Essential oils are concentrated plant oils and depression is a group of conditions including mood disorder, and is a common mental disorder. Do essential oils for depression really work? Essential oils may help relieve mild to moderate depression. Essential oils can help major depression or anxiety and lower certain symptoms of depression.
Depression is a global disease. As per a report by the World Health Organization, nearly 5% of all adults across the world suffer from depression. Depression is largely characterized by the lack of interest in activities that were fun once up on a time. It is also characterized by prolonged sadness and tiredness. In such as state of mind it becomes hard to concentrate on tasks at hand. Depression can often lead to other diseases and affects the quality of life of a person.
Unfortunately the causes of depression are not hard and fast. Life events, upbringing, affinity to certain people, present life issues et al. play a complex role in how depression starts or progresses. Both psychological and pharmacological types of treatments exist, but these are available in every part of the world and neither affordable nor accessible to every patient. Essential oils for depression are available everywhere and they are not too expensive.
Essential oils are recommended as a supplementary form of therapy for combating mental illnesses such as depression. The International Journal of Molecular Sciences in May 2021 published a study that evaluated the effect of essential oils on mood disorders and the nervous and respiratory systems. It concluded that essential oils showed antidepressant and anxiolytic effects in both humans and animals. It can also be used as a therapy for anxiety disorders and depression. (1)
Another research in Molecules published on July 2017 evaluated the effect of essential oils and its constituents on depressive disorders. The data from the study shows that essential oils and its constituents or compounds have the potential of treating depressive disorders. (2) However, it needs to be mentioned that no agencies monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. Talk with a healthcare professional before the use of essential oils.
Now there are different types of depression (and possible complication of depression)broadly classified as following:
- Major depressive disorder
- Bipolar affecting disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Postpartum depression
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
There are different symptoms of depression and anxiety. The common symptoms are the following:
- Always being in a low mood
- Not enjoying things that you once enjoyed
- Not able to remember thing and not able to concentrate
- Drastic changes in sleep pattern
- Drastic changes in eating pattern
- Not taking care of oneself
- Constant health issues
- Hopelessness and pessimism
- Getting irritated quickly and frequently
- Getting angry
These are many of the symptoms that are associated with different types of depression. But, anyone who has aromatherapy can look at these symptoms and think out aloud that these are the same symptoms that essential oils can beat. In this article we will look at evidence based essential oils for depression.
Best Essential Oils For Depression
Research has shown that certain essential oils and essential oils blend lessens the problems associated with depression. (The research listed here has strict sourcing guidelines and is from academic research institutions.)
1. Lavender Essential Oil for Depression
Perhaps no other essential oil has been as widely researched as lavender oil for its role in mental health. Lavender oil is used in aromatherapy for treating the symptoms of depression such as mitigating anger, uplifting mood and getting a good night’s sleep.
The Central Asian Journal of Global Health in March 2020 published a study that conclude that lavender oil can be used as a simple, affordable and complementary in treating mild and moderate depression. Aromatherapy was performed on patients suffering from different ailments.
The results indicated that aromatherapy using lavender oil was positive amongst most patients. It is thought to reduce the release of stress hormones and ease symptoms of depression. The safety and efficacy of lavender oil is considered good. (3)
A clinical trial was conducted, again with lavender essential oil, to evaluate the effect of aromatherapy on stress, anxiety and depression on patients who had undergone hemodialysis. It concluded, yet again, that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil can be used as a complementary treatment for depression and anxiety among patients. This study was published on September 2017.
2. Basil Essential Oil for Depression and Anxiety
The essential oil extracted from Ocimum basilicum has antidepressant properties. The plant and its leaves have been used in traditional medicine for a long time. A study by Dr. Veronica Gradinariu and Dr. Oana Cioanca, published on September 2014 analyzed the anxiolytic and antidepressant proprieties of basil essential oil upon inhalation.
This study was conducted on lab rats who were induced with anxiety and depression. The study concluded that basil essential oil and its ingredients including linalool, camphor and beta elemene were effective in countering the effect of anxiety and depression. (4)
3. Inhalation Aromatherapy with Chamomile Oil for depression
Chamomile and both its variants (Roman and German chamomile) are considered to be gentle essential oils with several therapeutic properties. The aroma of the oil is floral in nature and it is known to have antidepressant properties.
