Essential oils, the best friend to both diffusers and stress relief, are the aromatic compounds found in nature (plants, tree bark, seeds), and presented by brands as a cureall. The oils come in a variety of forms, from body oils to liquids, but their main purpose is to improve an individual’s well-being through aromatherapy. Studies have found that aromatherapy—or um, smelling things—has the potential to reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
But, do they really work? The short answer is yes. We asked Pamela Dalton, a cognitive psychologist from the Monell Chemical Senses center, if using essential oils could help solve all our 2018 problems. “Yes, any essential oil or fragrance can act as an aromatherapy agent,” explained Dalton. “What is required is that the person finds the scent pleasant and associates it with an emotional state that they wish to be invoked, such as relaxation or invigoration.”
However, Dalton notes that what works for one individual might not work for another. “Aromatherapy is effective, but in my experience there are no prescriptions that work for everyone,” says Dalton. “It’s far better to find what works for you.” That’s another way of saying there’s a huge psychosomatic aspect to essential oil usage, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So, what should you look for? “Definitely try to find companies that state the purity of their essential oils so that you can identify the ingredients that work for you,” says Dalton. Or skip that step and scroll our list of the top ten essential oils to try.