Since the legalization of marijuana in Canada and passing of the Hemp Farming Act, cannabidiol (CBD) products have been popping up everywhere. Even those who once considered themselves highly against the plant have been delving into all things CBD related.
The thing about CBD products, however, is that they’re incredibly expensive. For a small 30 mL tincture of hemp-extracted CBD, it can cost well over $80 USD. But what if I told you there are essential oils out there with benefits similar to CBD? Essential oils that cost very little, and go a very long way? The answer: the oils exist, you just need to pick the right ones.
Health Benefits of CBD
If you’re interested in essential oils with benefits similar to CBD, you need to understand how CBD interacts and benefits the body with to start.
To start, CBD is one of the most highly concentrated cannabinoids found in marijuana (next to THC). It is largely preferred over THC, as it contains similar health benefits, but without the psychoactive components (so you can take CBD and not feel “high”, no matter what the dose).
There are three main health benefits that CBD is largely known and used for: stress/anxiety, inflammation/pain and sleep.
Stress and Anxiety
One of the main reasons people use CBD is to relieve their stress and anxiety. Cannabidiol has been shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder. Researchers have also pointed to its effectiveness in reducing symptoms related to panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (1). You know what also works for helping manage stress and anxiety? Essential oils like lavender, ylang-ylang, chamomile, vetiver and rose.
Inflammation and Pain
Another reason people love CBD is for its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found CBD effective in treating individuals with fibromyalgia (2), and rat models involving arthritis (3). It has also been demonstrated to inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain (4). While more study in humans is needed, there is much evidence pointing to the fact that CBD works for pain. Essential oils for pain relief have been documented quite well, so if you’re not too convinced that CBD works, you can be rest assured that the essential oils mentioned below, do.
Another way CBD benefits the body is by encouraging a deeper and more restful sleep. It has proven quite beneficial for those who have a hard time sleeping. A recent study found that CBD significantly reduced insomnia symptoms, and did so more effectively than another popular cannabinoid, THC (5). Other studies have also confirmed that CBD does not disrupt our sleep-wake cycles (6), making it a favorable means of getting a little more shut-eye. Comparatively, research has shown that many essential oils like lavender, magnolia, and coriander encourage sleep and relaxation, thanks to their high concentrations of linalool.
While CBD does provide beneficial effects, essential oils can provide the very same if you pick them wisely. You might even have some essential oils at home that provide the same benefits you’re seeking in CBD oil.
15 Essential Oils with Benefits Similar to CBD
Access to CBD and CBD-based products is largely limited by their expensive price tag. If you’re looking to save money, or simply live in a place where CBD is not yet legalized, these essential oils will help you out, no matter what.
Remember, cats and dogs have different sensitivities to essential oils. Always do your research on an essential oil before bringing it into your household. If your pet is sensitive to it, use the oil outside of the house, or in a separate room where they don’t tend to hang out.
And don’t forget! You can make blends of these essential oils to get even more benefits for whatever issue you’re trying to resolve.
Essential Oils for Pain Relief and Inflammation
For pain-related inflammation, it is recommended to use essential oils topically. Mix them with a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil, and then apply to the area of pain when needed.
1. Copaiba (Copaifera langsdorffii)
Copaiba is well known for its anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, many people have dubbed this essential oil as more effective than CBD. Copaiba contains high concentrations of beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which is a type of cannabinoid that targets CB2 receptors, aiding in the reduction of inflammation and pain. It has been found to help relieve chronic pain and neuropathy (7), reduce muscle pain, and even provides local anesthetic activity when applied topically (8).
2. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
Similar to copaiba, black pepper is also loaded with pain-relieving beta-caryophyllene (9). Studies have found those who use black pepper topically have improved pain tolerance and significant improvement of localized areas of pain (such as pain in the neck) (10). Other compounds in black pepper like pipeline, may also be effective in the early acute inflammatory process, such as swelling with bruising and scratches (11).
3. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary essential oil possesses strong anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. It contains the antioxidant called carnosol, which targets the pathways associated with inflammation and cancer (12). This is why rosemary is often used to treat headaches, muscle pains, and even arthritis (13). Its anti-inflammatory qualities also make it great for addressing pain from sprains and joint aches.
4. Frankincense (Boswella sacra or Boswellia carteri)
Frankincense oil helps regulate inflammation, making it a great option for those dealing with acute or chronic pain. In a study that compared a variety of oils and their pain-relieving properties, frankincense had the strongest pain-inhibiting results by over 50% (in both early, and late phase pain) (14). Frankincense has a lovely scent, too, giving it the added benefit of making you smell beautiful.
