Concentration is one of those elusive goals. Being able to clearly focus on the task at hand is critical. But, trying to force yourself often doesn’t work.
Others have a gentler impact, helping to increase concentration without causing anxiety or stress. Essential oils are one example.
That’s why this post is highlighting the best essential oils for concentration. But first, let’s take a look at how and why essential oils can help.
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How Essential Oils Improve Concentration
Boosting your concentration with oils may seem abstract but the idea really does work. In fact, essential oils are associated with many benefits, including fighting off colds and even promoting weight loss.
One reason is the scent.
The emotional center of the brain is linked to the olfactory epithelium, which is a part of our noses and plays a key role in our sense of smell. This alone means that scents can have a direct impact on our moods.
That’s a pattern you’ve probably noticed yourself too.
For example, the smell of lemon often makes people feel energized and can boost your mood. That’s one reason why lemon essential oil is popular. In contrast, many of us associate lavender with restfulness and being sleepy.
In fact, smell is the only sense with an association this significant (1). That’s why smells can evoke such strong memories and emotions. Mercola discusses this idea in detail, along with some implications of the relationship.
Research also shows that essential oils do affect the brain. For example, the scent of rosemary can promote better outcomes in memory tests, for both students and adults (2).
The site Dr. Jockers offers more insight into this area as well, highlighting how different essential oils can promote brain health. He also discusses the mechanism behind these effects.
All of these patterns show that essential oils can strongly impact the way we think and feel. Concentration is one key aspect of this.
The Best Essential Oils for Concentration
If you want to boost your concentration – you need to use the right oils.
Essential oils all have different properties and even similar scents have different impacts. As a result, changing the oil or oils you use will impact the outcomes you experience.
The following oils are the best options and they all offer benefits to concentration, along with related areas.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Note: This oil is not recommended during pregnancy.
Rosemary is a popular choice for concentration, with good reason. The oil helps improve performance in memory tasks and has a stimulant function as well. This makes it perfect for improving concentration and focus.
One research study found that rosemary essential oil decreased typing errors by 33% (3). Many people also love the scent, which is a bonus.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint is an intense scent, one that is incredibly powerful. It is particularly effective for keeping you alert and paying attention while helping to improve memory as well (4).
If peppermint is too intense for you, it can be included in essential oil blends. In most cases, you’ll just need one drop of peppermint essential oil due to its strength.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon is another oil that is perfect for alertness. It also boosts your mood and helps lower stress. Research also shows that the oil can decrease errors (5) and improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients (6).
This combination of benefits makes the oil perfect for people who are stressed and also need to concentrate.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender may seem like an odd choice, as it is mostly a relaxation oil. That’s true, but research shows that it can improve concentration following a break (7).
The relaxation component also works well for helping to decrease your stress levels. This is particularly important if you are working on something challenging.
Because the benefits are relaxation, this oil is best used before or during a break, rather than while you’re actively trying to concentrate. To do so, you may want to focus on a roll-on bottle or something that you can sniff.
Cypress Essential Oil
Cypress is a woody essential oil, with a subtler scent than options like peppermint or lemon. This makes it perfect for blending and also for anyone who wants something mild.
The oil does also have concentration benefits of its own and can help you to focus more on what you’re doing.
The scent also helps to reduce stress and can improve focus in that way as well.
Basil Essential Oil
Basil essential oil can help decrease mental exhaustion and improve concentration at the same time. It is particularly powerful if you have been working long hours or if you’re simply stuck on a problem that you can’t resolve.
The fresh scent of basil is also energizing, which is another benefit of the oil.
Sage Essential Oil
Note: Avoid using sage oil topically, as it can easily cause skin irritation.
Sage is another option for fighting mental exhaustion. Research shows that it can slightly increase mood and cognitive performance as well (8).
The scent combines well with many other oils. For example, you’ll often find sage and rosemary used together, or sage and peppermint.
Cedarwood Essential Oil
Cedarwood isn’t as common as the other oils on this list but it deserves a special mention. The essential oil contains a significant concentration of sesquiterpenes. These can promote oxygenation in the brain and help improve performance.
As a result, the oil can increase concentration and focus.
Blends to Try
You can get concentration benefits from these oils individually. But, many people prefer to use blends. A blend often has a more complex scent profile and gives you access to more benefits.
