Essential Oils For Depression
Can essential oils help with anxiety and depression?
Depression is a highly complex and multifaceted condition that is incredibly difficult to live with and very complicated to treat. For those with chronic depression, it is very important that you speak with your GP as this can potentially be very dangerous otherwise and lead to a number of serious health problems and possibly even suicide. They may then recommend medications to help you with the condition, or refer you to a therapist.
But it should be noted that even a GP or therapist cannot ‘cure’ depression right away. This is going to be a personal journey and something that will take a lot of hard work and ongoing treatment to address.
So if you’re coming into this article hoping that you will find an immediate cure for your mood disorder that will make you feel happy and carefree, then you might well be disappointed. Instead, essential oils are simply a useful part of a larger strategy to address this serious psychological condition. Essential oils may be helpful as a natural addition to the treatment options prescribed by your doctors.
In this post, we’ll look at how essential oils can help treat depression, how you should go about using them and how they may be used synergistically with other methods.
How Essential Oils Can Aid Depression
So how can essential oils possibly have any impact on depression?
There are actually two potential methods. The first is aromatherapy, which can have a number of effects on the brain. Essentially, by inhaling the scents produced by these oils, you can impact on the chemical balance of your brain and thereby improve your mood. In case this sounds dangerous, bear in mind that lots of the foods and things we eat will also have a similar effect on our neurotransmitters. In fact, nearly everything you eat, smell, see, hear and do will change the chemical balance of your brain which is why our mood changes all the time!
There’s a lot of pseudoscience and nonsense around the web regarding this subject though so be careful what you listen to. One source I found while researching this topic stated that lavender oil could ‘break down the fast brain wave’. Which is just about completely inaccurate…
And note that inhaling the fumes of essential oils also isn’t going to transform your mood overnight. This is a subtle and mild effect – which is actually one of the things that makes it so useful and such a safe and highly recommended method. As mentioned, some foods can also boost your ‘happiness’ hormones and neurotransmitters. Any foods containing ‘tryptophan’ for example will boost your mood, but that isn’t to say that eating turkey is going to be make you start singing songs and grinning from ear to ear. Think holistically and think about how you can do lots of small things throughout the day in order to improve your mood.
At the same time, essential oils can also be used for massage which is an excellent way to help yourself relax and unwind. And this is particularly useful if you can get someone else to provide the massage as this results in the release of additional ‘feel good hormones’ such as oxytocin.
Essential oils are also very calming and relaxing when used in either way, which is particularly effective for helping to treat anxiety in particular. In fact, a particularly good way to use essential oils is just to smell them or rub them in while relaxing in a perfectly calm and quiet room.
How to Use Essential Oils for Depression
So with all that said, how do you go about using essential oils to treat depression?
One option is to use an oil burner to vaporise the oils. This will allow the scent to enter the air and this is one of the very best advantages of using essential oils for depression – you can make this a continuous benefit and go about your usual activities while simultaneously inhaling the scents that will boost your mood! Simply fill the bowl at the top of the burner and add a couple of drops of essential oils to the water. Now place a tea light underneath the boil and this will evaporate the water and the oil into the air to distribute the scent.
Another option is to use oils as massage. Simply combine the oil in question with a carrier oil where necessary and rub it gently into the skin using a circular motion.
Finally, you can add oils to your bath which will allow the muscles to soak while at the same time letting you inhale the scents and really properly relax.
Whichever option you choose, add some calming music and make this into an opportunity to really rewind and to try and let go of your daily stresses and concerns.
Finally, one more option is to add a couple of drops of your chosen oil to a tissue and then just to inhale that for 5 minute intervals throughout the day.
The Best Essential Oils for Depression
So now you know how essential oils work to improve depressive symptoms, the next question is which ones you should use. Here are a few good options…
Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot oil can boost the brain’s production of serotonin. As serotonin is the body’s ‘natural’ antidepressant this can make a great way to relax and feel a little happier. Serotonin also helps sleep, so this is a good one to use before you hit the sack.
Cacao Essential Oil
This is the essential oil that comes from the bean that makes chocolate. You might remember that chocolate produces oxytocin – the love hormone. Well, this oil does that while also stimulating the production of serotonin and dopamine (a neurotransmitter linked to reward). It should help to produce feelings of joy and happiness.
Frankincense oil is something that is well known for its calming and relaxing effects and many people choose to fill their homes with it for that reason alone. This also makes it an excellent treatment for anxiety, which often goes hand in hand with depression. If you’re looking for a way to relax after a hard day, the using frankincense may be a good option.
Ginger oil is another useful one for increasing serotonin. A particularly effective way to use ginger oil is in massage, as it can be absorbed through the skin and will increase serotonin that way.
Lavender oil is useful for a wide range of applications and among other things can reduce anxiety, improve sleep and help the mood. This is a good ‘cure all’ to include in your scent arsenal.
Other Treatments for Depression
If you have learned anything about treatments for depression, then you might well notice that the way these essential oils work is actually quite similar to the way that many actually antidepressant medications work.
Specifically, antidepressants tend to work by increasing serotonin in the brain. Only their effect is much stronger. For example, SSRIs are ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors’ which means that they block the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, meaning that more remains free in the brain to travel and have effects.
The problem is that SSRIs can be highly addictive as they may lead to dependency and tolerance. This is why a gentler and more natural approach might be more appropriate.
Either way though, what’s really important is to get to the root of the problem and to address the thought processes that are leading to depressive symptoms. In particular, the brain produces hormones and neurotransmitters based on the way you feel about certain events. Therefore, if you can change your reaction to things going on in your life, you can alter the balance of chemicals. Effective psychological treatment uses medication only as a stop gap while using ‘talking cures’ to help patients get to the bottom of their symptoms.
One of the most effective forms of therapy can be used to this end is ‘CBT’ or ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’. CBT is a framework and a set of tools that helps patients to change the way they think about certain situations and this can help them in turn to manage their mood. One of the tools that CBT teaches is a form of meditation called ‘mindfulness’ – which is the perfect accompaniment to some aromatherapy!