Depression is incredibly common. In fact, you may be near someone every day and not even know that he or she is suffering from depression.
However, there are symptoms that may signal signs of depression, such as fatigue, sadness, moodiness, low sex drive, low self-esteem, loss of appetite, feelings that the tough days will never end, and never accepting invitations to go out with friends or get involved in activities. I know that seems like quite a list, but there are many more behaviors that could be an indication that you or someone you know is suffering from depression.
Luckily, there are natural remedies for depression out there, including using certain essential oils — similar to the way you can use essential oils for anxiety. Below are my top four essential oils for depression treatment.
Top Essential Oils for Depression
In clinical trials, essential oils have been proven to elevate mood. You may be wondering how essential oils work. Because smells are carried directly to the brain, they serve as emotional triggers. The limbic system evaluates the sensory stimuli, registering pleasure, pain, danger or safety. This then creates and ultimately directs our emotional response, which can include feelings of fear, anger, depression and attraction.
Our basic emotions and hormonal balance are in response to the most basic smells. This makes scents very powerful in our day-to-day lives because they’re a direct pathway to memory and emotion — which is why they can fight depression and anxiety. Here are my top for essential oils for depression:
Bergamot oil is a great antidepressant because it’s very stimulating. Bergamot can create a feeling of joy, freshness and energy by improving the circulation of your blood. It’s also shown the ability to work as a natural remedy for anxiety, as a 2011 study in Thailand found that bergamot lowered the anxiety response in rats. (1)
Another 2011 study hypothesizes that applying a blended essential oil that includes bergamot to participants helps treat depression. The blended essential oil mixed bergamot with lavender essential oil, and participants were analyzed based on their blood pressure, pulse rates, breathing rates and skin temperature. In addition, subjects had to rate their emotional condition in terms of relaxation, vigor, calmness, attentiveness, mood and alertness in order to assess behavioral changes.
Compared with the placebo, blended essential oil caused significant decreases of pulse rate and blood pressure. At the emotional level, subjects in the blended essential oil group rated themselves as “more calm” and “more relaxed” than subjects in the control group. The investigation demonstrates the relaxing effect of a mixture of lavender and bergamot oils, and it provides evidence for its use in medicine for treating depression or anxiety in humans. (2)
You can use bergamot oil by rubbing two to three drops into your hands and cupping your mouth and nose. Breathe in the oil slowly. Try rubbing the oil on your feet and stomach, too.
Lavender oil benefits mood and has long been used to help battle depression. A study published by the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice reported that 80-milligram capsules of lavender essential oil can help alleviate anxiety and depression. The study also showed that there were no adverse side effects from using lavender oil to treat anxiety and depression. This is great news since we know that synthetic medications and psychotropic drugs often have many negative side effects. (3)
A 2012 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice evaluated 28 women at high risk for postpartum depression and found that by diffusing lavender in their home, they had a significant reduction of postnatal depression and reduced anxiety disorder after a four-week treatment plan of lavender aromatherapy. (4)
Yet another study showcasing that lavender aromatherapy improves mood was done on people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can result in depression. Lavender had amazing results, showing signs of enhanced moods. The results revealed that the lavender oil, when used daily, helped decrease depression by 32.7 percent and dramatically decreased sleep disturbances, moodiness and overall health status in 47 people suffering from PTSD. (5)
To relieve stress and improve sleep, put a diffuser by your bed and diffuse oils while you sleep at night or in the family room while you’re reading or winding down in the evening. Also, it can be rubbed topically behind your ears for the same benefits.
3. Roman Chamomile
Chamomile is one the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation. This is why you see chamomile as a popular ingredient in candles and other aromatherapy products, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form.
Chamomile benefits your emotions by providing soothing qualities to help with depression. According to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review, inhaling chamomile vapors using chamomile oil is often recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression. (6, 7)
4. Ylang Ylang
Ylang ylang may have a funny name, but it has amazing benefits for helping stave off depression and negative emotions associated with depression. Inhaling ylang ylang can have immediate, positive effects on your mood and act like a mild, remedy for depression. Research shows it can help release negative emotions such as anger, low self-esteem and even jealousy! (8)
Ylang ylang works because of its mild sedative effects, which can lower stress responses helping you relax. To enhance confidence, mood and self-love, try diffusing the oil in your home or massaging it into your skin.
