If you're one of the many people who experiences the effects of shorter days and reduced sunlight in the winter (*raises hand*), you've probably tried a multitude of things to counteract them and bring a feeling of brightness and energy into the dreariness. But if you've already tested every supplement and light therapy lamp out there and you're looking for something else to add to your routine, a few mood-boosting essential oils just might do the trick.
While you may be aware of the obvious scents that are thought to provide mood-boosting benefits — like many that fall into the citrus family — you may not be as familiar with some of the lesser known oils the experts TZR spoke with recommend, like palmarosa, which is known to have calming and uplifting effects, and coriander, thought to invigorate and stimulate. Which is why we rounded up an entire list of contenders for you to try, ahead.
But before you dive in, take note of a few oils you may want to avoid if you're specifically looking for a mood boost. Sara Panton, co-founder of vitruvi, recommends skipping scents with more sedative properties, such as lavender or chamomile. Jenna Levine, founder of LINNÉ Botanicals, largely agrees, saying that "if you are looking for an immediate and invigorating mood boost, maybe avoid these," though she does caveat that "quality sleep is one of the greatest mood boosters," meaning implementing those hypnotic scents into your nighttime routine could improve how you feel during the day.
With all of that said, remember that it's up to you to decide what essential oils provide a mood boost — if any at all. "While there are many clinical studies of essential oils and their mood-enhancing benefits, I find that perception of scent is so personal and subjective," says Melissa Medvedich, founder of Supernal and certified aromatherapist. "My personal philosophy is that if you find an aroma off-putting or have a negative memory associated to it, you’re less likely to enjoy any positive effects despite what studies have shown, so generally I recommend to let your intuition lead you and gravitate towards aromas you find pleasing."
A few suggestions to help you find the right mood-boosting essential oil for you (and the best ways to use them), ahead.
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Mood-Boosting Essential Oil: Citrus Oils
Both Medvedich and Amy Galper, an aromatherapist, author, teacher, and founder of NYC's first aromatherapy school, recommend citrus oils as a way to bring a positive mood boost. "Citrus essential oils (which are cold express, or squeezed from the peels) are bursting with joy — they are made up of active compounds that increase our energy, cleanse, detoxify, and refresh," says Galper, who recommends sweet orange, bergamot, and grapefruit. "They help balance our digestion, soothe away nervous tension, and keep us feeling positive."
Medvedich also suggests sweet orange and grapefruit along with lemon because they're "rich in limonene (a chemical found in the peels of citrus fruits) which has been said to help reduce anxiety as a place to start and explore."
To use these scents, Galper says diffusing them can be really effective. You can also add them to unscented skin care bases, "like unscented liquid soap," but always make sure they're blended into a carrier oil before applying to the skin, "as their active compounds can be very drying, and may cause our skin to be more sensitive in the sunlight," she continues.
Mood-Boosting Essential Oil: Palmarosa
Palmarosa is an essential oil Levine recommends for a whole host of benefits. While it's known to be used for many purposes, such as supporting deep sleep and balancing one's mood, you may be most interested in its "calming and uplifting effects," which "serve as a tonic for the heart and mind," she says. To use it, Levine says you can apply it topically in the proper dilution or diffuse it.
Mood-Boosting Essential Oil: Peppermint
Peppermint is another favorite of the experts TZR spoke to, thanks to its refreshing and clearing properties. Panton says this is her go-to "in the afternoon to get re-focused, especially during the post-lunch afternoon slump."
You can also use peppermint oil in a diffuser (or Medvedich even recommends a nebulizer, which "uses no heat or moisture and disperses the oils more swiftly and at a higher concentration"), or add a few drops to a carrier oil and apply with a roller ball.
Mood-Boosting Essential Oil: Coriander
Like peppermint, coriander is an invigorating scent that Levine recommends if you're in need of a mood boost. According to the founder, it's said to induce mental clarity and can help provide a peaceful mindset by clearing away "any feelings of doubt, weariness, and irritability." Coriander essential oil can be diluted through a carrier oil and applied topically or diffused.
Mood-Boosting Essential Oil: Black Spruce
According to Levine, black spruce is often used in meditative rituals to help ground and "stimulates an effect of being refreshed and motivated." If you're feeling especially lethargic, you can apply this topically with a carrier oil, or use it in a diffuser as a pick-me-up with a refreshing, woody scent.
Mood-Boosting Essential Oil: Balsam Fir
When inhaled or applied topically (again, with a carrier oil), Levine says balsam fir can not only boost your mood, but also has the potential to alleviate stress and anxiety and help relieve congestion and headaches.