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Can Essential Oils Help in Addiction Recovery?

6 minute read

When you’re in addiction recovery, you know that finding ways to cope and ease your symptoms is important. You may have heard that essential oils can help people relax and reduce feelings of anxiety or depression. If you’re wondering if essential oils can help you during your addiction recovery, read on.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are plant extracts. They can be extracted from flowers, herbs, and trees. Aromatherapy is the practice of using these extracts for a therapeutic purpose. Aromatherapy is considered a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Essential oils have been used for centuries to promote physical and mental wellbeing. Today, the research on the benefits of essential oils is growing.

Aromatherapy can involve inhaling essential oils through a diffuser, or applying them to the skin through lotions, massage oils, and baths. Essential oils should always be diluted to be used safely, so be sure to follow instructions for use as directed. Avoid ingesting essential oils orally, and do not apply them directly to mucus membranes, such as the nose and mouth. As they are highly concentrated, it is dangerous to drink essential oils.

Aromatherapy works by activating receptors in the nose that then send messages to parts of your brain. This activates your limbic system, which is in control of emotions. These smells can ease negative emotions like stress and anxiety.

The Benefits of Essential Oils for Addiction Recovery

Research has shown that essential oils are generally safe when used as directed and may support a range of health benefits. Essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties, antimicrobial properties, and can impact your psychological well-being.

They may be used alongside your medical treatment to support you in addiction recovery.

These benefits include:

  • Decreasing stress and anxiety
  • Reducing depression
  • Boosting relaxation
  • Enhancing mood
  • Alleviating nausea
  • Improving sleep

When it comes to recovery, essential oils can offer an additional boost of support. Recovery can be difficult, and managing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression is key. Finding ways to cope with the negative emotions that come up during recovery is crucial for preventing relapse.

As research continues to build, aromatherapy is emerging as a way to cope with the emotional challenges and even some physical symptoms associated with recovery.

The Best Essential Oils for Addictions

Using essential oils during detox and recovery from addiction can help you manage your withdrawal symptoms. Here are the best essential oils for detoxing and aiding you in your recovery process:

Rosemary Oil

Rosemary essential oil can help alleviate stress and anxiety. Several studies suggest that rosemary oil is useful for pain relief. One study found that rosemary oil helped reduce the severity of symptoms for those experiencing opiate withdrawal. Researchers found that those who were given rosemary essential oils had improved sleep and reduced muscle pain compared to the group that was not given essential oils.

Lavender Oil

Lavender is known for its stress-relieving properties. Research suggests that lavender can help reduce symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Aromatherapy with lavender oil is calming and promotes a sense of well-being when going through the challenges of addiction recovery.

Lemon Oil

Lemon oil is a mood booster that also may reduce anxiety and depression. There is also some evidence that it can reduce nausea and vomiting. However, lemon essential oil can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it is recommended you avoid direct sunlight when using lemon oil.

Ginger Oil

Several studies suggest that ginger oil has liver-protecting properties. Ginger oil is a great choice when detoxing alcohol from your body. Since the overconsumption of alcohol can lead to liver damage, this essential oil may support liver healing. Ginger is another essential oil that has evidence of nausea reduction. As nausea is a common withdrawal symptom, this oil may be one to use if you are suffering from nausea and vomiting.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is another with nausea-reducing properties. A study was done with participants who went through heart surgery. The researchers found that those who were given peppermint oil aromatherapy experienced nausea less often and with less intensity than those who were not given the aromatherapy treatment.

Roman Chamomile Oil

Research suggests that chamomile is another oil that may help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. It may even improve sleep.

Bergamot Oil

Bergamot oil is known to be an energizing, mood-boosting essential oil. A 2015 study found that bergamot oil aromatherapy led to reductions in fatigue and feelings of anxiety. However, this is another oil that can increase sensitivity to the sun. This means that if you use bergamot oil on your skin, you should avoid sun exposure, as it can cause a severe skin reaction.

Ylang Ylang Oil

A study demonstrated that ylang ylang can help boost self-esteem and reduce anxiety when applied to the skin or inhaled. It is important to note that some are allergic to ylang ylang, so be sure to do a patch test and use a carrier oil before applying to your skin.

How to Choose Quality Essential Oils

The quality of essential oils can vary greatly. Essential oils aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means that there is a wide range of quality that exists on the market.

Here is how you can make an informed decision when purchasing essential oils:

  • Buy from known companies: Purchase from well-known, reputable sources.
  • Look at the label: It should clearly state the ingredient(s) and include the Latin plant name, the country of origin, how it was extracted, and how the plant was grown.
  • Only buy 100% essential oils: Avoid products called “fragrance oils,” and opt only for the purest oil without any added chemicals or fillers.
  • Buy oils in dark glass containers: Dark glass (typically brown or blue) containers protect the quality of the oils. Do not buy oils in plastic containers, as the essential oils can dissolve the plastic.
  • Check the price: Be cautious when a price seems too good to be true. Different essential oils will vary in prices, so familiarize yourself with what a certain oil typically costs. If one brand is significantly cheaper than another, be wary of quality.

Who Can Use Essential Oils During Detox?

First, it is important to note that essential oils are not a substitute for medically assisted detoxification or for formal addiction treatment. But they can be a tool to support you during your therapy and recovery process.

If you are looking for a way to ease alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms naturally, essential oils may be an option for you. Aromatherapy can help anyone struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety. They can also help if you are having sleeping issues or need extra support to refocus your mind on recovery and away from your alcohol or drug cravings.

Who Should Avoid Essential Oils?

The use of essential oils is not for everyone. There are some health conditions that make using essential oils risky for particular individuals.

Pregnant women, teens and children are advised to avoid the use of essential oils.

Additionally, those experiencing these following conditions should be particularly careful:

  • Respiratory problems such as asthma
  • Allergies
  • Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
  • Epilepsy
  • High blood pressure
  • Estrogen-dependent cancer

Some citrus oils, like lemon, grapefruit, and bergamot, can cause skin irritations when used and then exposed to the sun’s UV rays.

If you have allergies to particular substances in an essential oil, it is advised to avoid using it.

Additionally, some oils can affect prescribed medicines, so it is highly recommended that you speak with your physician before beginning the use of essential oils.

The best thing to do is to study the essential oils you are interested in, look into any risks, and consult with an aromatherapist and your medical providers.

Essential Oils Can Help in Addiction Recovery

As long as they are used as intended, essential oils can support you as you take charge of your well-being. Using essential oils for addiction recovery can be a great way to help manage symptoms on your journey to healing.

If you are looking for more information and support on your path to recovery, don’t hesitate to reach out to Footprints to Recovery today. We have experiecne with aromatherapy as part of addiction recovery, and we’re here to help you.


Jenna Richer
Medically Reviewed by Jenna Richer, MSW, LCSW
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