10 Essential Oils that Lower Cortisol


Your Guide to Reducing Stress and Cortisol the Natural Way

Stress is a part of everyday life, but how do you know when things have gone too far? A few sleepless nights here and there might be okay, but many people begin to exhibit more alarming symptoms like: 

  • High blood pressure

  • Flushed face

  • Muscle weakness

  • Increased thirst and urination

  • Changes in mood

  • Rapid weight gain 

  • Bruises

  • Decreased sex drive

All of these symptoms can occur when your body is producing too much of the stress hormone known as cortisol. 

Cortisol is a naturally-occurring hormone that serves an important function in the body. This hormone is responsible for triggering the fight-or-flight response in the face of a dangerous situation. It is absolutely essential that you maintain some degree of cortisol in the body for when situations like these arise. 

Unfortunately, our frantic schedules and chaotic lives have caused cortisol to surge through our veins. Lowering your stress levels can help, but using natural remedies gives you a much-needed boost to get things rolling.

If you feel ready to reduce cortisol naturally, it’s time to take a look at these top ten essential oils to get you started.


1. Lavender

When you consider the true picture of relaxation, the light floral aroma of lavender often comes to mind. This purple flower is a common ingredient in many candles and aromatherapy products used by spas to induce relaxation. The reason is very simple: lavender essential oil is excellent as a cortisol treatment. 

Many studies have been done to prove how effective lavender is at controlling anxiety symptoms. One study, in particular, evaluated the anxiety and cortisol levels of open-heart surgery patients. One group had an aromatherapy treatment while the other did not. The group that received the lavender aromatherapy treatment had a 69 percent reduction in blood cortisol levels. (1)

The difference in cortisol between those who inhaled lavender essential oil and those who did not was significant. This is proof that taking just twenty minutes to breathe deeply and immerse yourself in the fragrance of this essential oil could drastically reduce your cortisol levels


2. Frankincense

Frankincense is a relatively common essential oil used in recipes designed to promote relaxation. Research is just beginning to claim that it contains similar anxiolytic effects but few conclusions have been drawn. (2

There is still some debate about how frankincense essential oil works with the body to promote this feeling of relaxation and reduced cortisol levels. (3) However, it is believed to contain many of the same properties as the other essential oils listed here. Aromatherapy may be one of the most beneficial ways to put this oil to good use. 


3. Bergamot

The bright and clean scent of bergamot essential oil makes it a popular option for relaxation. It elicits a unique aroma that most people associate with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea. However, this bergamot oil is good for more than just flavoring your favorite beverage. 

A handful of studies have been conducted to examine the potential bergamot oil benefits. For those who want to learn how to lower your cortisol levels naturally, bergamot is an essential place to begin. 

A 2015 study looked at three distinct groups of individuals. One group received rest, the next group received rest and water vapor, and the final group received rest, water vapor, and bergamot essential oil. After fifteen minutes of exposure to their assigned treatment, researchers took saliva samples to measure cortisol levels. 

They determined that participants who received rest, water vapor, and bergamot essential oil for a short period of time had the most significant decrease in their salivary cortisol levels. (4)


4. Neroli

Neroli, sourced from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree,  is another common floral scent that is considered to reduce stress. The research regarding how neroli essential oil works within the body is still growing, but there are a number of studies that already demonstrate its efficacy. 

One study looked at the stress levels of postmenopausal women who inhaled neroli oil for five minutes twice daily and those who inhaled almond oil. At the conclusion of the study, the women who received the neroli essential oil had lower blood pressure, improved pulse rates, lower cortisol serum, and improved estrogen concentrations. (5)

Some studies are also beginning to look at how neroli interacts with the brain. It is believed that it can bind with the GABA system, which is believed to be soothing. Many of the studies that examine this relationship focus on neroli’s potential as a natural alternative to an anticonvulsant, so it may be some time before we see more information on this aspect. (6)


5. Orange

Using the sweet aroma of this orange citrus fruit can be a very relaxing way to lower your cortisol levels. 

A 2012 study compared orange essential oil to other substances including water and tea tree essential oil. Participants were assigned to groups who inhaled one of these three substances and then given an anxiety-producing exam. Those who received the orange essential oil had less subjective tension and great tranquility through the exam. (7)

Just a few drops are enough to see the tremendous benefits of using orange and sweet orange essential oils for low cortisol levels. 

6. Cedarwood

Those who are searching for a classic essential oil that can help them feel grounded and calm may want to reach for a bottle of cedarwood. This balmy scent brings you straight back to nature and can help to soothe anxious nerves. In fact, there is even research to prove that cedarwood essential oil truly does calm down the body. 

Test subjects were given cedarwood essential oil to inhale via a face mask while researchers measured their heart rate and blood pressure. It significantly decreased the heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure of participants in this group. (8)

Because of its propensity to decrease some of these physical characteristics of anxiety, it could also be effective at lowering your overall stress and cortisol levels. It can also be a sedating oil, and it is often recommended for use at bedtime. 

