Essential Oils

Studies Say These Are The Best Essential Oils For More Focus, Mental Clarity, & Productivity

Updated on 9 September 2020 • 6 minute read
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Overview 

Most of us want to be more focused, mentally clear, creative, and productive. 

We have timelines to meet, meaningful work to do, and things we’re inspired to create so how can you train your mind to sustain focus for longer periods of time? 

How can you lengthen your attention span and enter the coveted flow state

Aromatherapy and yoga breathing (pranayama) can help. 

Some research shows that when used properly, essential oils can be natural tools you should keep in your productivity arsenal. 

 

Essential Oils As A Natural Mental Aid

Essential oils (EOs) are highly concentrated plant extracts containing a plethora of active chemicals known to support a healthy and calm nervous system, mind, and body. 

EOs are considered effective remedies for physical conditions like:

 

They’re also known to help mental conditions like: 

 

In Yoga, we call one-pointed, laser focus Dharana

It’s a crucial step towards stilling the ripples of a distracted or hyperaroused mind, and it’s an essential but often overlooked part of yoga practice. 

Inhaling essential oils can help focus the mind by activating the limbic system in the brain, which is responsible for memory and learning. 

When we inhale the aromatic chemicals in essential oils they travel to the olfactory bulb which sits at the top of the nose and connects to the brain. 

(source: Essential Science Publishing)

The olfactory bulb then signals to the limbic brain, which then activates cognitive functions related to learning. 

Pairing essential oils with mind training techniques can amplify the effects. 

Mindfulness meditation techniques like breath awareness and mantra meditation can help train the brain to override distractions and sustain focus for extended periods. 

 

The Best Essential Oils for Focus, Clarity, & Productivity According To Studies

Rosemary oil 

Rosemary oil is known to improve memory, but can it also boost cognitive function? 

A 2012 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology showed for the first time that cognitive performance can significantly be improved by diffusing rosemary essential oil. (1) 

It’s believed that 1,8-cineole, one of the main active chemicals in rosemary oil, helps improve cognitive ability. 

The study found the higher the concentration of 1,8-cineole, the more cognitive improvement occurred. 

 

Peppermint oil 

A 2018 study published in Phytochemicals in Health & Disease found that peppermint oil with high levels of menthol helped improve performance on demanding cognitive tasks while also reducing the mental fatigue associated with extended cognitive tasks performance. (2) 

 

Vetiver oil & Cedarwood oil

A 2001 study by Terry S. Friedmann, M.D. found that inhaling both cedarwood and vetiver essential oil three times a day for 30 days led to a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms in children. (3) 

“When the essential oil is inhaled, the microdroplets are carried to the brain’s limbic system, which is that portion that is the processing center for reason, emotion, and smell, and to the hypothalamus, which is the hormone command center,” explains Dr. Friedmann. (4) 

 

Spearmint oil

A 2016 animal study published in Physiology and Behavior found that a blend of rosemary oil and spearmint oil may have beneficial effects on learning and memory as well as with aging of the brain as one gets older. (5) 

 

Frankincense oil 

Frankincense essential oil is often referred to as the “King of Oils” because it’s highly therapeutic and medicinal. 

It’s a potent immune stimulant and anti-inflammatory, and it’s also a soothing calmative oil that when used during meditation can facilitate deeper states of consciousness. 

A 2019 study on older men with weak memory and learning disabilities found that ingesting frankincense facilitated the acquisition and retention of motor memory after four weeks. (6) 

Motor memory tasks can include playing the piano and attentively writing. 

 

Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood oil comes from the roots and wood of the Santalum Album tree. 

The earthy aroma can provide grounding and increases calm due to its sedative effects. 

One clinical study found a correlation between increases attention span and the application sandalwood to the skin. (7) 

 

Lavender oil 

Lavender essential oil is one of the most popular oils and for good reason – it’s very versatile! 

It can help you relax and unwind and it also turns out it’s great for preventing work burnout, too. 

A Japanese study on work performance found that using during work breaks seemed to prevent deterioration of performance in later work sessions. (8)

 

Citrus oils 

Citrus oils are expressed from the rind of the fruit and are usually cold-pressed. 

Oils like grapefruit, sweet orange, bergamot, and lemon are known to be energizing, invigorating, and detoxifying. 

Lemon oil isn’t just an antibacterial cleaning agent, it’s actually been shown to help decrease work errors, too. 

A Japanese study on typists’ work performance found that workers made 54% fewer errors when they inhaled lemon oil. (9)

 

Other oils that might be helpful for deeper concentration are: 

  • Sage essential oil 
  • Cypress oil 
  • Ylang-ylang oil
  • Basil oil 
  • Chamomile oil 

 

Safety Concerns 

When essential oils are used safely and mindfully, they typically offer little to no harmful side effects. 

