elevation, bergamot is a gentle, sweet option.

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Clary Sage

This essential oil is extracted from the buds and leaves of the salvia sclarea genus. It is grown around the Mediterranean, especially in Spain and Italy. It is often used as a tea and medicinally, it is associated with healing eyes and alleviating painful menstrual symptoms. However, clary sage has incredible emotional benefits including reducing stress, creating a sense of relaxation and is also a natural antidepressant, as seen in one study. Inhaling clary sage reduces cortisol and increases 5-HT which are serotonin receptors. Feeling low? Clary sage is a great option.

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