With the current COVID-19 situation, most of us are self isolating, which isn’t at all fun, but necessary. If you have a child with anxiety, the uncertainty of staying home for who knows how long, can be difficult for them… and you. During these stressful times, one great help can be using essential oils for child anxiety.

Essential oils for child anxiety: Which are the best?

Essential oils can help calm both children and adults. (Credit: Kelly Sikkema)

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What are essential oils?

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years and are extracts from leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds of various plants. Essential oils are distilled into extremely concentrated forms of active ingredients that can be used in aromatherapy. These concentrated extracts take a lot of natural ingredients to create. It can take up to 220 pounds of lavender flowers to make just one pound of lavender essential oil.

Essential oils for child anxiety

Anxiety is becoming a common phenomenon with today’s children. It’s difficult for kids to deal with oppressive feelings and even more difficult for parents to help, which is why using essential oils for child anxiety can be helpful.

Anxiety is characterized by constant worry, fear, apprehension and tension. Anxiety in children is commonly treated with psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medications. Some prefer alternative or holistic forms of healing.

Some common holistic therapies I’ve tried with my child to them with anxiety are: meditation, yoga, diet and mindfulness. An important aspect of helping children with anxiety is helping them to identify and process their emotions.

Children need to know that everyone feels a wide range of emotions. Anger and anxiety are a part of life. It’s better for children to learn how to process their emotions and deal with them. Essential oils can be a useful tool to use when trying to trying calm your child and help them unpack their emotions.

The Best essential oils for child anxiety

A little goes along way, so only use a few drops. (Credit: Christin Hume)

Essential oils for anxiety

Effective with adults and children, essential oils have been shown to have positive effects as a calming tool for anxiety. They’re an easy-to-use, natural solution to reduce nausea, discomfort, pain and can help you feel calmer and sleep better.

As for when to start using essential oils, that’s a different question – one that should be discussed with your family doctor.  Babies’ immune systems are constantly developing and may react negatively to aromatherapy. 

Personally, I didn’t use essential oils with my kids until they were toddlers as I’d seen them react to certain soaps and shampoos. Before you begin using essential oils on young children you definitely want to consult your doctor prior.   

How do essential oils work?

Essential oils interact with the emotional brain (the limbic system) when you inhale them. The odour molecules travel through the nose and affect the brain through receptors. The limbic system controls heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. Because the oils influence the limbic system, they’re seen as a non-invasive tool to help lighten anxiety.

Best essential oils for child anxiety

There’s a lot of essential oils to choose from. All essential oils have different aspects and benefits, but not all are suitable for use with children.

The most common essential oils for children with anxiety are: lavender, orange, peppermint and ginger. Here’s the benefits and uses of these popular ones. 

Lavender

Lavender is by far my favourite essential oil. It’s also one of the most common, with benefits of creating a calming and relaxing effect. Lavender has been proven to help with sleep, irritability, inflammation, muscle relaxation, panic attacks and general nervous tension. A great way to use lavender is in a bath or as a room and pillow spray for children

Orange

Also know as tangerine or mandarin, orange essential oil is known to calm stress, anxiety and may even be effective in reducing hysteria. Made by cold-pressing the rind of oranges, citrus essential oils are popular with kids, likely because most kids love citrus fruits. Many citrus essential oils are uplifting, but sweet orange essential oil has been found to help with depression and anxiety. 

Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and stems of the peppermint plant. This essential oil is known to have a soothing effect on easing nervousness, promoting mental clarity, alleviating mental fatigue, calming anxiety and depression. Peppermint oil can be diluted into a warm bath, used as massage oil or in an essential oil diffuser.

Ginger

Ginger is something I try to use as much as possible, since it has strong anti-inflammatory components, which helps with my arthritis. As an essential oil, ginger is found to activate human serotonin receptors, vital for relieving anxiety. This extra boost for relieving anxiety is great for high-stress situations.

How do you use essential oils for children with anxiety?

There are numerous ways to use essential oils with children who have anxiety. First it must be stated that you should try different scents to see which your child prefers. Each person likes different things, so don’t be upset if your favourite is lavender and your child doesn’t like the smell.

Make it fun and let them chose which scents they’d like to try. Remember, this is a tool to help them and allowing them to choose the scent will allow them feel in control.

Next, it has to be said that essential oils should NEVER be taken by mouth since some are toxic if swallowed. This may be challenging since many essential oils smell like food or candy.

Also, check the labeling on the oil to see if it should be inhaled or rubbed onto specific body spots. Be sure to store your oils and aromatherapy products in a safe place, well out of the reach of children.

essential oils to calm kids

Extracts from herbs and flowers are distilled down to make essential oils. (Credit: Sarah Gualtieri)

Here’s a few ways to use essential oils for children with anxiety

In the air of your home

This is the most popular way to use essential oils. My son has a diffuser in his room and it doubles as a night light. We have another diffuser in our main living area and the kids take turns choosing which essential oils to diffuse. Diffusion is a good way to introduce new essential oils to kids so you can judge whether or not they react negatively to the oil.

Inhalation

This method is great for times of high stress. Put a few drops on a napkin or tissue and keep it in your pocket. You could also purchase the popular aromatherapy bracelets and necklaces, and stylishly wear your essential oils.

In a spray

Sprays are a great way to use essential oils, especially lavender to spritz bedrooms, pillows and linens. For my son, I used to spray a bit on his shirt or teddy bear to help with realization. It should be noted that you’re using an oil. Test your spray on a piece of cloth that you’re ok if you ruin, to make sure it won’t stain clothing or sheets you care about.

Massage

Ever since my son was a baby, we’ve used massage to help calm him. As he got older, we started adding a few drops of essential oils (usually lavender) into his pre-bedtime massage routine. If you’re using essential oils in massage, make sure it’s diluted in a carrier oil or lotion. A carrier oil would be something like jojoba oil, avocado oil, coconut oil or even olive oil. 

Never apply the essential oil directly to your child’s skin. And when you do use start, use tiny amounts on a small surface area, to ensure it’s compatible with your child’s skin. Begin with a very low concentration to make sure there’s no skin irritations or adverse effects. Massaging kids feet or toes with essential oils is a great way to apply diluted essential oils.

Diluted

Because our kids spend a fair amount of time in the bath, we use this time for anxiety management and add a few drops of our favourite oil into the running water. This route isn’t the most common way to use essential oils with children, so you’ll want to check with a healthcare practitioner first. Start with small amounts (just a few drops of oil) and make sure it’s well diluted in the bath water.

If it’s for the parent, enjoy your soak and remember a less stressed parent can be more helpful to a stressed out kid!

How do you deal with anxiety in your family?

essential oils to help anxiety

Paige McEachren spent over 20 years working in corporate communications for world-leading technology, health care and pharmaceutical companies. In 2015, she decided to leave the professional workplace to stay home and help her young kids navigate life with ADHD and dyslexia. When not taking care of her kids (three including her husband), she loves to plan family vacations, struggles with the love of baking and challenges herself to try new things. If she’s lucky, she finds herself a bit of quiet time. Follow Paige on Instagram or Twitter.