Every time someone mentions “Alternative Health” or Alternative “Medicine” or alternative anything, heckles are always raised. It seems you can’t go anywhere these days without offending anyone who resonates strongly with the modern medical (allopathic) profession.
On the other hand, in the alternative health industry there is a common culture that looks down on the pharmaceutical industry as well. In short, we have two sides of the same coin that would benefit entire civilizations if they would just work together. Drugs help someone not suffer pain any more, or lessen pain to a degree, and help cope with a condition, not to mention they also offer near-instant relief from pain or discomfort. However, just coping with a condition permanently can’t be considered healing. Holistic healing accepts that the body’s systems are interlinked, and you can’t just isolate one part of the body without affecting the other. Instead of having side effects, alternative healing or medicine benefits many organs of the body in addition to the ailment. Holistic healing supports the fact that the body’s systems are interdependent, and affected by our strife, emotional aches, worries and traumas, because the state of your mind is reflected in your body and life. However, holistic healing takes time to become effective, often needing a series of treatments over a period of time before results can be realized, and most often, alternative therapy offers no instant pain relief. This is why many people inexperienced in alternative therapy, going for the first time, can feel like they are just being conned or ripped off into buying more treatments.
In the mean time, we just have to hash it out for ourselves. The people that agree there is room for both sides of the same coin to flourish don’t use the name “Alternative”. They say “complementary”. Complementary therapy is a much more socially accepted term amongst many who prefer to be loud and proud about holistic therapy. In a social survey (in Europe), 70% of participants were closed to alternative therapy but agreed there needed to be many more options available to patients.
How do we introduce all these so called “new age” therapies to people at large? Most, if not all therapies, have been around for at least hundreds or thousands of recorded years. Of these therapies, Aromatherapy is the most renowned, for its potency, and it has developed in many forms in many cultures. It has survived the ravages of time, and its first recorded use goes back to Babylon, Persia, Ancient Egypt and China, in references to essential oil recipes for different health problems. Even today’s multi-billion dollar perfume industry respects the traditional application of oils that help seduce and arouse.
Aromatherapy survives today in the face of obvious pharmaceutical competition, despite the fact that herbology and apothecary are the parents of modern drugs. Nevertheless, Aromatherapy is scientifically proven to assist in the relief of many symptoms, perhaps because of the olfactory nerve.
The olfactory nerve makes it so that the sense of smell is the only sense linked directly to the brain, and thus the ego and personal defence system is totally bypassed. When dealing with depression or anxiety, it helps to be able to bring the brain into control when you have consciously tried, but can’t. You can simply allow the senses to take charge, and all you have to do is spend a few moments being receptive, and then carry on with your day.
Here is a brief guide to selecting oils that can assist depression, but if you are not familiar with oils, or have never used them before, contact a professional aromatherapist or someone at a health (food) store, who will be able to offer more guidance. Easier still, just ask someone you know that uses essential oils in one way or another. They are a very versatile thing to have around the home for remedies including for making cosmetics, insect repellent, natural fluoride free tooth paste, first aid kits, perfumes and many more things, but this article is just focused on essential oils for depression in burners, baths, steam inhalers or massage oil.
Different ways to Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are generally used in different ways to achieve different things. Compresses, steam inhalers, diffusers, baths, shower trays, perfumes, oil burners, on your pillow, as an addition to cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, as a base for make-up….there are endless variations. You can also make bath or shower oils to help in beauty treatments that keep your skin naturally glowing, toned and conditioned.
The simplest of all is just getting a whiff when you open the bottle; that can be enough to reset a balance if you are on the go. At work, you could just add 1-2 drops (total) to a cup of hot water and hey presto, you have a simple diffuser at your desk that doesn’t break company policy. Alternatively (no pun intended), you could just put 1 or 2 drops on a cotton ball or tissue to keep in your pocket, which you can sniff when you need that boost of confidence, or natural relaxant. For a massage oil of 60ml (which is for the whole body), 6 drops of essential oil will do.
Unfortunately if you are pregnant, then most aromatherapy massage is not recommended due to the emmenagogue properties of the essential oils (they stimulate or increase menstrual flow). You may intuitively feel you want to either stay away from essential oils, or use them to help. Conversely, aromatherapy massage assists with problems affecting menstrual flow. If you like the idea of an aromatherapy massage, please do see a local qualified therapist. It is one of the best things you can do to pamper yourself.