But, what does research tell? A randomized controlled trial among community dwelling adults was conducted to see if aromatherapy inhalation with chamomile essential oil decreased stress, anxiety and/or depression. 183 adults participated in the study and were divided into three groups for 30 days. It was found that the group that inhaled chamomile essential oil reported a decrease in anxiety, stress and depression after 30 days.
Another study on lab rats evaluated the effect of Roman chamomile essential inhalation on depression. It was found that Roman chamomile oil and its compound alpha pinene decreased depressive-like behavior in the rats. (5)
4. Clove Essential Oil For Mobility and Depression
The essential oil of clove is extracted from Eugenia caryophyllata belonging to the Myrtaceae family of plants. Clove oil has several therapeutic benefits, but it was seldom used in treating depression. That was until Dr. Ashish Mehta, Dr. Sumita Halder and team not only does clove essential oil useful against depression it also enhances locomotor activity. The study on animal models was published in Nutritional Neuroscience on November 2013. (6)
5. Bergamot Essential Oil Treats Depression
Bergamot essential oil from the Citrus bergamia plant is a citrus based essential oil which invigorates the body when inhaled. Citrus oils are known to energize the body when inhaled or topically applied. A study was conducted and published on October 2015 in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet thangphaet.
The study evaluated the effect that bergamot oil had on chronic stressed rats. The result showed that inhaling bergamot oil decreased certain aspects of depression in the rats. (7)
6. Anti-stress Effect of Lemon essential Oil
Lemon oil is a citrus scented oil that rejuvenates the mind. A study published on September 2006 analyzed the anti-stress nature of lavender, rose and lemon essential oils on lab rats. The results showed that lemon essential oil gave better outcomes in overcoming depression and stress. (8)
7. Garlic essential Oil As Antidepressant
Anyone who has ever sniffed the aroma of raw garlic would be skeptical about its inclusion in this list. Can the strong pungent aroma of garlic oil be useful against depression? A study published in Food and Function on December 2019 used garlic oil on stress-induced depression in rats.
The study found better brain function in the rats that inhaled the oil. The oil can be blended with ylang-ylang oil to lessen its aroma. Even a hand massage with the oil has relaxing effect which lower stress. (9)
8. Treating Depression with Orange Essential Oil
The aroma of orange evokes fond memories. The aromatic molecules of the oil also have antidepressant properties as proven by a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The study conducted on in 2019 analyzed the antidepressant properties of the essential oil of Citrus sinensis.
This study conducted on lab mice found that inhalation of the orange oil aroma significantly decreased the depression-like behaviors. The limonene content in the oil is responsible for its antidepressant properties. (10)
How Essential Oils Work On Anxiety, Stress And Depression
There are two main methods of using essential oils for depression treatment. These are inhalation aromatherapy and massage aromatherapy.
1. Inhalation Aromatherapy
Essential oils are inhaled through an aroma diffuser, steam inhaler or directly from the bottle. When aroma is inhaled the molecules enter the nose and reach a lining called mucous membrane. Here it is greeted with thousands of receptors that identifies the aroma and through the olfactory bulb sends it through the nerves as a sensory message to the limbic system.
The limbic system is that part of the brain responsible for behavior, emotions and psychological responses. The response triggered by the body after inhaling any aroma is automatic; humans have no part to play in this consciously. The aroma triggers specific response or memories which stimulates the secretion of hormones.
This balances the hormones in the body which acts as a tonic for body functions. From the moment the aroma is inhaled, the body starts to normalize its function, it happens quickly. It is why aromatherapy is recommended to be done for 15 to 30 minutes so that the body takes its time to normalize.
2. Aromatherapy Massage
Essential oil for aromatherapy is also done through topical application. Skin is the largest organ in the human body and is porous or absorbent in nature. The molecules of essential oils when applied on the skin are able to pass through the outer layer called the epidermis. Once they enter the inner part of the skin, the molecules pass through the dermis; and once it enters the capillaries, it enters the blood stream.