There are countless options out there, far too many to include here. However, the entries below are some basic blends to get you started.
Concentration Blend 1:
- 2 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 2 drops lemon essential oil
- 1 drop pine essential oil
- 1 drop cypress essential oil
Concentration Blend 2:
- 3 drops rosemary essential oil
- 2 drops lemon essential oil
Concentration Blend 3:
- 4 drops cypress essential oil
- 3 drops rosemary essential oil
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
Concentration Blend 4:
- 3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
- 1 drop basil essential oil
Many blends will include at least one citrus oil and one herbal or floral oil.
Finally, some brands also produce specialized blends that offer the same general benefits. These blends are useful if you just want to buy a single bottle of essential oil.
Some will also use less common essential oils, such as blue cypress and helichrysum and may use many different oils. This can make them more practical than buying multiple bottles of essential oil.
The examples below are all good places to start.
How to Use the Oils
Most of the impacts on concentration are strongly associated with scent. So, you must smell the oils to get the full effects.
A common method is to diffuse them. This allows you to fill the room with fragrance, without it being overbearing.
There are multiple types of diffusers to choose from and some do work better than others. Wellness Mama talks about the differences in more detail, including the pros and cons of each type. Some options are also shown below.
As a general rule, nebulizing diffusers are considered the most powerful and they don’t dilute the oils. Other types are still viable.
Many oils and oil blends can be used on the skin. For this, you need a carrier oil and there are many to choose from. Unrefined coconut oil is one option and can increase the absorption of the essential oil you use.
This style can still work well, although some people find that they cannot smell the oil when they use it on their skin. So, you may need to try different approaches to find the best fit for you.
Some other techniques include:
- Adding the oil to a bath (typically 5-6 drops)
- Placing a few drops on a wet washcloth and rubbing it over you while showering
- Adding the essential oil and a carrier oil to a roller bottle
- Add some drops to a tissue or cloth, then inhale from it
- You can also use an aromatherapy inhaler to quickly gain benefits
- Using a diffuser necklace
The best answer is going to vary depending on your situation. For example, a diffuser necklace or a roller bottle is easy to use in the workplace. A nebulizing diffuser, on the other hand, wouldn’t be viable.
Creating Scent Associations
One other recommendation is to build scent associations.
In part, essential oils work because of how we respond to smells. We create strong relationships between smells and memories. As a result, a particular smell can bring back fond memories, often making us feel more relaxed.
You’ll already have such associations from your past. But, you can also build them. Doing so can make essential oils even more relevant for concentration.
The first way to do this is to use the same oils or blends each time. You might try out various options to find one that works. But, once you’ve found it, stick to the same one (or ones) regularly.
You also want to be using the oils when you already have good concentration and focus. This helps you associate the scent with concentration. Before you know it, just a hint of the scent will instantly improve your productivity and focus.
Research also shows that the way our brains respond to scent varies depending on our associations (9), making this pattern especially important.
And finally, avoid oils that you have a negative association with. For example, if the smell of rosemary evokes a sad memory, it’s not going to help much with your concentration.
Essential oils are natural and have many advantages. But, safety is still important. Natural products can still have side effects. Key areas to consider include the following:
- Avoid putting the oil directly on your skin. Always dilute them, such as with a carrier oil.
- Perform a patch test before topical use – even if the oil is diluted.
- Consult your doctor if you are pregnant, have a serious health condition or are on medication. Most oils are safe, especially when diffused. But, there is some potential for interactions.
- Avoid using citrus oils and then going in the sun, the oils are photo-sensitive.
- Be wary about internal use. Some sites promote this idea but there are more risks. If nothing else, pay close attention to your body.
- Research before using essential oils around children and pets. Some oils are fine, others are problematic.
You can find more details about essential oil safety at Dr. Axe. His post highlights various safety considerations, along with information and recommendations for individual oils. The Herbal Academy also has detailed information about safety and offers a dilution guide. That guide can help you get the most benefits from oils while still using them safely.
Essential oils aren’t the only way to improve your concentration but they are a powerful option. The oils are less intense than natural stimulants and are easy to use.
This makes them a perfect everyday approach, regardless of whether you’re cramming for an exam or just need some extra focus while you work.
If you want to learn more, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils. This covers everything you need to know about using essential oils, including what you can expect and the benefits they offer.
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