veteran receiving essential oil treatment
We understand mental illness and the difficulties it creates for those who suffer from it. At our San Diego Mental Health Treatment Center we are sensitive to your challenges. Solara will find every possible solution to enable you to live the life that you are meant to live.


Essential Oils for Mental Health

For thousands of years and in cultures worldwide—Egypt, India, China, Greece, France—essential oils have been used for various purposes, including healing the body and mind.

Today, there’s increasing interest in how essential oils may support psychological healing. For those struggling with mental health disorders and seeking a holistic approach to treatment, this page provides valuable information about how essential oils can positively affect mental health.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are plant extracts that (as their name implies) contain the highly concentrated “essence” of a plant. They are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aromatic oils, or aromatherapy oils. They tend to be fragrant and aromatic, with a distinctively pleasing scent.

Essential oils can be extracted from various parts of a plant: roots, stems, bark, seeds, leaves, flowers, or fruits. And it can take several pounds of a plant to create a single bottle of essential oil!

Because essential oils are made of extremely small molecules, they can easily penetrate the body’s cells, and some can even cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes essential oils different from fatty acids in animal and vegetable oils, which have larger molecules and do not have the same therapeutic effects.

Essential Oil Extraction Methods

Essential oils are most frequently produced by either steaming or pressing the specific part of the plant (root, seed, leaf, etc.) to extract the compounds that produce its fragrance. But steaming and pressing are not the only extraction methods.

A complete list of methods used to extract essential oils includes:

  • Steam Distillation—steam vaporizes volatile compounds, which then condense.
  • Cold Press Extraction—plant material is pressed/crushed.
  • Solvent Extraction—food-grade solvents isolate the oils.
  • CO2 Extraction—using cold CO2 liquefied gas.
  • Maceration—immersion in water, oil, or alcohol.
  • Enfleurage—using odorless animal or vegetable fats.
  • Water Distillation—using boiling water to extract the oils.

What is Aromatherapy?

An “aroma” is a scent, and “therapy” is an alternative medicine treatment with some health benefits. So, aromatherapy uses the fragrant parts of aromatic plants to enhance health and provide therapeutic benefits. Once the aromatic essence of a plant has been extracted into an essential oil, it’s ready to be used in aromatherapy to support physical and mental health.

When they are part of the plant, the essential oil blend protects it from pests and predators and attracts pollinators. In this way, essential oils are part of the plant’s immune system. When humans use essential oil, they harness the healing and protective powers of the plant.

Ways of Using Essential Oils

Essential oils can be applied in various ways to activate their healing benefits. They can, for instance, be:

  • Inhaled directly from the bottle.
  • Inhaled via a diffuser or humidifier.
  • Applied (in diluted form) directly onto the skin.
  • Mixed into a lotion and applied via massage.
  • Added (a few drops) to a warm bath.
  • Added to soap, shampoo, or body wash.
  • Sprinkled onto a pillow.

How Do Essential Oils Affect Mental Health?

Essential oils can be a holistic healing modality to support mental-emotional well-being. For instance, they are often used to help alleviate anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Five essential oils commonly used to positively affect mental health are:

* Lavender—to soothe nervousness, treat anxiety and symptoms of depression, and help resolve sleep issues.

* Cedarwood—stress relieving, enhancing focus, and helping resolve depression.

* Frankincense—to lift mood, balance hormones, promote relaxation, alleviate depression, and enhance comfort and peace.

* Chamomile—to promote relaxation and relieve depression. Because it acts as an anti-inflammatory, it’s especially good for resolving anxiety and depression causing digestive issues (inflammation in the gut).

* Grapefruit—to uplift, invigorate, energize, and help fight cravings when recovering from addiction.

Essential Oils to Relieve Anxiety & Promote Relaxation

One of the most well-known benefits of essential oils is their ability to relieve emotional stress and anxiety symptoms. Some essential oils have sedative properties that induce a peaceful, calm, and relaxed feeling.

The essential oils most often used to help relieve anxiety and stress are:

  • Lavender
  • Rose Oil
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Citrus Bergamia
  • Lemon Oil
  • Bergamot
  • Peppermint Oil

Essential Oils to Relieve Depression & Enhance Mood

Essential oils can also help relieve depression, enhance mood, and uplift and energize the body-mind. Those most commonly used for this purpose include:

  • Bergamot
  • Lavender
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Cedarwood

Essential Oils to Support Restful Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to maintaining overall health and wellness. Essential oils with sedative properties can benefit people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. These oils can help provide the person with quality sleep. 

Lavender oil is the most well-known essential oil for supporting restful sleep by enhancing feelings of calm and relaxation.

The complete list of essential oils that can promote a restful slumber includes:

  • Lavender
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Bergamot
  • Vetiver

Essential Oils to Help Alleviate PTSD

Veterans and others who have PTSD can use essential oils to help alleviate the various symptoms associated with this mental disorder. For instance:

* Lavender essential oil can help with fear, anxiety, stress relief, panic, and depression and reduce nightmares and sleep disturbances.