Depression by the Numbers
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, conducted a survey in 2013 on mental behavior disorders. It covered both residents of households (persons living in houses/townhouses, apartments, condominiums; civilians living in housing on military bases; etc.) and persons in non-institutional group quarters (e.g., shelters, rooming/boarding houses, college dormitories, migratory workers’ camps, halfway houses). They noted that major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S..
According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2010), major depression also carries the heaviest burden of disability among mental and behavioral disorders. In 2013, an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This represented 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults.
Among adults aged 18 or older in 2013, 10 million (4.2 percent) had serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year. The percentage of adults in 2013 with any mental illness (AMI) in the past year was highest for adults aged 26 to 49 (21.5 percent), followed by those aged 18 to 25 (19.4 percent), then by those aged 50 or older (15.3 percent). Women aged 18 or older were more likely than men aged 18 or older to have AMI (22.3 vs. 14.4 percent) and SMI (4.9 vs. 3.5 percent) in 2013. And to add to these shocking numbers, in 2013, there were 2.6 million youths aged 12 to 17 (10.7 percent) who had major depressive episode (MDE) during the past year. The most common reason that youths aged 12 to 17 gave for receiving specialty mental health services in 2013 was feeling depressed (50.2 percent). (9, 10)
The causes of depression are numerous as well. Chronic stress, emotional problems from the past, hormonal imbalances, alcohol, poor diet causing nutritional deficiencies, lack of sun exposure, toxins in the body and food allergies are all contributing causes.
One of the most common ways that people are treated for depression is through prescription medication. While everyone’s situation is different, it’s all too often that these meds have serious side effects, such as suicidal thoughts, weight gain and unusual personality changes.
A government study that was published in the Washington Post stated: “Antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients with the disease even if they receive the best possible care.” (11) While I’m not suggesting that all meds cause this problem and I want to make it clear that you should talk to a doctor immediately if you feel you’re suffering from depression, I do believe that it’s possible to treat depression through other means, like the essential oils for depression mentioned above.
A 2008 study with 58 hospice patients presented some interesting conclusions regarding the effectiveness of essential oils for depression. The hospice patients were given hand massages once a day for one week with an essential oil blend in 1.5 percent dilution with sweet almond oil. The essential oil blend consisted of these essential oils in equal ratios:
- bergamot C. aurantium var. bergamia
- frankincense Boswellia carterii (Birdw.)
- lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.)
All patients who received the aromatherapy hand massage reported less pain and depression with the conclusion that aromatherapy massage with this essential oil blend is more effective for pain and depression management than massage alone. (12)
How to Use Essential Oils for Depression
There are several ways you can use essential oils for depression.
To relieve stress while improving sleep, put a diffuser by your bed and diffuse oils while you sleep at night. You can also rub topically behind your ears, on the back of the neck, your tummy and bottoms of the feet.
The right oils can make a great massage oil, whether you have a full body massage or just use self-massage techniques. Below is a great recipe that you can try!
Lavender and Chamomile Massage Blend for Depression
- 20–30 drops pure lavender essential oil
- 20–30 drops pure chamomile essential oil
- 2 ounces grapeseed oil
- Blend all ingredients well into a glass jar.
- Massage into your entire body, or take it to your masseuse and ask him or her to use it, 2–3 times per month.
- You can also use hand and neck massage oil daily or even massage into the bottoms of your feet at night before going to bed.
Essential Oils for Depression Risks
Use any essential oils sparingly, whether internally or topically. High levels might cause reactions and sensitivity, so be sure to do a skin patch check before using on a regular basis. You also want to use caution if you take blood pressure medications or have an existing heart condition. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any new treatment.
It’s important to make sure that any essential oils you choose are 100 percent pure. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your doctor first. While most oils are safe for children, please do proper research and review with your physician.
- Depression affects tens of millions of people around the world and is the most common mental disorder in the U.S.
- There are many ways to naturally treat depression, particularly with essential oils.
- The top four essential oils for depression are bergamot, lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang.
- You can use essential oils for depression topically or aromatically, usually as a cream or in a diffuser.
- If you use these four essential oils for depression, you’re sure to lower your stress levels and anxiety, helping reverse feelings of depression.