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Aromatherapy and Depression

Updated: Aug 15, 2023



According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8.4% of all adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year. That may seem like a small percentage, but it adds up to around 21 million adults!


With major depressive disorder becoming so prevalent, more and more people are needing proper, affective treatment for it. If this is you, it is recommended that you get clinical help.


There are plenty of medications that can be taken to help treat the symptoms of depression, but what about natural remedies? A quick search online actually turns up some interesting alternative treatments, one of which is the subject of this article: Aromatherapy.


Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to treat various illnesses, injuries, and conditions. The effectiveness of essential oils is widely contested, and actual studies to base the claims on are few. However, there have been some studies conducted that have produced some interesting results.

In the article “Natural Depression Remedies“, by Rena Freedenberg, ND, several natural options to treat depression are explored, including aromatherapy. According to Freedenberg, here is how aromatherapy works and what conditions it is used for:

Various aromatherapy oils, diluted in carrier oil like almond or olive oil, are massaged into the skin, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Below is a list of some of the essential oils used in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
  1. Clary sage is used for treating insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

  2. Basil lifts fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

  3. Rose acts on the nervous system.

  4. Ylang ylang is used for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress.

  5. Sandalwood has sedative properties and is good for treating depression and tension.

  6. Lavender is used for depression, headache, hypertension, insomnia, migraine, nervous tension, and other stress-related conditions.

  7. Jasmine increases the beta waves in the frontal lobe, which can create a more alert and responsive state of mind.

  8. Rosemary relieves headaches and aids clear thinking.

  9. Patchouli has an uplifting effect for depression and anxiety.

  10. Chamomile is very calming; it soothes nerves and helps insomnia.

  11. Geranium is both sedative and uplifting and thus is used for treating nervous tension, depression, and hormonal and menstrual problems.

It’s remarkable to think that oils from plants can potentially have medicinal properties, especially when you consider that there are no side effects! But where’s the proof? Can essential oils cure, or just treat?

Freedenberg has the answer. She cites a study that was performed in which 288 cancer patients were randomly assigned to be treated either by aromatherapy or by western options.


What they found is that aromatherapy is, in fact, an effective treatment for depression!


The beneficial effects of aromatherapy last for around 2 weeks, so it is not able to cure depression, but it can help with the management of depressive symptoms.


It’s amazing to think that this earth, with all the plants that grow naturally upon it, may have built-in treatments for some of mankind’s greatest challenges.


Again, the effectiveness of aromatherapy on depression and other mental health disorders has yet to be extensively tested, but the positive results of the tests that have been done gives plenty of food for thought.


Hopefully further studies will occur in the near future to help us gain a greater understanding of how we can use this natural remedy to treat depression. Until then, although typical clinical treatment for depression would be the recommended option for help, perhaps some aromatherapy added on to that wouldn’t be such a bad idea?


The Author is Bryson Merkley


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