5 Essential Oils for Stress and Depression

    Watching the news these days can wreak havoc on our optimism. Whether it is politics, corruption, or climate change, we are bombarded with a stress-inducing reality that affects our wellbeing and may even play a role in leaving us depressed. It’s imperative to find ways to boost our outlook and spirits. Essential oils are among the best natural ways to enhance our mood and even improve the symptoms of serious conditions like depression. That’s because naturally occurring compounds found in essential oils quickly access the brain via the olfactory system that begins in the nose. Once there, their natural chemical constituents go to work to help restore brain hormonal balance. While there are many excellent essential oils that can help with depression, here are some of my preferred options:

    Clary Sage: The essential oil most known for its hormone-balancing effects has been shown in an animal study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology to balance the brain hormones linked to depression, making it a novel potential treatment for those suffering from the mental illness. The oil has been found to have strong hormonal balancing effects. In another study of menopausal women published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, clary sage demonstrated the ability to reduce stress hormones, which may be helpful in the treatment of depression. 

    Lemon: The fresh, bright scent of lemon is valuable for more than just cleaning your home: It can actually help ward off depression. According to a study in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, scientists found that lemon was effective in the treatment of depression.

    Lavender: Research found that lavender was about as effective as a common drug used in the treatment of depression. Another study found that inhaling the scent of lavender essential oil every 8 hours for 4 weeks immediately following pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of postpartum depression, which can be serious and long-lasting in many women. In a study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, researchers attribute a naturally present compound known as linalool’s antidepressant effects to its ability to help regulate the brain messenger known as serotonin. Serotonin is one of the body’s feel good chemical compounds that is imbalanced in people suffering from depression.

    Frankincense: In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, a natural compound found in frankincense was found to have antidepressant qualities. The compound, known as incensole acetate (IA), was found to regulate hormones secreted by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are located in the brain and are involved in mood regulation while the adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and help address stress in the body. The researchers concluded that frankincense has potential as a novel treatment for depression. Frankincense contains compounds known as sesquiterpenes, which cross the blood-brain barrier and may help to oxygenate the glands in the brain.

    Rosemary: Rosemary essential oil has been found to have a potent antidepressant effect on animals studied. Published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers found that the long-term traditional use of rosemary as a treatment for depression was justified. They found that the essential oil reversed depression about as well as the drug fluoxetine.

    You can diffuse one or more of the above essential oils in an essential oil diffuser to reap their antidepressant effects, or you simply inhale the oil several times throughout the day for at least a few minutes each time. Alternatively, carry a cloth that you add a few drops of the oil to and sniff it throughout the day. Or place the cloth on your pillow to breathe in the scent during the night while you sleep.

    Make sure you select high quality, pure, undiluted essential oils (I like doTERRA). High quality oils cost more than the cheap varieties on the market but are worth the increased price. Many cheap varieties can also contain synthetic versions of the oils, which offer no therapeutic value and may actually be harmful. But, worse than that, many cheap oils are adulterated with solvents used during the extraction process or toxic pesticides used in the growing process of the herbs from which the oils are extracted.

    After diluting the oil in carrier oil, always conduct a 48-hour patch test on a small inconspicuous part of your skin to determine whether you have any sensitivity to the essential oils. Do not discontinue any prescribed medications without the guidance of your physician.

    Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine.

    Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, founder of Scent-sational Wellness for building health through essential oils, and an international best-selling and 21-time published book author whose works include: Food Fix: The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome Disease and Food Fix Recipes. Learn more about her work on her websites DrMichelleCook.com and FoodHouseProject.com.