EOs aren’t regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), so many products on the market have been adulterated. 

Always choose certified organic, therapeutic-grade pure essential oil products that have not been diluted or contaminated. 

The purer the oil, the greater the medicinal and healing benefits. 

Essential oil blends can be particularly useful because mixing EOs often amplifies the healing effects. 

If you’re using EOs directly on the skin, then always dilute them with a carrier oil like coconut oil.

EOs are powerful, and a little goes a long way; some oils can irritate the skin if they’re not applied properly. 

Make sure you’re aware of the contraindications for each oil you’ll use. Some oils aren’t suitable for babies, young children, pregnant and nursing women, and high blood pressure or epilepsy. 

If you experience any adverse reaction while using any oil, discontinue use immediately. 

 

How To Use EOs for Focus & Get More Done 

You can use EOs topically and apply them directly on your skin, but you should always dilute them with a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil. 

Stick to 2-3 drops of EO per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil. 

You can create your own blends for lotions and massage oils. 

The most effective way to use EOs for focus is via inhalation. 

Use a diffuser for a less concentrated dose and keep it on while you’re working or studying. 

Or use an inhaler for a portable, more concentrated option. 

 

Focus Rx: A DIY Essential Oil Blend  

Rollerball Blend: 

  • 5 drops of rosemary essential oil 
  • 5 drops of cedarwood essential oil 
  • 5 drops of peppermint essential oil 
  • 5 drops of lemon essential oil 
  • 2-3 tablespoons of fractionated coconut oil 

Add mixture and fill a dark glass or non-BPA rollerball. 

Use it whenever you need a boost by applying to your wrists, temples, and chest. 

 

Inhaler Blend: 

  • 5 drops of rosemary essential oil 
  • 5 drops of cedarwood essential oil 
  • 5 drops of peppermint essential oil 
  • 5 drops of lemon essential oil 

 

Diffuser Blend: 

  • 3 drops of rosemary essential oil 
  • 3 drops of cedarwood essential oil 
  • 3 drops of peppermint essential oil 
  • 3 drops of lemon essential oil 

 

How Yoga Can Help Overcome Distractions & Sharpen Focus 

Most of us think of yoga as a physical practice; however, yoga’s true practice involves so much more than just the poses and flow sequences.

You can deepen your regular physical yoga practice and take it off the mat by practicing the 8 Limbs of Yoga, or what’s known as Classical Yoga or Raja Yoga. 

Here are some yoga philosophy and lifestyle principles that can help train your mind and mental awareness: 

  • One-pointed focus (dharana) – We can reduce mental noise and distractions by practicing dharana. Think of learning to sustain a one-pointed focus as mental training. You can use your breath as a focus tool
  • Mindfulness (svadhyaya) – The principle of svadhyaya is about studying the mind to become familiar with it. It’s about shining conscious awareness on our patterns, reactions, and impulses. 
  • Breathing exercises (pranayama) – Did you know that you can begin to control your mind by controlling your breathing? Yes, it’s true – yoga breathing exercises can help you increase concentration
  • Meditation (dhyana) – According to the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the goal of true yoga practice is to still the ripples of the mind in order to cultivate inner stillness, which leads to inner wisdom. Taking up a daily meditation practice, even if it’s just five minutes a day, can help you focus, remember, create, and perform better. 
  • Hydrate (saucha) – Believe it or not, being chronically dehydrated can impact your ability to focus and be productive. Drinking at least 1.5-2 L of water every day will help your mental performance. This is how you practice yoga by drinking water
  • Deep rest and sleep (Yoga nidra) –  Being chronically tired, or sleep-deprived means your brain suffers. Not getting enough quality sleep impairs your thinking, decision-making, and can make you more irritable, impulsive, and emotional. Make sure you get enough quality rest each day to keep your symptoms in check. Here’s a guided yogic sleep meditation.  
  • Eat like a yogi to increase mental energy – The way you eat dramatically impacts your mind and ability to focus! Eat the wrong things, and your symptoms can get worse. Eat the right things and your brainpower and focus capacity will improve. Here’s how to eat like a yogi for more focus. 

 

 

 

References: 

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736918/

(2) https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/8/1029

(3) http://files.meetup.com/1481956/ADHD%20Research%20by%20Dr.%20Terry%20Friedmann.pdf

(4) https://scnm.edu/blog/adhd-can-essential-oils-help~2468

(5) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27527000/

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7018390/

(7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14765284/

(8) https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/30/8/683/398781

(9) https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/jan/23/productivity-office-design

 

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