Behind-the-Ears Essential Oils for Anxiety

In my last post, I shared how I diffuse different essential oils with half-a-coffee-cup of water to help with my depression. I also shared my favorite depression blend… which also happens to be my favorite everyday blend.

But of course my depression blend is my daily blend; depression doesn’t turn off. It’s there when you wake up, when you go to bed; it’s just the intensity of the tide that moves around.

Anxiety, similarly, is ever-present in the background noise of my life, and given it overlaps with depression, I have another method I layer on top of diffusers for when I feel panicked, frozen, and/or nervous. I actually learned this method as a child, when a friend handed me a blend in a brown bottle—a medicine he made himself—but a different friend rekindled this memory in my rollercoaster ride at Fresno Unified:

I like to put essential oils behind my ears.


How much oil do you have to put behind this guy’s ears? 

(a) twice as many drops!
(b) same drops!
(c) don’t use essential oils on animal ears!
(d) …I have testing anxiety.

Answer at the end of the post!

Suggested Oils for Anxiety

The following essential oils have been suggested for anxiety:

  • bergamot;
  • cedarwood;
  • chamomile;
  • cinnamon leaf;
  • clary sage;
  • copaiba;
  • eucalyptus;
  • frankincense;
  • geranium;
  • jasmine;
  • lavender;
  • lemon;
  • lemongrass;
  • lime;
  • orange;
  • peppermint;
  • rose;
  • sandalwood;
  • tea tree;
  • vetiver;
  • ylang-ylang;

So I’ve never tried vetiver or geranium. I wanted to throw that out there to help remind you these are suggestions I’ve accumulated throughout the Internet—I’m more of the curator than the expert here. (That said, autistic people are awesome curators; we make lists, organize piles, file details, and see patterns like you would not believe.)

If you have tried vetiver and/or geranium, I’d love to hear your thoughts!—been curious about those two in particular lately.

Why Put Oil Behind Your Ears?

Many prefer topical uses of essential oils. Topical application is a process of placing an essential oil on the skin, hair, mouth, teeth, nails or mucous membranes of the body. When the oils touch the skin, they penetrate rapidly.

—Dr. Axe

You can put essential oils on your skin in all kinds of places: behind the ear; on your arm; behind your knee. (It might be weird to go for behind the knee.) But I choose behind the ear—specifically, in that pressure point near the mastoid, around our mastoid cells—because this helps me reach my sinuses.

I want to breathe that essential oil in.

Given the sensitivity of this area of your body, I truly do not recommend more than one drop for both ears. Especially because, if you use my method, you’re also going to receive a drop of oil through your hands. 

The Application Process

First, I plug my aromatherapy bottle with my primary hand’s index finger. Once I am certain I won’t have a spill, I flip the bottle over.

You’ll feel the oil on your fingertip. Your application has begun!

Now flip the bottle back to the gravity-friendly position, then use your wet fingertip to dab behind both ears. If you have a keen sense of smell, let your nose figure out what “dab” means—not your sense of touch.

Any remaining oil can be rubbed into the tip of your non-primary index finger. Now you have an even application behind your left and right ears…and your left and right hands!

My Personal Oil Choices

I usually dab peppermint, but if my anxiety feels more visceral, I switch to tea tree. 

Peppermint is great because it:

  • reduces nausea (the largest issue I experience as a result of anxiety);
  • alleviates headaches (and my arch-nemesis, the Almighty Migraine);
  • increases energy (which anxiety drains);
  • relieves muscle and joint pain (and anxiety often tightens muscles and joints); &
  • opens the sinuses super-well (so you can return to your present-moment breath).

But there are reasons for tea tree as a substitute:

  • fights infections and provides antibacterial, antimicrobial benefits* (when anxiety and/or depression burrows its long-term impacts into your immune system);
  • soothes skin (and I don’t know about you, but anxiety makes me itchy, twitchy); &
  • instead of rubbing your fingers together to wipe away the excess, you can go ahead and wipe the leftovers on that pimple that’s been bothering you—then wait 8-24 hours. It’s really cool.

 *Please remember you shouldn’t use aromatherapy as a substitute for visiting a doctor. Aromatherapy should be as a treatment alongside modern medicine—not as an excuse to dodge modern medicine.

If you’re using aromatherapy regularly, it’s good to tell your doctor. Your doctor’s response will double as professional advice, and on a lucky day, as an opportunity to invest in an authentic and human connection with your medical provider, versus the dehumanizing feeling of in-n-out medical practice.

Lastly—and I hope this goes without saying—do not ingest either of these oils, especially tea tree oil. Use them topically. (Or in a diffuser—peppermint’s great for a single-ingredient, 3-drop diffuse.) Do not duck up your insides with tea tree.

…You know what you can duck up with tea tree, though?

And it’s something that’s kind of annoying but can become a teensy fun?

Magical floss.

Answer Key

Did you take that quiz earlier? The answer is (c) don’t use oils on animal ears!—not unless you vet okays it, anyway—because different arrangements of DNA and cells means different reactions to other arrangements of DNA and cells.

Essential oils are essentially (pun intended) jam-packed essences (I can’t stop) of a plant, so you should always treat them like you’re taking one arrangement of DNA and cells, then rubbing it into your skin (or lungs) of DNA and cells;

In other words, you should treat essential oils as chemistry. Be mindful. Be considerate.

medicine rituals


Kourtnie View All →

Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at or

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