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How the Scent of Herbs can Help with Focus and Anxiety


Herbs have some amazing superpowers which can help to focus, help with anxiety, or simply lift your mood. We show you 10 easy accessible herbs, what they are good for and how you can use them.

Noisli - Smelling Herbs

We’ve already talked about how surrounding ourselves with nature can have a very positive effect on our wellbeing and productivity.
Besides that and the decorative effect, it’s time to take also advantage of their other super powers.

It has been proven that a pleasant scent can have a big influence on us. Researchers found that simply smelling a nice fragrance can lift our mood, help us focus and make us even perform better on tasks.

10 Herbs and their super powers

There are a few scents which are more powerful and have a bigger impact on us than others. Certain herbs are specifically good to help you focus, while others can help you relax or improve your memory. Let’s look at them in more detail!

Noisli - Pine

1. Pine

Remember your last walk into the woods and how refreshing it was? In fact, studies from the Japanese Kyoto University have confirmed that taking a so called “forest bath” (shinrin-yoku*) will reduce stress and has a positive effect on depression and anxiety.

If you can, take a little walk in the forest or plan a little hike on the weekend. If you’re living in the city you can check out a gardening center to bring some pine branches into your home or opt for pine fragrances in candles or room diffusers.

*In Japan, a forest bathing trip, called shinrin-yoku (森林浴) in Japanese, or sēnlínyù (森林浴) in Mandarin and sanlimyok (산림욕) in Korean, is a short, leisurely visit to a forest.A forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, such as a-pinene and limonene.Incorporating forest bathing trips into a good lifestyle was first proposed in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan. It has now become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan. More

Noisli - Cinnamon

2. Cinnamon

Smelling cinnamon can have a very positive effect during cognitive* tasks by enhancing especially memory and alertness.

Bryan Raudenbush, assistant professor of psychology at the Wheeling Jesuit University, found together with his students that

cinnamon improved participants’ scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor response speed.

Another study from 2009, that tested participants during simulated driving, found that the scent of cinnamon makes us more alert and boosts our brain function.

*“Cognition” is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”[1] It encompasses processes such as knowledge, attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language, etc. More.

Noisli - Peppermint

3. Peppermint

Similar to Cinnamon, the scent of Peppermint increases alertness, boosts motivation and can also increase your confidence, speed and energy as a study with athletes has shown.

Peppermint essential oils also improve memory, concentration and clear thinking. Already in the 90’s, researchers Joel Warm and William Dember from the University of Cincinnati found that the peppermint scent helped test subjects perform better. It is thus great during tests in class or during a brainstorming session at work!

Tip: If you buy peppermint flavoured chewing gum you get both the benefits of peppermint and the ones of chewing gum!!

Noisli - Lavender

4. Lavender

If you’re going through a stressful day or you need 5 minutes of pure relax, Lavender is the scent to go.
Inhaling Lavender essential oil can stabilize your mood and help with depression and emotional stress. It can also help to relieve headaches and migraines.

A japanese study find out that when smelling Lavender during work breaks it had a positive effect on the workers and boosted their concentration once back at work.

The scent of Lavender increases alpha brain waves which are usually generated “during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes”. It might therefore enhance your relaxation, enabling you to come back to work more refreshed.
Another great benefit of this essential oil is that it helps to treat insomnia.

So, get your Lavender essential oil and benefit from it before bedtime or to help you relax after a stressful day.

Noisli - Citrus

5. Citrus

The most common citrus fruits include lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. Besides being very healthy and beneficial for your diet, the lemon aroma has some special super powers.

Lemon can first and foremost lift our mood. Studies have shown that inhaling the lemon aroma kept norepinephrine* levels elevated. Low levels of norepinephrine are associated with lack of energy and focus, sleep disorders and mood damping.

This makes it the perfect scent for the morning. Make yourself a glass of water with a freshly squeezed lemon juice in it, absorb its aroma and taste its freshness. This will kick start your day in an energizing way.

*Norepinephrine is an organic chemical in the catecholamine family that functions in the human brain and body as a hormone and neurotransmitter. More.

Noisli - Rosemary

6. Rosemary

Rosemary aroma is the memory booster. Researchers at Northumbria University have proven that adults performed 15% better at memory tasks if the room was rosemary scented.

Another study found that inhaling rosemary oil showed an increase in beta waves in the frontal region, which means higher alertness and thus beneficial for the thinking process. After the test, the test subjects also felt more “fresh” and active.

Rosemary scent together with Citrus seems to be the perfect one to help you wake up in the morning but due to its special memory enhancing capabilities we suggest to use it during class, study sessions or workshops.

Noisli - Jasmine

7. Jasmine

This powerful plant, that blooms at night, has a very intriguing scent and is used in many perfumes. It’s scent is very feminine, sweet and romantic and often associated with an aphrodisiac feeling.

Its essential oil is extracted from the flowers and in order to produce ca. 1 kg of essential oil, around 8 million flowers are needed.

Jasmine is a real mood lifter. Due to its soothing and calming scent it is considered a very revitalising oil helping to restore energy and optimism which can fight anxiety and depression.

Bryan Raudenbush, assistant professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU), found that individuals who smelled jasmine had better sleep quality and once awake their anxiety level was lower.

Due to the fact that they were more relaxed, they also performed better at cognitive tests finding the tests less stressful. The control group who breathed Jasmine showed also an increase level of alertness and thus it can help people stay more focused throughout the day.

Noisli - Bergamot

8. Bergamot

The Bergamot Orange actually falls in the citrus category, but we decided to list it separately because of his diverse benefits. Famous in fragrances, bergamot oil is also used in black tea, called “Earl Grey”. It is also widely used in skin care and makes a perfect deodorant.

Its scent provides a feeling of freshness and gives you an energy boost, thus it is also used as a mood lifter in case of depression and sadness.

Noisli - Vetiver

9. Vetiver

It’s a plant that comes originally from India. The grass is mostly planted to help stabilize the soil but the oil that can be extracted from the roots finds its use in cosmetics and also in the aromatherapy.

A study by Dr. Terry Friedman, regarding the treatment of children with ADHD, has found that this oil is very effective if you suffer from hyperactivity and impatience, lack of focus and concentration and if you’re in general easily distracted.

Noisli - Cedar

10. Cedarwood

Similar to Vetiver, Cedarwood scent is a great herb for focus since its oil contains more than 50% of sesquiterpenes, a chemical that delivers oxygen to our brain cells. It was used in the same study as above and showed very good results in treating children with ADHD.

It’s aroma is very calming and can relieve tension and stress and thus makes it a good remedy against anxiety and depression.

You can get cedarwood as a scented candle or use the essential oil in aroma diffusers. Since cedarwood is also a natural insect repellent, you can get cedarwood wooden balls and put them in closet to make your clothes smell fresh and keep insects at large.


Here’s a quick summary of the 10 herbs and their main benefits in regards to productivity:

Mood: Citrus, Jasmine, Bergamot and Lavender
Relaxation and Stress relievers: Pine, Lavender, Jasmine and Cedarwood
Focus and Alertness: Cinnamon, Peppermint, Vetiver, Cedarwood and Citrus
Memory: Cinnamon and Rosemary
Motivation: Peppermint

Avatar photo Written by Sabine Staggl

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