9 Great Essential Oils for Depression and Anxiety

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Essential oils have been used in therapeutic ways for thousands of years because they offer numerous healing benefits. There’s is a lot of buzz around aromatherapy, especially in the natural wellness and holistic medicine communities. This post focuses on the use of essential oils for depression and anxiety.

Overview of Depression

Depression is a life-threatening mood disorder manifested as a combination of cognitive and physical symptoms.  It leads to decreased interest in daily life activities which imposes a significant negative impact on people’s quality of life and work performance due to disability, suffering, and high risk of perpetrating self-harm.

Depression is reported as the largest health concern in the 21st century. About 350 million people are currently suffering from depression. The prevalence of depression has increased dramatically at a global level and one million people with depression commit suicide yearly.

Depressive symptoms include feelings of guilt, sadness, worthlessness and desperation, inability to experience pleasure, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, lack of energy, poor concentration and memory, motor retardation, fatigue, and recurrent suicidal and death ideation which are experienced for more than 2 weeks.

Some people say that the practice of aromatherapy – putting concentrated oils from plants into the air with misters or special candles or applying the oils topically – can help with anxiety disorders and depression. But what does science say?

Aromatherapy/ Essential Oils for Depression and Anxiety

Many people who believe that aromatherapy works to decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and related issues, believe that it works in a very superficial way: essential oils make us feel better because they smell good.

A 2013 article published in China, however, proposes that aromatherapy may work to reduce depression and anxiety by stimulating serotonin pathways in the brain. Serotonin itself is an important messenger molecule in the body that helps us to feel relaxed and is an important part of many mood regulating medications.

essential oils for depression and anxiety
essential oils for depression and anxiety

While this is an engaging theory, the easiest way to measure mood is still with psychological assessment and questionnaires rather than by checking the levels of these messenger molecules.

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All of the following studies used these methods, which some people consider to be unreliable and anecdotal. But from conclusions, it did help participants to feel better.

Aromatherapy/ Essential Oils for Postpartum Depression

A 2012 pilot study on aromatherapy to treat postpartum depression published in the journal “Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice” reported that aromatherapy did show benefits for women suffering postpartum depression. Interestingly, the study found that aromatherapy did not seem to have any impact on a control group of non-depressed women.

Although the results of this study are promising, it was a pilot study. The control group was rather small, and the study only lasted four weeks.

While that leaves room for skepticism, the article did not report any issues with the treatment, so there’s no known risk in trying this treatment if need be.

Therefore, the pilot study indicates positive findings with minimal risk for the use of aromatherapy as a complementary therapy in both anxiety and depression scales with the postpartum woman

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Aromatherapy and the Elderly

A Japanese study conducted in 2014 and with a participant pool of around eighty may be more convincing.

This study, published in the journal “Biomed Research International”, was conducted among elderly participants living in a community who underwent an aromatherapy session for four weeks.

The article reports that participants who underwent the aromatherapy program had decreased levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and pain compared to a control group. The study also reported that all of the participants continued to use aromatherapy treatments after the conclusion of the study.

Aromatherapy for Depression
Essential oils for Depression and Anxiety

Aromatherapy Massage

It might not take more than four week to prove that aromatherapy helps with depression. A 2009 study conducted in Japan reported that women who received aromatherapy massages for depression while undergoing treatment for cancer were found to have better scores on mood assessments both after a single thirty-minute session. Their scores continued to increase after eight subsequent sessions.

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This study may have lasted longer than the 2012 study, but it was even smaller with only 12 participants. Also, like the 2012 study, this study found that there was no harm in giving this treatment a shot.

A similar study conducted two years earlier involving just over fifty participants and conducted in Korea had similar findings.

Another study of menopausal women also used aromatherapy via massage in weekly sessions over eight months and found that the treatment had positive effects.

The authors of this study were more careful to point out a potential problem which applies to the previous study as well: It is possible that the massage and not the aromatherapy was providing the relief experienced by participants.

In all of the above studies, aromatherapy showed potential to be used as an effective therapeutic option for the relief of depressive symptoms in a wide variety of subjects. Particularly, aromatherapy massage may have more beneficial effects than inhalation aromatherapy.

Best Essential Oils for Depression and Anxiety

1. Lavender: One of the best essential oils for depression and anxiety. Lavender oil has anxiolytic properties that improve sleep and reduce anxiety without the potential for adverse reactions.

2. Bitter Orange (Neroli or Citrus aurantium): Neroli improves poor sleep patterns. It promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and promotes calm. This oil alleviates anxiety and may reduce the frequency of heart palpitations. Also, it is useful in easing digestion problems.

3. Bergamot: Bergamot essential oil has a rich history in antidepressant use and insomnia treatment. It behaves as a relaxant, helping to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress. Also, it triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin which help to improve our overall mood and function.

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4. Rose: Aromatherapy using rose essential oil has been proven to decrease depression symptoms and elevate mood in many people. Roses are prized for their scent, and the floral aromas have graced gardens and bouquets for centuries for a good reason.

Recent research shows that this potent essential oil can lower symptoms of depression, help those suffering from postpartum depression, and decrease feelings of anxiety, as well. If you are looking for a pick-me-up, try adding rose essential oil to your diffuser or other aromatherapy routines to lift those spirits.

5. Lemon: Lemon oil promotes energy and vitality along with focus and concentration. It is also loaded with vitamin C and supports immune system health. This oil possesses anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects.

6. Clary Sage: This essential oil has gained recognition as a natural treatment for depression, drug addiction, and anxiety.

7. Cedarwood: Cedarwood essential oil is a potent oil that acts as a natural sedative and can also help to reduce feelings of anxiety. This oil also helps to lower blood pressure and heart rates.

8. Rose-scented geranium essential oils for depression and anxiety:

9. Roman Chamomile

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4484988/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241490/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30825591/