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6 Essential Oils To Stimulate The Brain, Boost Mood, Memory & Focus

Lisandra Fields

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

essential oils for brain stimulation

We live in stressful times where it’s easy to feel like your brain is about to explode. Your doctor has advised you multiple times to “get enough rest,” but it rarely seems to work. Mental exhaustion is a common issue that’s mostly prevalent among adults and teenagers. 

When you’re mentally exhausted, you’ll find that you can’t maintain your focus on one thing. Your head is all over the place, and you even find yourself procrastinating more often than usual. Experts would call this condition brain fog. 

If you feel like you’ve done all there is to be done to get your mind in check but still no results, it’s time you tried using smart drugs and brain supplements. The following are six of the best oils that are known to boost brain function, improve mental clarity, alleviate stress, and generally give you peace of mind:

  • Rosemary essential oil
  • Peppermint essential oil
  • Lemon essential oil 
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Sage essential oil
  • Frankincense essential oil

Essential Oils For Brain Stimulation 

 Rosemary Essential Oil 

Rosemary was used in ancient Rome and Greece to boost mental alertness and ease mental fatigue. 

Studies[1] have shown that inhaling rosemary oil prevents acetylcholine breakdown. Acetylcholine is a chemical responsible for memory, concentration, and thinking. 

While sitting for a test, nursing students[2] breathed in rosemary oil and reported information recall and a boost in concentration levels. Their cognitive function after inhalation was three times better than their initial state. 

A similar experiment[3] was conducted on twenty young students. The room they were in was highly concentrated with rosemary oil, and they were expected to solve mathematical questions. Their accuracy and speed improved based on how long the rosemary scent lingered in the air. 

Further research[4] hints that inhaling rosemary oil’s invigorating scent might improve brain health among the elderly who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

Peppermint Essential Oil 

Peppermint is a well-known essential oil that’s believed[5] to stimulate the brain, prevent fatigue, and improve your exercise performance.  

Inhaling peppermint’s aroma is considered a non-pharmacological method of enhancing cognitive performance. What’s more, researchers have found that this essential oil can alleviate Alzheimer’s and its symptoms. As you may or may not know, Alzheimer’s is an incurable neurodegenerative disease that negatively affects functional memories. 

Peppermint has a purely natural scent that offers a chemical-free way to improve cognition even without ingestion. A study was conducted[6] in 1990 to prove that smelling peppermint oil had a more positive effect compared to eating it.

Peppermint is most useful in regard to memory retrieval and learning. Similar to rosemary oils, peppermint also helps enhance your concentration skills and enhance your memory.  

This essential oil contains an ingredient known as menthol that also heals to ease headaches and muscle pain[7]. Other than boosting cognitive performance and alleviating pain, peppermint also treats stomach complications[8] and improves blood circulation in your brain as well as the rest of your body. 

Lemon Essential Oil 

Lemon essential oils are popular for their cleansing, invigorating, and refreshing scent. Most people are unaware of its hidden benefit, which is boosting your memory and helping you focus more on the tasks at hand. 

There’s a strong connection between memory and attention. Having the ability to maintain a clear focus for extended periods often causes you to retain higher levels of information. That’s one area that lemon oil excels in.

You can apply lemon essential oil on your skin but it must be added to a carrier oil or diffused into the air and inhaled it. Either of these methods of application will have the following impacts:

  • A significant reduction in inflammation
  • Clear skin
  • Little to no depression
  • Elimination of bacteria and viruses.

A study[9] conducted way back in 2016 found that lemon is one of the best essential oils to lower anxiety. It was mostly used for patients who had just undergone orthopedic surgery. 

Lavender Essential Oil 

When you hear the word ‘lavender,’ what’s the first thing that pops up in your mind? Its fragrance? Its color, maybe? The last thing to cross your mind is its multiple aromatherapy benefits. Lavender oil is known to help with insomnia, anxiety, headaches, mood issues, among other issues. Lavender helps to increase focus, offer mental clarity, and lower blood pressure. 

A 2019 meta-analysis[10] proved that lavender is one of the best essential oils for people who struggle with anxiety. Patients who ingested a lavender oil capsule reported a significant reduction in anxiety levels. 

A different study revealed that lavender’s anxiolytic effect decreased anxiety and improved the mood of 40 healthy test subjects. This was made possible after they inhaled lavender for up to three minutes. This proves that the best method of taking lavender is through inhalation. Ingesting it may lead to increased appetite, headache, or even constipation. 

Sage Oil 

Sage is one of those essential oils with a particularly strong aroma fused with a rich, earthy flavor. It also goes by Salvia officinalis, garden sage, and common sage. It falls under the mint family, along with herbs like thyme, basil, rosemary, and oregano. 

There’s no denying how helpful sage oil is when it comes to your brain and overall memory health. It’s packed with compounds that also double as antioxidants, which have been proven[11] to improve the brain’s defense system.  

In a study[12], about 39 patients who had Alzheimer’s consumed 2 ml (60 drops) of sage oil every day for four months. By the end of the test period, the participants were reported to have better cognitive abilities, improved reasoning, better problem-solving skills, and higher memory. 

Lower doses of the extract were shown to improve memory, while higher doses increased contentedness, calmness, and alertness among the participants. Sage oil generally improves brain function and memory among the old and the young[13]

Basil Oil 

Basil essential oil is known to treat a variety of mental and physical issues. It’s been coined as the oil that renews and uplifts. Consistent use has been shown to impart mental clarity and strength. 

