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Depression has become seemingly common these days. Everyone knows someone with depression or someone who knows another person suffering from depression. On average, 1 in every four people suffer from depression. But it can be curbed in the initial stages. Some signs and symptoms can indicate oncoming depression in a person and can be treated at the early phase.
Depression is a kind of mood disorder, but it can affect the person emotionally as well as physically. The most common symptoms seen in a person are anxiety, sadness, restlessness, difficulty in sleeping, low self-esteem, loss of appetite, fatigue, etc. The list may seem long, but the symptoms vary from person to person. These symptoms can be cured by many natural remedies, one of which is the use of essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are, basically, plant extracts. Every plant has its natural fragrance or flavour which we usually call the ‘essence’ of that plant. This essence captured in the form of oil is called essential oil. These oils have a strong aromatic effect. They can be obtained naturally by cold pressing or distilling any part of the plant like the stem, flower, roots, bark or leaves.
Essential oils are mainly used for aromatherapy. They can be inhaled, diluted and rubbed on the skin. But these are topical remedies. They are not meant to be consumed or eaten. Also, not all essential oils are applied to the skin. Certain essential oils with qualities that can be absorbed in the skin for good are the only ones that can be applied topically.
Effectiveness of Essential Oils on Depression
It is important to note at this point that using essential oils is not a cure for depression. It is a natural, drug-free option for relieving some of the symptoms of depression. Also, this method is free of any side effects.
Studies have shown that using essential oils does help to relieve the effects of depression. People who experience sleep disturbances can sleep better, frequent mood swings have been stabilized among some people, and many have also felt their stress and anxiety reduced by the aromatherapy.
Essential Oils for Depression
Essential oils are incredibly powerful because they exude strong scents. These scents affect the limbic system directly and have the power to trigger memories and moods. The change in emotion positively plays a strong role in fighting off depression.
The top essential oils for fighting depression are as follows:
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is the most common fragrance and can be recognized immediately by everyone. The lovely aroma of Lavender has been used for calmness since the time of Romans. Recently, research has shown that Lavender can help in combatting anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Lavender carries calming effects and soothes the mind.
According to a study, Lavender as an aroma oil was prescribed to women for fighting the high risk of postpartum depression. By taking the aromatherapy at home for four weeks, it had been observed that there was a significant reduction in postnatal depression. The positive findings in the study suggest that lavender essential oil can be used in treating symptoms of depression as well as anxiety.
Another study also deduced that it also helps in fighting PTSD which directly leads to depression. When used on a daily basis, lavender oil helped reduce depression by 32.7% and improved the moods and sleeping patterns among the PTSD patients.
Using Lavender Essential Oils
- Diffusion: One method is to use a diffuser. Put the diffuser in the bedroom at night and diffuse lavender oil while sleeping. It calms the mind and relaxes the body which increases focus and clarity, helps in sleeping and reduces depressive thoughts.
- Topical application: Another method is to rub the essential oil behind ears and on wrists. The oil enters the bloodstream within 5 minutes and has the same effect as diffusion.
- Direct inhalation: When the feeling of irritability or anxiety is too much, the oil can be inhaled directly from the bottle. The strong aroma helps in calming down immediately.
2. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
The most popular perfume in the world, Chanel No. 5, uses Ylang Ylang as its main ingredient. Ylang Ylang essential oil is extracted from the flower petals of the Ylang Ylang tree. The petals of the bright yellow flowers have an incredibly sweet and flowery scent. The strong, sweet smell helps curb the symptoms of depression and stress.
Ylang Ylang also restores hormonal balance in the body. Hormonal imbalance cause irritation, bad moods, and depression. Thus hormonal balance takes away all those problems. Ylang Ylang is also a mild sedative. Thus it calms the mind and takes away the stress.
Using Ylang Ylang essential oil:
- Topical application: Rub the essential oil on trigger points like behind the ears, neck, wrist, and feet. Once it absorbs and gets into the bloodstream, it improves the mood and reduces feelings of irritation.
- Pairing: To restore the hormonal balance, Ylang Ylang essential oil can be paired with orange essential oil, another hormone balancer. Adding three drops of each of these into the diffuser can balance the mood and calm your nerves.
3. Grapefruit Essential Oil
Grapefruit essential oil has as many benefits as the fruit itself. It gives excellent results in alleviating bad mood, fatigue, and mental exhaustion. The intense citrusy smell energizes the mind and the body. The oil is also known to normalize neuroendocrine hormone levels and improve immunity. Studies have found grapefruit essential oils to be more effective than anti-depressants.
Using grapefruit essential oil:
- Diffusion: Adding a few drops of grapefruit essential oil in the diffuser helps in improving concentration. Even while working, if faced with problems of low attention span, the diffusion of grapefruit oil can help relax and concentrate better.
- Bathing: Adding a few drops of grapefruit essential oil to the shower can help in rejuvenating the body.
4. Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot is citrusy and tastes a lot like earl grey tea. Its oil contains alpha-pinene and limonene which are effective anti-depressants and hormone balancers. It helps in increasing the flow of energy in the body which enhances mental energy levels, increases blood circulation and uplifts the mood.
In 2011, a study was carried out which shows that mixing bergamot essential oil with lavender essential oil relieves anxiety. The blend of oil was applied on the stomach and skin of 40 participants, and it was noted that the mixture not only lowered the blood pressure and pulse rates but also increased the sense of calm and relaxation. These results prove that bergamot oil helps in anxiety and depression.
Using bergamot essential oil:
- Topical application: Directly rub the bergamot essential oil 9preferrable mixed with lavender essential oil) on wrists, stomach, and feet. It elevates the mood and brings calmness.
- Diffusion: Adding three drops of bergamot essential oil with two drops of lavender essential oil in the diffuser calms the mood and relaxes the mind.
5. Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile is also a popular product. It is widely used in teas, candles and even aromatherapy products. Roman Chamomile has a floral scent which helps in calming the mind and body. It mainly helps in eliminating insomnia which is a symptom of anxiety and depression.
Using Roman Chamomile Essential Oil:
- Direct inhalation: Rub 2-3 drops of roman chamomile oil on hands and cup them to the nose and mouth. Breath in slowly and inhale the herbaceous scent deeply. It immediately calms the mind.
- Diffusion: Add a few drops of oil in the diffuser and let it relax the body and calm your mind.
How do essential oils work?
The sense of smell is a powerful connector to the surroundings. People are sensitive to smell, and every person reacts differently to the same smell. According to what they associate to a particular aroma, aromas generate a high intensity of emotions among people. Aromas have both, positive as well as negative effects on the human mind.
The essential oils stimulate the areas of the brain through inhalation or interact with the body because of absorption through the skin and into the bloodstream. When a person inhales the oil, the upper part of the nose which has specialized nerve cells detects the smell. These nerves send the impulse through the olfactory nerve to the part of the brain called the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb processes this smell and delivers the impulse to other neighbouring areas of the brain. These neighbouring areas are known as the limbic system. The limbic system is the area of the brain that controls emotions, moods, memory, and behaviour.
When it comes to essential oils, there is no fixed recipe. Sometimes it affects the symptoms directly while sometimes it improves the effectiveness of other treatments. Though it has no side effects, it is better to consult a doctor or an aromatherapist before using essential oils for treatment, especially depression.