We’ve had a bunch of emails lately asking about the best essential oils for studying and we felt it was our duty to look into it and put something together.
Now, I’m going to start off being honest here. It’s not something I would ever start suggesting to someone I was studying with. There is next to no scientific backing for any of this and a lot of the claims we came across are just trying to sell you something.
While it isn’t an essential oil there is something I am going to suggest if you want better results with less effort. To make the most from your studying don’t focus on the time you invest. Focus on the quality of your study session over the quantity you do. This is one of the key things we focus on and we absolutely think you can get twice the results in half the time. Make sure you grab the free audiobook Unlimited Memory by a chess grandmaster which will absolutely transform your results overnight if you apply the techniques.
Evidence of Essential Oils
There haven’t been any studies into the effects of studying and essential oils specifically. At least not as far as I could find (bar some anecdotal stories which obviously don’t count). So we’re going to have to look at the studies for essential oils themselves for treating other conditions.
Obviously there’s no numbers on studying here – but it should give you a rough idea of the chances they’ll really help your studying. If you find yourself disagreeing with the numbers here then you might want to consider questioning why you’re so certain they work – when all of the evidence says otherwise.
To briefly answer your question here, there have been many clinical trials, particularly around mental health conditions (such as anxiety). The overwhelming evidence shows essential oils to be ineffective in this area.
There was a handful of double-blinded trials that did find topical application of essential oils effective. I will copy in those sections below:
Acne. Surprisingly there has been only two human trials on acne treatment with essential oils, namely tea tree oil. The most recent study included 60 patients with mild to moderate acne over a 45 day period. Half received a 5% tea tree oil gel while the other half (the control group) received a placebo gel without any active ingredients (27).
The 5% tea tree oil was effective in reducing both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions compared with the placebo gel. Researchers speculate this was due to the reported anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil.
The older study found that both 5% tea tree oil and 5% benzoyl peroxide (conventional acne treatment) significantly improved acne symptoms in 124 patients, though tea tree oil was slower to take effect (28).
Headaches. Two human studies by the same research team have shown that topical application of peppermint oil may effectively reduce headache symptoms.
The first study on 32 patients found that a 10% peppermint oil preparation had a significant analgesic effect when sponged on the forehead and temples (29).
The second was more well-designed and studied four headache attacks per person, in a total of 41 patients. 10% peppermint oil was shown to be just as effective as 1000 mg acetaminophen (conventional headache drug), significantly reducing headache intensity after 15 minutes (30).
You can see this answer and more on this Quora question.
Frankincense (boswellia carterii)
Action on the mind, body, emotions and spirit
Frankincense is a fabulous essential oil that possesses cephalic and fixative therapeutic properties which have a direct action on helping us to stay focused and maintain concentration.
In addition, frankincense helps to create space in our psyche and energy in our body (essential components for effective study) by slowing down, deepening and lengthening the breath. This has the knock-on effect of reducing tension, worry, fear, stress and anxiety so that we can focus our efforts on the task at hand.
Don’t be confused by the fact that frankincense is a sedative because this does not mean it will send us to sleep. Rather, it helps us to stay calm and relaxed, grounded and centred and able to undertake the task of study with greater ease… it will also not keep us awake when we would rather be asleep!
So if you are studying in the evening, frankincense is probably the oil of choice, rather than the more stimulating and awakening oils of rosemary and lemon.
Warm, smoky and woody with a hint of lemon and a touch of the mystic!
Cephalic, fixative, sedative, tonic (respiratory).
Avoid during 1st trimester of pregnancy
Action on the mind, body, emotions and spirit
Lemon is all about cleansing, cleaning, clearing and creating anew: excellent qualities to have when focus is needed for study or work!
As a cephalic it helps to focus the mind and improve our ability to memorize. As a stimulant for the hippocampus, it is known to significantly increase our ability to concentrate… therefore making lemon an essential companion for work and study!
The aroma of the oil is sweet and refreshing and pleasing to many which has the benefit of lifting our spirits and improving our moods. This helps to remove stress, anxiety, fear and worry and make study or work a more pleasurable experience.
Oh and as an immune stimulant and circulatory tonic, lemon has the knock-on effect of keeping us well, healthy and vibrant so we can keep going and minimize the downtime we experience when we’re unwell!
*The hippocampus is involved in the storage of long-term memory, which includes all past knowledge and experiences.