The speed of blood flow and the temperature of the skin affect the absorption of the oil. By massaging the oil on the skin, both the rate of blood flow and skin temperature increases. This is why aromatherapy massage is suggested for the whole body because larger surface area of the skin causes faster absorption.
Another factor that improves skin absorption is thin skin. The skin is thin on the inside of the wrists, palms, behind the ears and abdomen. Apply them to your skin and it will be absorbed through the skin.
But how does topical application of essential oils effect depression? The International Journal of Palliative Nursing in 2007 published a study that showcased how aromatherapy massage induced relaxation and improved quality of life of cancer patients. (11)
How To Use Essential Oils For Depression Treatment
Always follow the how to use instruction on essential oil bottles, or as advised by aromatherapists to use these oils safely. People who have serious medical conditions or who are on strong medications must consult their doctors before using certain essential oils.
There are several essential oils with different active ingredients which may allergic or fatal with certain diseases and its medications. Make sure to consult a doctor before using essential oils in such cases.
The potent and concentrated essential oils can cause irritation to the skin and redness if applied directly. So, to avoid trouble with essential oils it is always a good idea to apply it after diluting with carrier oils or other lotions or creams.
Carrier oils are the best oils that dilute the essential oils and make them safe for the skin. It carries the concentrated oil on the skin and helps absorb its nutrients. There are many carrier oils with own properties and compounds and fatty acids. These oils nourish the body and aid lower depression. The carrier oils for aromatherapy massage are:
- Almond oil
- Jojoba oil
- Coconut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Virgin coconut oil
- Castor oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Avocado oil
How To Mix Essential Oils With Carrier Oils?
The portion of essential oil in the blend of essential oils and carrier oils must be around 2.5% for adults. This is a recommended level by National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy or NAHA. Aromatherapists usually keep the portion of essential oils around 1% to 5%.
In normal terms, 3 drops of essential oil is mixed with one tablespoon of carrier oil. The skin type and the potency of the essential oil are also taken into consideration while mixing essential oils for aromatherapy. (12)
Using Essential Oils For Depression
Essential oils for stress, anxiety and depression are formulated and packed in small roll-on bottles. These roll-ons for depression are available at Gya Labs. Whenever anyone is feeling stressed open the bottle and roll-on the contents on the skin (wrists, neck etc) and inhale the aroma few times to conquer stress.
People can make their own roll-on bottles for stress as well. All they need is a roll-on bottle, essential oil or oils and carrier oils. Fill two-tenths of the bottle with essential oil or oils and the remaining with carrier oil. Seal it tightly and apply it whenever needed.
If you are feeling stressed constantly, you can apply the essential oil on the collar of your shirt and keep inhaling the aroma. The oil can be dropped on the hanky and it can be used to inhale the aroma whenever needed.
Before doing massage with essential oils do a small patch test on the skin (skin patch test) to ensure that the oil does not cause an allergic reaction to the skin. Leave a drop of the diluted oil on the skin overnight and check for irritations. If the oil does not cause any side effects, then it can be used as a massage oil.
Avoid using in case of side effects. Ask your loved one to massage the oil on your head, back of the neck and shoulders. Thorough massage ensures absorption of the oil and good blood flow.
Added To bath water
Essential oils can be added to bath water for treating depression. It does wonders when added to a bath tub. Soaking oneself in a bath tub infused with essential oils in cold or warm water will make the mind calm and relax the nerves. It gives a sense of security and satisfaction.
Add 10 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oils, some Epsom salt and carrier oil and indulge yourself. It would help if one is listening to relaxing music.
Inhaling the Aroma
Aromatherapy is usually the act of inhaling good smells. When good and pleasant aromas are inhaled for a long time it activates brain cells and balances hormones, thus causing the body to function normally. A fit body will cut the mind’s stress by half. Inhaling the aroma will also counter physical pain and discomfort.
Studies have shown that diffusing essential oils in hospitals calms the patients who are about to undergo surgery. Diffusing the oil is also useful in relaxing women going through their menstrual cycle. Inhalation aromatherapy can be done with steam as well. Add a few drops of essential oil into boiling hot water and inhale its steam. Be careful not to get the water bubbles on the skin.