7. Ylang Ylang

Drift off into sweet slumber or unwind in the bathtub with a few drops of this relaxing essential oil. Ylang ylang essential oil has a calming effect that can easily spread throughout your entire body. 

High stress levels are frequently associated with more than just high cortisol levels. Many patients also have high blood pressure and other physical symptoms if they live with chronic stress for long enough. 

Researchers took a look at what happens to patients who are considered to be prehypertensive and hypertensive when exposed to an aromatherapy treatment. Participants inhaled lavender, ylang-ylang, neroli, and marjoram for 24 hours. At the end of the treatment, this group had lower systolic blood pressure, daytime blood pressure, and less stress. (9)

Reducing the stress levels should lead to lower cortisol levels in the body over time. Spending a few minutes each day inhaling ylang-ylang essential oil could be a great way to unwind and give your body a break. 


8. Marjoram

Marjoram oil is a little different than many of the other essential oils on our ranking. Most people can identify this oil for its herbaceous scent instead of the heady floral aromas that signify many of the more popular relaxing oils. Despite this major difference, marjoram is still a major player when it comes to reducing cortisol levels. 

In the treatment of hypertensive and prehypertensive patients, marjoram was seen as a key ingredient in the aromatherapy blend we discussed under ylang-ylang essential oil. As your stress levels lower, your cortisol levels should subside as well. 

If you want some immediate relief from tension that is building up in the neck and shoulders, you could apply this oil topically with the use of a carrier oil. Massage it into the areas where you hold the most tension to give you an immersive and relaxing experience. 


9. Rosemary

Rosemary is similar to marjoram in its scent profile, and is also considered to be a powerful ally for lowering cortisol. 

Free radicals in the body can do great harm when left unchecked. Fortunately, there are some components that can enhance the body’s natural antioxidative systems that prevent this oxidative stress. These systems perform a function known as free radical scavenging activity. 

After being exposed to the scent of lavender and rosemary essential oil, researchers found that subjects had more free radical scavenging activity and decreased cortisol levels. (10

This can help to reduce inflammation in the body as well as lower your body’s physical stress response. 


10. Clary Sage

Clary sage essential oil is another important tool that you can use to reduce cortisol naturally. Much like many of the other oils mentioned here, inhalation of the clary sage oil is really all it takes to begin reaping the benefits. When you feel like you are ready to unwind for the day, place a few drops in your diffuser and enjoy. 

In a 2014 study, menopausal women who were considered to be either normal or to have a depression tendency were exposed to a clary sage aromatherapy treatment. Cortisol levels decreased significantly after this exposure, and it was found to have an antidepressant-like effect on the women in the study.  (11)

Not only is this essential oil great for lowering your stress levels, it can also boost your mood. When you need something powerful, clary sage essential oil is a great bottle to turn to. (12)


Easy Cortisol Treatment

The effects of long-term high cortisol can wreak havoc on your body. You may not notice the small symptoms at first, but they can really take a toll over the months or years. It is best to work on treating your cortisol levels when they feel relatively low to minimize the damage done to the body. The question is, how do you lower your cortisol levels? 

These essential oils will point you in the right direction for learning how to get rid of your excess cortisol naturally. 

Overwhelm Be Gone Blend

I love this blend designed by my essential oil mentor, Dr. Mariza Synder.

Overwhelm Be Gone.png


8 drops Lavender 

7 drops Cedarwood 

5 drops Vetiver

4 drops Wild Orange 

4 drops Ylang Ylang


Add essential oils to a 10ml rollerball bottle and top off with fractionated coconut oil. Roll over your pulse points, palms, heart and temples. To experience instant relief from stress and feelings of overwhelm roll the blend over your palm and take 3-5 deep breaths.

 Learn More on Our Live Webinar!

Want to learn more about essential oils? Join us on this free, live, online training: Essential Oils for Hormone Balance.

Not only can essential oil lower stress, but they also can: 

  • Reduce hot flashes

  • Help you lose weight

  • Reduce sugar cravings

  • Help you sleep 

  • Calm PMS

  • Ease menopausal changes

Join Bridgit on Tuesday, August 27 at 2 PM PT, 5 PM ET for this live webinar. 

Bridgit is offering her BIGGEST BONUS EVER on this live webinar, so be sure to sign up! The offer and replay will be valid for 24 hours, so if you absolutely can’t attend live, sign up and watch ASAP!

Do you have tricks for lowering stress? Have you ever tried these oils mentioned above? Share with us in the comments below!


Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, is trained in functional health coaching and has worked with thousands of women over her career since 2004. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Collaborative llc and HormoneDetoxShop.com.

Check our her easy 5-Day DIY Detox Guide here!