Here are the best oils (in my experience working with depression as an aromatherapist);
Oil #1: Bergamot
This oil is a very uplifting scent, so powerful it is used almost religiously in treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Like the rest of the oils mentioned in this article, it is an active anti-depressant and it increases self-confidence. It has a citrus-like scent that is sharp and cuts right through a cluttered mind. To eat this fruit in a hot, tropical country also keeps malaria at bay. It is very refreshing to taste.
In a massage, or bath oil (1 drop of essential oil for every 6ml base oil), try a blend of Bergamot with Black Pepper Oil and Lime, to ease aches and tired muscles. It’s also a warming blend, perfect for the middle of what feels like an endless winter.
Oil # 2: Benzoin Oil
Unfortunately this is an essential oil a lot of people haven’t heard of, but it is excellent for assisting with depression. Technically it’s not an essential oil, but a tree sap that comes from places like Borneo, Bali and Indonesia. It’s quite thick and viscous, and smells like vanilla and Coca-Cola all in one.
In my experience this has helped every single person in a massage, who battles any type of depression, anxiety, and deeply held resentment or anger. They always end up floating off the bench and back into every day reality, feeling rejuvenated.
This oil has a calming, sedative effect on the nervous system and digestive tract – great for if you have been having trouble ‘digesting’ information. It has a warming effect on the circulation system, so in a very physical way this oil is quite restorative. It also boosts the pancreas, which in turn helps digestion and the breaking down of sugar. If you are diabetic, or feel you may be prone to it, don’t ignore this oil! How ironic, that this oil is one of the most sweet-smelling.
Interestingly this is another oil that is great for treating all kinds of the more stubborn skin conditions. It’s also anti-ageing as it improves skin elasticity.
Oil #3: Vetivert
This one is ideal for women following childbirth. You will either really love or severely dislike its scent, but who says we have to enjoy medical experiences? This oil is another uncommon oil but works wonders on people who are not only experiencing a level of depression, as well as stress, anxiety and nervous tension. It is said to be effective in people who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. It has a smoky, woody smell. It assists in the re-balance of hormones and the relief of insomnia. Even if you feel skittish at the best of times, do consider this oil.
This oil also eases aches and pains, including arthritic pain and rheumatism.
In beauty, it is especially useful for dry, irritated, dehydrated or cracked skin as well as stretch marks and wounds. This is especially true if you add a few drops to a body lotion or cream.
Oil #4: Jasmine
Whatever you may feel about Jasmine, you probably haven’t tried pure Jasmine essential oil. Apart from Rose oil, it’s the oil par excellence for depression. It’s one of the more expensive ones, due to the process required in making this oil, but you can also buy it diluted. If you use pure Jasmine oil you need less than the usual amount of oil, because it is also very potent, though delicate and sweet smelling.
At least from a therapist’s perspective, the clients I have had that suffer from depression have also felt that there has been no room in their life for their personal desires (via living for other people or obligations), thus making themselves less of a priority. I think we can all safely assume that the path to total equilibrium includes prioritizing yourself as well as other people, and holding everything in moderation.
Jasmine is associated with the Sacral/ Sexual chakra, which governs your emotions, and any traumas are held here if they are not reflected on or dealt with. Emotions are like water; no matter how hard you try to suppress either, it will always find a way out (in our subconscious). Like our general attitudes to sex, our emotions and how we handle them are personal.
Jasmine helps you realize that your emotions are important, and that the pursuit of your desires are every bit a priority as your other obligations. It does this through the arousal of passion or lust in the body. It produces a feeling of confidence, optimism and euphoria in the body, whilst revitalizing and restoring energy. In doing this, it has a ‘separating’ effect from the dramas of other people, enabling you to energize your own initiatives and projects, unhindered by other people’s problems and opinions. Needless to say, this is also an aphrodisiac for both men and women.
Jasmine oil also helps heal dry, sensitive skin, as well as stretch marks, but specializes in the healing of scars. Women should avoid this oil if they are menstruating at the time.
- Use in a burner or vaporizer to treat addiction, nervousness, lift depression, promote relaxation or ease tension
- Use as a bath oil or in the bath to assist with postnatal depression, promote relaxation, ease physical discomfort, reduce tension, stress and nervousness
Oil #5: Orange Oil
Enjoy the warming, uplifting, upbeat scent of orange oil. Negativity, tiredness and lethargy have no place near this scent. It brings happiness to the mind and helps people loosen up and relax. It also helps children sleep at night.
