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Aromatherapy for Depression

Overview

Aromatherapy is the use of organic compounds to improve your mood, mental state, or health. Those organic compounds are called essential oils. They’re made from various plant parts, such as roots, seeds, leaves, and blossoms.

They can be used alone or blended to create different combinations. You can diffuse essential oils into the air, dissolve them a bath, apply them during a massage, or use other methods to spread their aroma.

If you have depression, don’t rely on aromatherapy alone to treat it. Instead, consider adding aromatherapy to your larger treatment plan. Using aromatherapy alongside other treatments may help boost your mood and relieve stress.

How is aromatherapy used to treat depression?

Experts aren’t sure how aromatherapy works. Chemicals in essential oils might trigger smell receptors in your nose that send messages to the part of your brain that controls your mood, suggests the Mayo Clinic.

More research is needed to learn if aromatherapy can help treat depression. But some evidence suggests it might have benefits. For example, a review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that aromatherapy might help relieve depressive symptoms.

However, you shouldn’t rely on it alone to treat depression. Instead, consider using it alongside other prescribed therapies.

The following essential oils might be helpful: 

  • jasmine
  • sandalwood
  • ylang-ylang
  • clary sage
  • basil
  • bergamot
  • rose
  • geranium
  • neroli
  • petitgrain
  • lavender
  • chamomile

What are some methods of aromatherapy?

There are a few different methods for incorporating the benefits of essential oils. When making your decision on which options to purchase, look for products made with pure essential oils.

Avoid products made with artificial or synthetic fragrances. Artificial scents may not offer the same benefits as pure essential oils.

The various ways you can enjoy the scent of essential oils include:

Diffusion

You can use a machine called a diffuser to spread the scent of essential oils throughout a room or your entire home.

Room sprays

You can quickly add the scent of essential oils to an area of your home using a room spray. Buy premixed room spray or make your own by mixing essential oils and water.

Massage

Essential oils are a popular addition to massage oil. Combining aromatherapy with massage is a great way to relax and ease stress.

However, it’s important not to apply essential oils directly to the skin. Instead, make sure to mix them with massage oil.

Baths

Scented bath oils and salts are also available to help turn your bath or shower into a relaxing experience.

Skin and hair products

Scented soaps, lotions, and hair products can help you carry the scent of essential oils with you, wherever you go.

What are the benefits of aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy might help relieve stress and boost your mood. Essential oils are easy to use and also inexpensive. You can incorporate different methods alongside other conventional treatments, such as medications and counseling. You can also combine it with other complementary therapies, such as massage and meditation.

“Aromatherapy really can help bring a person into the present moment,” suggests Dr. Mason Turner, Chief of Psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco.

At the same time, inhaling comforting scents can also elicit a conditioned response.

“Scents bring up memories the way no other senses can,” Dr. Turner explains. “They can be very powerful in jogging fond memories.”

What are the risks of aromatherapy?

Although aromatherapy is generally considered safe, essential oils could potentially cause an allergic reaction when you inhale them. If you’re very sensitive to strong scents, talk to your doctor before trying aromatherapy.

Some essential oils can be toxic if you eat them. And some of them could irritate your skin, especially if you apply them to your skin directly without diluting them first. Always dilute them in a massage oil.

Like most alternative therapies, aromatherapy shouldn’t be used as a replacement for your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan. Don’t stop taking medications, attending counseling sessions, or using other prescribed therapies without talking to your doctor first.

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