Aromatherapy is the use of organic compounds called essential oils to improve a person’s mood, mental state, or health. The oils are extracted from various plant parts, such as roots, seeds, leaves, and blossoms, and can be blended together. Treatment involves diffusing oil into the air, dissolving it in a bath, or applying it during a massage, among other techniques.
How Aromatherapy Works
Researchers aren’t sure how aromatherapy works, but most believe that chemicals in essential oils trigger smell receptors in the nose that are connected to areas of the brain related to mood. For people with depression, certain oils are believed to bring about a sense of calm or to elevate mood. Methods of aromatherapy include:
• Diffusion. Diffusion is the process of spreading a scent gently and continuously throughout an area. This is usually done by a machine called a diffuser, which will allow you to transform a room or your entire house into a therapy solution.
• Room spray. Sprays are good way to get scents into an area quickly and conveniently. You can buy them premixed, or add some of your favorite oils to water in a spray bottle to make your own.
• Massage. Aromatherapy oils are a popular addition to a full-body massage. Combining aromatherapy with massage is a great way to relax and ease away both physical and mental stress.
• Baths. Various oils and salts that contain oils are available to turn your bath or shower into a relaxing, therapeutic experience.
• Skin and hair products. Scented beauty products are an easy way to keep a scent with you throughout the day.
The following essential oils are sometimes used to help ease the effects of depression:
• clary sage
Pros of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is an easy way to help beat stress with calming and relaxing scents. The oils are usually inexpensive, and usage is simple.
Cons of Aromatherapy
Although aromatherapy is generally safe, the oils could cause an averse or allergic reaction in some people. People who are particularly sensitive to strong scents should consider other options. Like most alternative therapies, aromatherapy should not be used as the only therapy for moderate to severe depression.
There is little to no clinical research to support the efficacy of aromatherapy as a treatment for depression. However, people often use it as a complement to more traditional depression treatments.
Essential oils used for depression are basil, bergamot, cedarwood, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, jasmine, myrrh, neroli, rose, sandalwood, spruce, orange, and ylang ylang.
Essential oils that can have a positive influence on feelings of anger, which are associated with depression, include rose, chamomile, ylang ylang, and rosemary. If the depression is associated with a loss, then essential oils helpful for grief and bereavement, such as lavender, rose, frankincense, neroli, hyssop, and marjoram, should be included.
Many of the essential oils used for depression are from flowers and fruit. These essences have an uplifting effect on the mind and emotions.
Inhalation blend for mild depression
4 parts Clary sage essential oil
4 parts Ylang ylang essential oil
3parts Geranium essential oil
2 parts Basil essential oil
1 part Sandalwood essential oil
Mix the above essential oils in an amber glass bottle, Label. Use three to four times daily.
Essential Oil Blend for Depression
German chamomile (matricaria recutita)
Mix the oil together. Place it in a bowl of steaming water (2 or 3 drops), or in a bath (5 or 6 drops ), or on the edge of your pillow (1 or 2 drops).
An aromatic bath two to three times per week is especially helpful for depression. Sometimes the aromatic baths are effective enough on their own as a remedy for mild bouts of depression or feeling blue.
Aromatic Bath for the Blues
For mild bouts of depression
1/4 cup Honey (or almond, canola, soy and safflower) 3 drops Lavender essential oil
3 drops Ylang ylang essential oil
2 drops Basil essential oil
2 drops Geranium essential oil
1 drop Grapefruit essential oil
Mix the essential oils in the honey. Fill the bath tub with warm water and then add the aromatic honey mixture. Stir well using your hands. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
An aromatherapy massage is one of the best ways you can treat yourself It is pampering and nurturing, in addition to very satisfying. Massage and aromatherapy go hand in hand in treating nervous system ailments such as depression.
A concentrated massage oil for mild depression 2 tblsp. sweet almond oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp. Wheat germ oil
8 drops Lavender essential oil
8 drops Ylang ylang essential oil 2 drops Basil essential oil
2 drops Geranium essential oil 2 drops Bergamot essential oil
Collect the essential oils in an amber glass bottle. Add the sweet almond oil and wheat germ oil. Shake gently and mix well.
Apply a small amount onto the back of the hands and chest area. Inhale the essences from your hands after application to the skin. Apply two or three times daily.
Used as recommended, and under the care of a qualified practitioner, aromatherapy is very safe. Please remember that essential oils are very concentrated. Do not use too much. (Too much is not better in case of essential oils.) Also, please be wary of any allergies people have to essential oils. (Try on a small spot to see whether there is any allergic reactions before exposing the whole body). Caution is particularly recommended for patients who are pregnant, have allergy, high blood pressure or epilepsy. Be careful with young children or babies. If you accidentally spill the essential oils on your skin or eye, wash it off immediately with whole milk. Milk with some fat in it is best for reducing irritation and removing the oil actually in the eye. You may also use olive oil or other vegetable oil to resolve any issues if experiencing a burning sensation which would be possible with oils like peppermint. Watch out for inflamed skin if you use essential oils. If you consume the oil by accident, drink lot of milk, eat soft bread, and go to the nearest poison control center for appropriate action.
Oral consumption of aromatic oils are strongly discouraged unless you are under the care and supervision of an experienced practitioner. Many of these essential oils are very toxic. You should not apply the undiluted essential oil on your body as these are very concentrated and you may experience discomfort. The exception to this is lavender oil which can be applied safely in the undiluted form for burns and insect bites.
It is a very good idea to keep your eyes closed while inhaling the aromatic oil. This helps build up your imagery which enhances the effect of the essential oil. It also prevents the “fumes” from irritating the eyes at close range. Don’t apply any oils close to your eyes.
Certain oils such as mint oil causes insomnia. Do not use it at night (if you want go to sleep.)