Did you know there is a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)/Winter Depression? It is still a mystery to scientists, but they believe many things, including brain chemicals, ions in the air, and genetics seem to be involved. Researchers, however, do agree that people suffering from SAD all have a particular sensitivity to light, or lack thereof. During the hours of darkness, the pineal gland produces a chemical called melatonin which makes us feel drowsy and signals the time for sleep. Exposure to sunlight prevents the production of melatonin while increasing the production of a neuro-transmitter called serotonin. When the seasons change, the circadian rhythm (biological clock) in our bodies shift due to the changes in daylight. This can affect the body’s production of serotonin and hormones, which then, combined with the disruption of our biological clock, has been discovered to trigger depression.
I was talking with a childhood friend the other day about how I wanted to write an article on the use of essential oils for the winter blues. She suffers from depression and has been using essential oils (along with the medication prescribed by her doctor) to help balance out her mood. She has not been diagnosed with SAD, but she has noticed her depression gets worse during the dark winter months. Because I have been using essential oils since I was a preteen and studied their uses for years, she trusted the advice I had given her a while ago about which oils to use. My friend told me when she started diffusing these specific oils and applying them to her skin, she immediately noticed a difference. She said her depression has not worsened this winter, giving all the credit to the essential oils listed below.
Whether you suffer from a seasonal depression or you’re just feeling a little down, here are a few oils you can try to help boost your mood and get you out of that funk.
How to use the Essential Oils:
- Diffusing these oils into the air with an aroma lamp
- Put a few drops on your shower floor or bath, allowing the steam to carry the scent
- Place a few drops of the essential oil on a cotton ball and inhale deeply.
- Carry a spray mixture of the preferred oil, or blend
- Fill a rollerball with your favorite oil diluted in a carrier oil
- Lavender – You have all read it before in my articles, but here it is again. Lavender really is a miracle worker, and an extremely multi-functional oil. Lavender has been used for hundreds of years as a natural treatment for anxiety, depression, stress and tension. Something as simple as inhaling Lavender Essential Oil can release various neurochemicals in the brain and assists in helping you to experience a physiological change. “When Lavender is inhaled, serotonin is released from the raphe nucleus of the brain, producing a calming influence in the body…” -Debra Mauldin, Certified Aromatherapist
- Rose – For centuries, Rose Oil was a remedy for women battling “nerves”, and has since been used for anyone needing a boost to their mood. Rose Essential Oil appears to be rich in Citronellol, which causes a relaxation of muscle. Preliminary evidence suggests sedative, stress relieving, and anti-depressive effects from the rose oil aroma. Rose Oil also aids in enhancing libido and sharpening your memory.
- Geranium – Like Rose Oil, Geranium contains citronellol and geraniol which, as you’ve learned so far, helps to improve one’s mood and health. It is suggested that Geranium Essential Oil be applied topically to the skin, where it can then travel to the limbic system (the emotional control center of the brain).
- Ylang-Ylang – Ylang-ylang helps treat depression by relaxing the nerves. It also helps control blood pressure, regulates breathing pattern and decreases adrenaline, therefore helping to fight panic attacks, anxiety, anger and fear. In the Philippines, Ylang-ylang is known as “fragrance of all fragrances” because its scent aids the body in overcoming feelings of frustration and stress. Ylang-Ylang can also balance sebum production, aiding in excessive oiliness.
- Bergamot – Bergamot is considered to provide your system with the balance through homeostasis. In a homeostatic state, the hypothalamus causes you to be calmer and reduces feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that coordinates the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary.
Give these oils a try the next time you feel a little blue.
No matter the reason, be sure to visit your doctor if you are experiencing persistent feelings of depression. It could be due to something as simple as a need for a dietary change, SAD, or a more complex issue.
- Downs, MPH, Martin (2004, November 9) Winter Darkness, Season Depression Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/seasonal-affective-disorder#1
- Charles, Sue (2016, November 16) Essential Oils for Seasonal Affective Disorder Retrieved from http://www.quinessence.com/blog/essential-oils-for-seasonal-affective-disorder
- Mauldin, Certified Aromatherapist, Debra (n.d.) Surround Yourself with Lavender Retrieved from http://www.susunweed.com/An_Article_wisewoman2.htm
- Ann (2015, March 31) Top 8 Essential Oils to Enhance Your Mood Retrieved from http://www.annsentitledlife.com/library-reading/top-8-essential-oils-to-enhance-your-mood/
- Axe, M.D., Josh (n.d.) Top 4 Essential Oils for Depression Retrieved from https://draxe.com/essential-oils-for-depression/
- Frank, Kurtis (n.d.) Rose Essential Oil Retrieved from https://examine.com/supplements/rose-essential-oil/
- New Health Advisor, (n.d.) 10 Essential Oils for Depression Retrieved from http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Essential-Oils-for-Depression.html
- Boundless (2016). Boundless Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/biological-foundations-of-psychology-3/structure-and-function-of-the-brain-35/the-limbic-system-154-12689/
Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals By Maria Lis-Balchin
The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils By Julia Lawless, Element, Inc 1997
Prescription for Nutritional Healing Second Edition By James F. Balch, MD & Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C, Avery Publishing Group, 1997
Aunt Sally’s Tried and True Home Remedies By Gramercy Books, Random House, 1993
Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How to Overcome It By Norman E. Rosenthal, MD The Guilford Press; Revised edition, 1998