5. Helichrysum (Helichrysum gymnocephalum)
Helichrysum is well known for relieving almost any kind of pain, whether that’s pain of the muscles, joints, tendons or ligaments. The hypotensive action of helichrysum improves the condition of blood vessels by lowering inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and increasing smooth muscle function (15). By reducing inflammation and swelling, helichrysum is a great choice for anyone suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia or injuries.
Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety
For stress and anxiety, you can either carry your bottle of essential oil around with you and take deep breaths of the scent when needed, or you can diffuse the oils in the air with a nebulizing or ultrasonic diffuser (I prefer nebulizing as the oils are atomized and the body absorbs them more quickly).
1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender is one of the most widely used herbs in aromatherapy – particularly for stress. Breathing in the scent of lavender has been found to lower anxiety, and also improve mood (16). With over 160 active constituents found in lavender oil, the main ones attributed to stress relief include linalool, camphor, terpinen-4-ol and linalyl acetate (17). If you really want to de-stress, take a warm bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil, and let your worries melt away.
2. Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Many people drink chamomile tea to relax after a stressful day, so you can only imagine what the essential oil might do. This calming herb helps decrease irritability, anxiety and worry. Studies have even quoted chamomile essential oil as a “clinically meaningful antidepressant” (18). Chamomile works its stress-relieving powers thanks to the flavonoid, apigenin, which binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain (19). If you get stressed out easily, keep a bottle of chamomile essential oil with you so you can de-stress at the drop of a hat.
3. Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata)
Another great stress reliever, ylang-ylang, helps release negative emotions like anger, low self-esteem, and jealousy (20, 21). This flower is considered a mild sedative, and can lower stress responses like a fast heartbeat and high blood pressure (22). If you haven’t had the pleasure of smelling this flower up close and personal, let me tell you, that it is one of the most calming and relaxing flower scents I have ever been around. You can harness these stress-relieving effects by grabbing your own bottle of ylang-ylang essential oil.
4. Vetiver (Veriveria zizanioides)
Vetiver contains anti-anxiolytic properties, making it great for easing stress and anxiety. Research has postulated that these effects may be associated with neuronal activation in the central amygdaloid nucleus (an area of the brain that is connected to brainstem areas that control the expression of innate behaviors) (23). Add vetiver to a diffuser to wash your worries away.
5. Rose (Rosa damascena)
This beautifully scented essential oil is incredibly popular for relaxation and calming a stressed out mind. Rose helps stimulate circulation and sharpens your memory, helping reduce stress and boosting your overall mood. Studies have found that when participants are stressed and exposed to essential oils of rose, their salivary levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are significantly reduced (24). I love adding rose essential oil to some water in a spritzer bottle to spray on my face at the end of the day. It’s a wonderful way to relax, and it smells incredible, too.
Essential Oils for Sleep
For sleep, you can spray an essential oil mist onto your pillow (or just apply a few drops to your pillow if you don’t mind the oil stain), or diffuse essential oils an hour before bed or even while you’re sleeping.
1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
As stated above, the scent of lavender helps us to relax and de-stress. The relaxing qualities of lavender make it perfect for anyone who struggles to sleep at night. One study even found that sleeping in a lavender-scented room improves sleep quality up to 20%. This is because lavender increases slow-wave sleep, the deepest part of sleeping where the heartbeat slows and muscles relax (25). I personally use lavender on my pillow at night because it helps me relax, and the scent is super calming. I recommend this to anyone dealing with insomnia or other sleep-related issues.
2. Magnolia (Michelia grandiflora)
The sweetly floral aroma of magnolia essential oil is relaxing, and also acts as a mild sedative. Like lavender, magnolia is rich in linalool, which has powerful soothing and relaxing benefits for our mind, body and spirit. Linalool has been widely studied for its sedative, hypnotic and anti-convulsant properties (26). If you want a solid sleep, think about diffusing some magnolia in your room before you get cozied up in your sheets.
3. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
While some people might not like coriander in their food, smelling it might not be so bad. After all, coriander (like lavender and magnolia), is also high in linalool, a common aromatherapy sleep ingredient. Studies have documented sedative effects on humans after inhaling essential oils high in linalool like lavender and coriander (27). Switch things up a bit with your nightly routine, and give coriander a go at the pillow.
4. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
One of the most widely studied benefits of valerian is its ability to help those with insomnia and improve quality of sleep. Studies have shown that valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep (28). This root contains a chemical called linarin, which creates a sedative effect and increases your brain’s GABA levels (thus, allowing you to sleep better).
5. Frankincense (Boswella sacra or Boswellia carteri)
Given frankincense is a well-studied anti-depressant and anti-anxiety herb, it’s no wonder this oil can help those with sleeping issues. One study found that when cancer patients used an aromatic stick scented with frankincense, their sleep improved by over 64% (29). This resin proves incredibly useful for anyone who has a hard time falling asleep at night (and staying asleep).