Things To Do For Depression Along With Aromatherapy
Sometimes aromatherapy alone will not conquer depression or stress. Some other hacks should be followed to speed up the healing process. Some such activities are:
- Affirmative words – While doing aromatherapy utter positive words aloud. These can be, “I’m alright”, or “This feeling will go away soon”. These or any other words/sentences will not only instill positivity, but also breaks the train of negative thoughts.
- Reverse Counting – While inhaling the aroma of essential oils count from 10 to 1, in reverse. Counting in reverse helps regain control of one’s thought. This can be taken a step further. Say out loud some tough mathematical equations or spell out difficult words.
- Follow the rule of three – When feeling depressed, say out loud any three things – it can be the name of something nearby including animals or fruits. Then move your focus to three other things.
Choose Essential Oils For Depression
Essential oils are pricey and hence many spurious products have crept up in the market claiming to be genuine oils. Essential oils are safe to use, however the Food and Drug Administration do not regulate essential oils. Hence, while choosing essential oils for depression, be mindful of the following:
- Make sure the bottle has the botanical name of the oil printed.
- Check for the ingredient list on the bottle.
- Make sure that no synthetic substances are added to the oil
- Buy from renowned and trusted vendors only.
Frequently Asked Questions
What essential oils help depression?
There are several essential oils that help with depression. These oils have antidepressant properties. Some of the oils that help with depression are: –
1. Lavender essential oil
2. Sweet orange essential oil
3. Bergamot essential oil
4. Sage essential oil
5. Rosemary essential oil
6. Chamomile essential oil
7. Lavender and rose essential oils blend
8. Lavender, neroli and ylang ylang essential oils blend
What smell helps with depression?
Based on the essential oils that can lower the symptoms of depression, the smells that can help with depression are:
3. Woody, and
What does lavender oil do for depression?
Aromatherapy with lavender essential oil is known to lower the symptoms of depression. It is used as a complementary treatment for depressive disorders. Lavender has the following effect when diffused for aromatherapy:
1. It uplifts the mood
2. It balances the hormones
3. It brings down elevated heart beats and blood pressure
4. It reduces stress and anxiety.
5. It induces sleep
Do diffusers help with depression?
Diffusers are tools or instruments that are used to diffuse the aroma of essential oils in the air. Diffusers thus aid in lowering depression.
- Timothy K. H. Fung, Benson W. M. Lau, Shirley P. C. Ngai, and Hector W. H. Tsang. (2021). Therapeutic Effect and Mechanisms of Essential Oils in Mood Disorders: Interaction between the Nervous and Respiratory Systems. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8125361/.
- Damião P. De Sousa,Rayanne H. N. Silva 1,Epifanio F. da Silva and Elaine C. Gavioli. (2017). Essential Oils and Their Constituents: An Alternative Source for Novel Antidepressants. https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/22/8/1290.
- Azar Jafari-Koulaee, Forouzan Elyasi, Zohreh Taraghi, Ehteram Sadat Ilali and Mahmood Moosazadeh. (2020). A Systematic Review of the Effects of Aromatherapy with Lavender Essential Oil on Depression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9295849/.
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- Yingying Kong, Ting Wang, Rong Wang, Yichuan Ma, Shanshan Song, Juan Liu, Weiwei Hu , Shengtian Li. (2017). Inhalation of Roman chamomile essential oil attenuates depressive-like behaviors in Wistar Kyoto rats. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28527112/.
- Ashish K. Mehta,Sumita Halder,Naresh Khanna,Om P. Tandon &Krishna K. Sharma. (2013). The effect of the essential oil of Eugenia caryophyllata in animal models of depression and locomotor activity. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/1476830512Y.0000000051.
- Somrudee Saiyudthong, Chantana Mekseepralard. (2015). Effect of Inhaling Bergamot Oil on Depression-Related Behaviors in Chronic Stressed Rats. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26817225/.
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- Lu-Lu Zhang, Zi-Yu Yang, Gang Fan, Jing-Nan Ren, Kai-Jing Yin, Si-Yi Pan. (2019). Antidepressant-like Effect of Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck Essential Oil and Its Main Component Limonene on Mice. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30905156/.
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