* Bergamot essential oil can help relieve fear and anxiety.

* Ylang Ylang and Clary Sage essential oils can help to calm feelings of anger and rage.

* Frankincense, Chamomile, and Sandalwood can also help relieve various PTSD symptoms.

* Mandarin, Rose, Sandalwood, and Vetiver may help resolve PTSD symptoms.

How Do Essential Oils for Mental Health Work?

The most potent healing compounds are gathered into a single oil by extracting the aromatic oils of the plants. And the fragrant nature of essential oils affects the human body in powerful ways that have to do with the functioning of the limbic system.

When they are inhaled, the scent molecules within an essential oil travel through the nose to the olfactory nerves and into the brain. In particular, scents activate the limbic system.

The limbic system—known as the “emotional brain”—is responsible for heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. One part of the limbic system that plays a central role in emotional responses is the amygdala.

The amygdala is involved with feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger—as well as pleasure. In particular, the amygdala connects emotional content to specific memories. In this way, it plays an essential role in determining which memories are stored and how long-lasting they are. Memories with strong emotional associations tend to be retained long-term.

This relationship between the limbic system, scents, and emotions explains why certain smells can trigger strong emotional responses. And it explains how the inhalation of essential oils can have profoundly beneficial psychological effects.

Essential Oils for Mental Health at Solara Mental Health

While essential oils can benefit people struggling with addiction or mental disorders, they do not replace professional care. Treatment programs that incorporate holistic modalities with more conventional mental health protocols provide an ideal setting for recovery.  

Solara Mental Health is an inpatient mental health treatment center in San Diego, California that specializes in helping the veteran population and those with VA insurance. Located in beautiful Pacific Beach, California, Solara’s beachfront, semi-private and private studio residences, chef-prepared meals, and the adjoining professional psychiatric treatment center provide a uniquely powerful setting for healing and transformation.

Solara’s treatment team is comprised of compassionate, professional, and experienced experts in the mental health field. From the first interaction a veteran or a loved one has with Solara Mental Health, they will sense a genuine desire and commitment to helping those in need of healing.

What Our Clients Say


The Solara Treatment Program was a life-changing experience for me. To be able to heal in such a beautiful, peaceful environment, with such a terrific treatment team, was so amazingly positive. I have found my true self, again. I thank you and my family thanks you for helping me become the person I was meant to be.

M.P. – Father

Your program provided our daughter with the most masterful therapist we have ever encountered (and we have used many).  She has had an unbelievable ability to see the long-term trajectory of our daughter’s treatment and to approach her treatment in stages that fit where my daughter’s development was.  We can’t say enough positive about her.

Michelle Family

I want to thank you and the entire staff and support system at Solara for taking such good care of my sister. On behalf of my entire family, we want you all to understand that your patience and kindness stretches further than you can see… Thank you, again and again, from the bottom of my heart.


The Solara program is truly amazing. I’ve never had more clarity or more good energy in my entire life. The attention the physicians and the therapists gave me was outstanding. I feel like they truly understood and addressed my issues, which had consumed my life for years. Thank you all.


I have never felt better than I do now, since completing your program. The truly caring and supportive staff and the intensive program changed my life. What a neat place to stay for treatment - I love Pacific Beach! I have learned skills and behavior to move forward with my life thanks to you.


Solara was truly a life-changing experience for me and for our children, because of what you did for my wife! The treatment team was phenomenally supportive and perfect for helping her with her anxiety and depression. We are all now moving forward to put our lives back together and it started with you all in Pacific Beach. Thank you for what you do.

R.M. – Father

If not for Solara Mental Health, I am almost positive that our daughter would not be as advanced in her treatment, and would not have the almost miraculous confident and positive outlook that she has.


The therapists and counselors and really whole team were extremely beneficial to me and my understanding of my issues. The treatment plan they developed was exactly what I needed

Watson Family

Solara’s program was such a positive experience for our mom (and for us)! She had become almost impossible to deal with. Your entire staff was phenomenally supportive and kind and patient with her. We feel like we’ve got our mom back, now.


The program has given me the tools I needed to really gain stability. For the first time in years - maybe for as long as I can remember, actually, I’m learning how to cope and manage my stressors and triggers. I now believe that I can find some relief and happiness.


Even though I’m not religious, I realized when I got sober that for the first time in my life I wanted to explore my spiritual side. I benefited hugely from the individual spiritual sessions that I had with Chris. I’m really grateful for that aspect of the whole treatment experience.


We are so grateful to you for the treatment and care you provided our daughter. She is doing unbelievably well now thanks to your program. We will gladly tell anyone we encounter that needs treatment about the wonderful work you do at Solara.