Can essential oils help to treat depression? That is the question some people are asking. Some physicians believe that yes, for the particularly mild, situational forms of the depression. However, others caution that they would not recommend treating more serious forms of depression solely with essential oils. You can find essential oils in lavender, bergamot, chamomile and ylang ylang. Essential oils are natural. They are concentrated extracts removed from the seeds, leaves, blossoms and roots of plants. Each plant has its own set of active ingredients and is used for different therapeutic purposes. Integrative health specialists use them to help people with anxiety, insomnia, constipation and pain.
Aromatherapy, aka essential oil therapy, involves science of using naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of the body, mind and spirit. The approach’s goal is to combine the physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance a person's healing process. Aromatherapy can involve the use of diffusers, candles and lotions. Lavender, bergamot and chamomile capsules are also available. Aromatherapists, massage therapists and pharmacists can apply essential oils to the body or conduct aromatherapy sessions in which the patient inhales the substance.
Some physicians believe the body’s olfactory system is the key to how aromatherapy works, though clinical research has not irrefutably proved this. Inhaling essential oil molecules can stimulate the parts of the brain that store emotions and memories. They can promote positive feelings of happiness and joy. The results of a clinical trial published this spring in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research of 140 women admitted to an obstetric and gynecological unit found that inhaling a lavender scent for four weeks helped prevent stress, anxiety and depression after childbirth. The women were divided into a group that received aromatherapy, inhaling three drops of lavender essential oil every eight hours for four weeks, and a control group. The study found the patients who received aromatherapy had significantly lower depression scores at two weeks, one month and three months after giving birth.
Dr. Patrick Fratellone, a cardiologist and integrative physician in New York City, says he uses essential oils to help treat patients for depression, PTSD, sleep disorders and gastrointestinal issues. Fratellone states that many times patients suffering from depression want to avoid taking medications used to treat the disease – such as Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft – because they can cause unpleasant side effects, such as fatigue, constipation, a flattening of emotions, nausea and loss of libido. Essential oils can also be part of a treatment regimen including talk therapy, yoga and exercise.