Many people try essential oils as a treatment for high blood pressure, or hypertension, usually by inhaling the scent or applying the oil to the skin.

However, there is little evidence that essential oils can reduce blood pressure.

As untreated hypertension can result in a heart attack or stroke, it is important not to rely on essential oils alone as a remedy.

A doctor can recommend lifestyle changes and medications for high blood pressure. Talk to a doctor before including essential oils in a treatment plan.

In this article, we list essential oils that may help people who are managing hypertension. We also describe how to use the oils safely and the risks involved.

People who use essential oils for high blood pressure often recommend:

Bergamot

a woman holding a bottle of essential oils that she is using to treat high blood pressure Share on Pinterest
A person with hypertension should talk to a doctor before including essential oils in a treatment plan.

In a small study including 52 participants, researchers tested whether inhaling an oil blend containing bergamot could help reduce hypertension.

The blend also included lavender and ylang-ylang.

Based on their results, the team concluded that essential oils may help reduce high blood pressure.

Citronella

People traditionally use citronella oil as a mosquito repellent, but it may benefit the health of the heart.

A small 2012 study, published in the Journal of Health Research, reports that inhaling citronella vapors may significantly reduce a person's blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate.

Clary sage

A 2013 study, involving 34 female participants who were experiencing urinary incontinence, suggests that clary sage is effective at reducing blood pressure.

In the study, clary sage oil reduced the participants' heart rates while they were undergoing urodynamic examination.

It is important to note that sage oil — as opposed to clary sage oil — contains a compound called thujone, which may increase high blood pressure.

Frankincense

Frankincense essential oil is a popular component of Eastern medicine. In addition to having anti-inflammatory properties, it may also help combat anxiety and similar issues.

These effects may help reduce high blood pressure. However, it is possible for people to have high blood pressure even when they feel relaxed.

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils for enhancing relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.

Various scientists behind a 2006 study and a 2012 study found that a blend of oils, including lavender, could reduce high blood pressure in participants who inhaled it.

Neroli

Researchers have found that neroli essential oil, blended with lavender, ylang-ylang, and marjoram could reduce stress and blood pressure in people with prehypertension and hypertension.

Rose

Rose oil may have calming effects.

One study has reported that applying rose oil to the skin can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation levels, and skin temperature.

Sweet marjoram

Researchers behind a small 2017 study observed "remarkable changes" in the blood pressure and heart rates of participants who inhaled sweet marjoram essential oil.

A 2012 study mentioned above also used a blend containing marjoram oil and found similar results.

Valerian

Valerian is a potent relaxing agent and a common ingredient in many natural products that claim to enhance sleep and promote calmness in humans and pets.

The European Medicines Agency points to a long history of valerian as a sleep aid before noting that the essential oil can be used to treat mild mental stress and promote sleep.

Because of these benefits, valerian essential oil may help reduce hypertension in some people.

Ylang-ylang

Researchers have used ylang-ylang essential oil in combination with other oils to effectively lower blood pressure.

A small study from 2013 reported that the aroma of ylang-ylang may have a sedative effect that significantly decreases blood pressure.

A person could try using essential oils by:

  • mixing them into a fragrance-free body lotion
  • adding a few drops of essential oil to a carrier oil — such as coconut oil or sweet almond oil — and using the mixture in a massage
  • adding the oils to a diffuser or oil burner
  • sprinkling a few drops into a warm bath
  • inhaling the scent directly from the bottle

Overall, the research into essential oils for high blood pressure is still very limited. A person should not use these oils as a replacement for prescribed medication.

In practice, results likely vary from one individual to another and may depend on the type of oil that a person uses.

In a 2006 study, researchers assigned 52 participants with hypertension to three groups: an essential oil group, a placebo group, and a control group.

Those in the essential oil group inhaled a blend of lavender, ylang-ylang, and bergamot once daily for 4 weeks. The researchers measured all the participants' blood pressure and pulse twice weekly.

They observed significant differences among the groups, suggesting that inhaling specific essential oils may reduce psychological stress responses, serum cortisol levels, and blood pressure.

In 2012, scientists conducted a similar study. This time, the aim was to observe the effects of essential oil inhalation on blood pressure and salivary cortisol levels in 83 people with prehypertension or hypertension.

Those in the essential oil group inhaled a blend of lavender, ylang-ylang, marjoram, and neroli over 24 hours.

After this, the participants' daytime blood pressure and salivary cortisol levels significantly decreased, compared with those in the placebo and control groups.

However, in a 2014 study that included 100 participants, the researchers found that exposure to essential oil vapor for longer than 1 hour may be harmful to cardiovascular health.

Anyone interested in using essential oils to lower high blood pressure should talk to a doctor first. Also, it is important to only consider essential oils to be complementary treatments.

Essential oils do not pose major risks if people use them as directed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider the majority of oils to be "generally recognized as safe."

However, take the following precautions:

  • Do not ingest essential oils — only use them externally.
  • Always dilute essential oils with carrier oils before applying them to the skin. Undiluted oils can cause skin irritation.
  • People with asthma, migraine, or headaches may need to avoid inhaling some essential oils.
  • Discuss essential oils with a doctor or another healthcare professional before trying them.
  • Avoid using essential oils close to the eyes. If the oil gets into an eye, rinse it thoroughly with water and contact a doctor.
  • Only use essential oils from reputable brands, and ensure that they have not expired.
  • Keep essential oils away from children and animals.
  • When spraying or diffusing oil preparations, consider others in the area. Some oils can cause harm to pregnant women, children, and animals.

It is especially important for people with underlying health issues, including asthma, and anyone taking supplements or medications to consult a doctor before trying essential oils.

If a person ingests an essential oil, adverse effects can be noticeable within 30 minutes, though they may take up to 4 hours to appear.

These unwanted effects can include:

  • skin irritation
  • eye pain, soreness, or irritation
  • a persistent cough
  • nausea and vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • shallow breathing
  • seizures
  • coma

If a person has ingested essential oils, contact poison control or otherwise seek medical advice. People in the United States should call 1-800-222-1222.

The use of essential oils by pregnant women or around children is highly controversial.

There is a concern that, in pregnant women, topically applied oils may penetrate the placenta and affect the fetus. Also, inhaled molecules of these oils may pass to the fetus through the blood.

However, some essential oils may be safe for use during pregnancy. Pregnant women should consult their doctors before trying any essential oil.

Babies and older children have a greater risk of toxicity from essential oils than adults. Even 2 milliliters can cause significant poisoning in infants, for example.

Small amounts of some oils may be safe in certain circumstances, but it is always advisable to consult a doctor before using essential oils around children.

Overall, it is a good idea to avoid diffusing essential oils in the presence of children or pregnant women.

Some natural health professionals and enthusiasts advocate using essential oils to treat high blood pressure. However, there is not enough research to support the use of these oils for this purpose.

Essential oils are unlikely to be a suitable alternative to medication, dietary alterations, and lifestyle changes for people with hypertension.

Anyone who wishes to use essential oils as a complementary treatment should speak to a doctor first.

Q:

Which essential oils should people with high blood pressure avoid?

A:

Hyssop essential oil should be avoided, as it has isopinocamphones, which are known to raise blood pressure.

It would also make sense for people with high blood pressure to avoid stimulating essential oils, such as rosemary and citrus (lemon and grapefruit) oils.

Sage (unlike clary sage) would not be a good choice for someone with high blood pressure, as it contains thujone, which is known to increase blood pressure.

Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.