Basil oil contains properties that have been used to lower levels of fatigue, stress, nervousness, and anxiety. Basil oil has also been used to enhance recall, increase energy, and fight inattention. Basil is considered the best essential oil to fix memory issues. 

A single inhalation of the strong basil scent is shown to heighten focus in addition to strengthening your mental muscles. 

What’s more, basil is considered an adaptogen, which is a pretty rare title for any essential oil. This proves just how powerful it is when it comes to renewing. One study also revealed that basil could be the next big thing in regards to combating chronic stress. 

Basil boasts a herbaceous and distinctive scent that’s easily distinguishable. It’s often used in aromatherapy and for patients with brain fog or those who are constantly under pressure. 

Signs you Need to Start Using Essential Oils

The following are signs and symptoms that you need to begin using essential oils:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate: This is the case even with the smallest tasks. You always wander off, and you often struggle to organize your thoughts. Making minor judgments or decisions is a big deal to you.  
  • Feelings of confusion: You often feel ‘spaced out’; like you don’t belong. Even when you drink coffee, you still feel sluggish, unmotivated, and dull. 
  • You constantly forget things: Accomplishing the simplest of tasks is an issue for you. You easily forget what you’re supposed to do and become less productive in the process. You tend to lose your train of thought and find it hard to maintain a conversation. 
  • You suffer from chronic fatigue: We’ve found ourselves in this position at one point or another. However, it’s worth looking into if you suffer from chronic fatigue pretty often. You’re easily irritable and too exhausted at any time of the day. It seems like nothing you do will make you feel better. 

+ 13 sources

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  1. Hasselmo, M.E. (2006). The role of acetylcholine in learning and memory. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, [online] 16(6), pp.710–715. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17011181/
  2. ‌McCaffrey, R., Thomas, D.J. and Kinzelman, A.O. (2009). The Effects of Lavender and Rosemary Essential Oils on Test-Taking Anxiety Among Graduate Nursing Students. Holistic Nursing Practice, [online] 23(2), pp.88–93. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19258850/
  3. ‌Moss, M. and Oliver, L. (2012). Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, [online] 2(3), pp.103–113. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23983963/
  4. ‌JIMBO, D., KIMURA, Y., TANIGUCHI, M., INOUE, M. and URAKAMI, K. (2009). Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Psychogeriatrics, [online] 9(4), pp.173–179. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20377818/
  5. ‌Meamarbashi, A. and Rajabi, A. (2013). The effects of peppermint on exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, [online] 10(1). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23517650/
  6. ‌Warm, J., Dember, W. and Parasuraman, R. (1990). Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. j. Soc. Cosmet. Chem, [online] 42, pp.199–210. Available at: http://67-20-110-78.unifiedlayer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Effects-of-Olfactory-Stimulation-on-Performance-and-Stress.pdf.
  7. ‌Borhani Haghighi, A., Motazedian, S., Rezaii, R., Mohammadi, F., Salarian, L., Pourmokhtari, M., Khodaei, S., Vossoughi, M. and Miri, R. (2010). Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossed-over study. International Journal of Clinical Practice, [online] 64(4), pp.451–456. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20456191/
  8. ‌Alammar, N., Wang, L., Saberi, B., Nanavati, J., Holtmann, G., Shinohara, R.T. and Mullin, G.E. (2019). The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, [online] 19(1). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6337770/
  9. ‌KAMRANI FARHAD, NAZARI MAHBOUBEH, MOHAMMAD, S., AMIN GHOLAMREZA and MOHAMMAD, F. (2016). EFFECT OF AROMATHERAPY WITH LEMON ESSENTIAL OIL ON ANXIETY AFTER ORTHOPEDIC SURGERY. Www.sid.ir, [online] 2(4), pp.26–31. Available at: https://www.sid.ir/en/journal/ViewPaper.aspx?ID=599457
  10. ‌Yap, W.S., Dolzhenko, A.V., Jalal, Z., Hadi, M.A. and Khan, T.M. (2019). Efficacy and safety of lavender essential oil (Silexan) capsules among patients suffering from anxiety disorders: A network meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, [online] 9(1). Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-54529-9
  11. ‌Omar, S.H., Scott, C.J., Hamlin, A.S. and Obied, H.K. (2017). The protective role of plant biophenols in mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, [online] 47, pp.1–20. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28301805/
  12. ‌Akhondzadeh, S., Noroozian, M., Mohammadi, M., Ohadinia, S., Jamshidi, A.H. and Khani, M. (2003). Salvia officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, [online] 28(1), pp.53–59. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12605619/
  13. ‌Scholey, A.B., Tildesley, N.T.J., Ballard, C.G., Wesnes, K.A., Tasker, A., Perry, E.K. and Kennedy, D.O. (2008). An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers. Psychopharmacology, [online] 198(1), pp.127–139. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18350281/
Lisandra Fields

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Lisandra Fields is a freelance medical writer from Pennsylvania who creates articles, blog posts, fact sheets, and website content for health-related organizations across North America. She has experience working with a wide range of clients, from health charities to businesses to media outlets. She has experience writing about cancer, diabetes, ALS, cannabis, personality psychology, and COVID-19, among many other topics. Lisandra enjoys reading scientific journal articles and finding creative ways to distill the ideas for a general audience.

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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