In recent years, aromatherapy has gained traction with people practicing alternative medicine. Believed to alleviate pain and emotional distress caused by mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, aromatherapy has created a buzz in the overall medical community as well. Studies have shown that aromatherapy might provide relief from anxiety and depression. Data on its efficacy is limited and more research needs to be done, especially around the effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms. Nevertheless, it seems widely practiced.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefit. This therapy is believed to be a part of ancient medicinal techniques. The fragrance of essential oils and one’s sense of smell are key to the workings of this therapy.
Aromatherapy – Inner Workings
Aromatherapy works through scents and the human capacity to process them. Scent molecules travel directly from the olfactory nerves to the limbic part of the brain.
The scent molecules affect the amygdala and hippocampus in the limbic area which is the emotional center. They deal with moods, emotions, pain, pleasure, and overall memories.
Does Aromatherapy Work for Mental Health?
Humans tend to associate smells with memories which subsequently leads to emotions. This way the brain can be manipulated and harnessed to one’s will using aromatherapy.
People with anxiety panic most easily and need to remain calm. If you are a person who meditates to achieve a level of calmness, introducing aromatherapy into your routine will help you achieve the same sense of calm, minus the meditation. If you use essential oils when meditating, your mind will associate the fragrance of the oils with meditation and the calmness derived from it. Over time, by simply smelling that particular essential oil, you will feel calm and composed. This of course takes time and practice to take effect.
Medical communities tend to warn that aromatherapy alone cannot help with depression. It is advised to add it to your larger treatment plan for depression. Using aromatherapy alongside other treatments may help boost your mood and relieve stress.
Methods & Techniques
Aromatherapy is performed through various methods—massage, meditation, bath, skin care products, etc. It can also be used through various techniques like diffuser, incense, room sprays, lotions, etc.
Aromatherapy for Depression: Recipes
Inhalation aromatherapy: This method involves using essential oils in diffusers, incense sticks, or room sprays when meditating and following breathing exercises.
Aromatherapy massage: An aromatherapy massage for depression involves mixing essential oils with massage oils. The strong scents of massage oils are said to provide deeper relaxation.
Aromatherapy baths: Adding a few drops of essential oils to the bath water provides a relaxing experience.
Aromatherapy skincare products: Applying skin care products that carry essential oil scents will help in relaxing your mood all day long.
Jasmine, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, clary sage, basil, bergamot, rose, geranium, neroli, petitgrain, lavender, and chamomile are some of the best essential oils for depression.