Over the years, holistic approaches to healing have become increasingly common components of addiction recovery. Yoga, acupuncture, reiki and aromatherapy serve as valuable additions to many treatment programs.

Aromatherapy is an especially easy addition. Traditionally, it’s thought of as a way to promote relaxation. While that’s undoubtedly true, aromatherapy can also aid in addiction recovery, helping to ease physical symptoms associated withdrawal, improve mental clarity and reduce cravings.

Before you stock up on oils, consult with your physician to check if any oils may interfere with any health conditions or medications. Make sure you are using therapeutic grade oils too, as non-therapeutic grade oils are often cut with fillers and can be harmful if ingested.

1. Regulate Emotions & Relax

Recovery can often feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Without substances to regulate emotions, you have to learn how to recalibrate on your own. Aromatherapy is best known for its soothing, relaxing effects. Being able to find balance on your own takes time, but these oils can help you get on track:

  • Citrus oils (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit)
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Ylang ylang
  • Chamomile

2. Get Rid of Brain Fog

People in recovery can experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) for weeks or months after halting substance use. Brain fog, the mental confusion that occurs when you’re no longer using throughout the day, is one of the most common PAWS symptoms. It’s categorized by having difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Mental clarity can provide much-needed relief during recovery. There are a few oils known to reduce fogginess, including:

  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Ginger

3. Reduce Cravings

Psychological and physical cravings are a part of addiction recovery, and they can occur long after substance use and physical withdrawal symptoms cease. Although complete abstinence is the best way to reduce cravings, they can still interrupt your day-to-day. There are several oils known to alleviate cravings:

  • Grapefruit
  • Black pepper
  • Basil
  • Cinnamon

4. Boost Mindfulness

One of the key elements of holistic treatment is mindfulness and being present in the moment. We spend so much of our days analyzing the past and thinking about the future that we forget about what’s happening right now. If mindfulness or meditation is a part of your routine, considering incorporating these oils into your practice:

  • Sandalwood
  • Cedarwood
  • Eucalyptus

5. Alleviate Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms from PAWS are common, especially in the early stages of recovery. Not feeling well is a distraction that can take your attention away from healing. Whether you’re suffering from headaches, muscle tension, nausea or any other ailment, these oils can help:

  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Clove

How to Use Essential Oils for Addiction Recovery

Aromatherapy is relatively simple to understand and implement into your day-to-day routine, making it an ideal addition to your recovery plan. You can experience the benefits of essential oils in a number of ways. They can be:

  • Inhaled. Slowly breathe in the oil by holding it directly under your nose, or add one to two drops to your palms, rub together and inhale.
  • Applied topically. Oils can be applied directly to the wrists, temples, neck and feet. You may want to mix the oil with a carrier oil, like coconut, almond or jojoba oil, especially if you have sensitive skin. This helps the oil absorb more quickly and reduces the abrasiveness of certain oils. To alleviate nausea or muscle soreness, rub a few drops of peppermint oil onto the stomach or sore muscle.
  • Diffused. Any oil can be diffused in a reed or vapor diffuser. Add five to six drops to a vapor diffuser and breathe in the benefits. Using a diffuser is a great way to use oils that promote relaxation before bedtime or during meditation.
  • Ingested. Before ingesting an oil, make sure you are using a pure, therapeutic grade oil that is not cut with any filler ingredients. Ylang-ylang, chamomile, lavender and ginger can be added to tea. Put a drop of peppermint oil on your tongue to reduce nausea.

Essential oils aren’t a cure-all elixir for people in recovery, but if you’re a proponent of holistic healing and your goal is to improve your overall well-being, incorporating essential oils into your daily routine might be worth the effort.

Guardian IOP is no stranger to alternative therapies. In addition to traditional treatment methods, we also offer yoga therapy and breathwork therapy to heal mind, body and spirit. Learn how our addiction treatment programs can help you or someone you love by calling 855-517-1871.


Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.