This oil is useful for insomnia as it helps soothe an agitated mind. It is powerful against colds and flu and eliminates toxins from the body. It’s also most useful in balancing water retention and obesity. Its lymphatic stimulant action further helps to balance water processes, detoxification, aiding the immune system and general well-being.
For the digestive system, orange oil can help with constipation, dyspepsia and can be used as a general tonic. It is also useful in cases of nervous tension and stress.
Oil #6: Neroli
Neroli oil has a sweet, floral and slightly haunting aroma, the color is pale yellow and the viscosity is watery. Neroli is another name for the orange blossom, although compared to orange it smells more delicate and floral.
Care must be taken when buying neroli oil, as many suppliers adulterate the oil to increase their profits, as it is a strong smelling oil and even when diluted still has the most incredible smell.
This oil is very useful for those who feel their depression stems from memories/trauma in the past, as it assists with chronic depression, fear, shock and stress, and its calming effect can also be beneficial to the digestive tract. It can be used for intestinal spasms, colitis and diarrhoea.
It helps insomnia, and as one of the essential oils with the most sedative effects is useful for treating depression, anxiety and shock and is also effective in calming heart palpitations, treating headaches, neuralgia and vertigo. It can help when someone is convalescing and is a good general tonic.
On the skin, neroli oil can help to regenerate skin cells and in a lotion or body oil, is rejuvenating and useful to prevent scar tissue, promoting smoother skin, fighting stretch marks and broken capillaries.
Oil #7: Damask Rose, or Rose Otto
Rose Oil is rather expensive, if you do not purchase Rose Geranium oil. But it is the best oil by far for depression. In Persian tradition it became known as the “Queen” of essential oils and rightly so. You can tell how pure the essential oil is, because it will be reflected in its price. Also, synthetic oils are more sickly smelling. Pure Rose oil will be from one of these types of Roses, and because of its purity, longevity and strength, you need far fewer drops (so you still get your value for money).
This oil is excellent for depression as it teaches us the importance of self-love in regaining total equilibrium. This is how the oil helps us draw in true love and lasting friendships.
Damask rose oil soothes and harmonizes the mind and helps with depression, anger, grief, fear, nervous tension and stress and at the same time addresses sexuality, self-nurturing, self esteem and dealing with emotional problems.
It is most helpful for poor circulation and heart problems, which would include heart palpitations, arrhythmia as well as high blood pressure and is also used to boost the liver and gall bladder.
For the respiratory system Damask rose oil assists in cases of asthma, coughs and hay fever, and in the digestive system for liver congestion and nausea.
Rose Otto oil has a clearing, cleansing, regulating and purifying effect on the female sex organs and can be used for regulating and balancing hormones, irregular menstruation, functional infertility, leucorrhoea, menorrhagia, uterine bleeding and other uterine disorders, while having a general toning effect on the uterus.
On the skin it is most effective for moisturizing and hydrating the skin, while having a general stimulant and antiseptic action, which is good for all skin types, but especially so for dry, mature and irritated skin. It is used to repair broken capillaries, inflammation as well as skin redness and is useful in eczema and herpes. Rose water can be used for conjunctivitis.
Damask rose oil gives a feeling of well-being and happiness, it helps a nervous mind, can be helpful for the respiratory tract, for digestive problems, for menstrual problems and in skin care.
- Burners and vaporizers
- In vapor therapy, rose oil can be helpful with allergies, asthma, baby blues, headaches, migraine, nervous tension and as a relaxant.
- This way is particularly effective to fight depression, anger and grief, while dealing with emotional problems, sadness and loss.
- Blended massage oil or in the bath
- As a blended massage oil or diluted in the bath, rose oil can help with allergies, baby blues, asthma, hay fever, headaches, depression, migraine, nervous tension, depression, grief, stress, sadness and also to boost poor circulation, calming the heart, stimulating the liver and gall bladder and for general skin toning.
- Lotions and creams
- When rose oil is included in a cream or lotion, it stimulates the skin, while moisturizing and hydrating, boosting all skin types and being particularly beneficial to dry, mature and sensitive skin. It helps to reduce skin redness, fight inflammations, as well as fix broken capillaries on the skin and also acts as a general skin tonic with its astringent properties.
Essential oils have stood the test of time and this art is known to all of us. It’s currently not given the mainstream recognition as being a healing art form, but there are certainly essential oils for depression as there are for all other conditions. Self nurture is the best lesson aromatherapy has to teach us, plus the fact that to heal any condition, the body and mind has the power to heal itself.