I’m from New England, and the Boston area is having a record winter. It seems we have a blizzard most weekends these days. It’s bitter cold. Days are still short. Driving is treacherous. It’s hard to get out for anything but the essentials of work and food shopping.
We’re beginning to get a bit down and stir-crazy. What to do?
Essential Oils to the Rescue!
I’ve written in other posts (e.g., The Many Faces of Lavender Essential Oil, The Amazing Versatility of Essential Oils, and Let’s Get Wild with Orange Essential Oil, and others) about the many virtues of essential oils. They can also help with the winter blues! There are really two elements of the winter blues: first is the actual blah-like sadness; second is the loss of concentration arising from being partially homebound. I want to focus here on feeling down.
The ability of essential oils to uplift is well-known and well-studied. “It’s just an aroma,” you might exclaim. But, no, it’s an aroma with a difference. Perfumes are just an aroma. Essential oils truly do have therapeutic properties. Let’s explore.
Why Essential Oils?
So why essential oils rather than some other natural means? Oils are known to be effective, especially as natural mood enhancers. They also fit quite comfortably into a program of nutrition, regular exercise, massage therapy, meditation, talk therapy, and so on. A “both-and” approach is much more broadly effective than an “either-or” mindset.
The number of essential oils that have been linked to relieving feelings of sadness anecdotally is large and growing. Rather than providing a laundry list of such oils, however, I’ll highlight just a few oils that have hard evidence for their efficacy. Much of this research has been reported by the American College of Healthcare Sciences.
The Main Uplifting Oils
Bergamot, a powerful oil in the arena of relieving anxious feelings, is a member of the citrus family. Citrus oils are generally known to be uplifting. There is just something light and happy about their fragrance. But Bergamot is especially so.
In a 2014 study, 58 hospice patients were given a daily hand massage using equal parts Bergamot, Frankincense, and Lavender in a carrier oil; a control group received hand massage using the carrier oil only. All of the patients who received this therapy with the essential oils reported less pain and feelings of sadness.
I am actually diffusing a blend of Frankincense, Lavender, and Bergamot as I write. The fragrance is amazing, and I know it’s calming and soothing and enlivening, altogether a healing, “blues”-relieving blend.
Clary Sage, which I often use as a sleep aid, is also an effective mood enhancer. A 2010 study showed that Clary Sage is useful as a mood enhancer in rats.
What, you might ask, does this finding have to do with humans? Well, the effect had to do with serotonin and dopamine levels and interactions with other hormones, so the effects would be generalizable to humans.
Try Clary Sage and Ylang Ylang together. Ylang Ylang is a powerful aroma, and some like it more than others, so play around with the proportions. I would start with one drop of Ylang Ylang to three or four drops of Clary Sage and experiment from there to suit your own preference.
You almost can’t talk about mood-enhancing essential oils without including Lavender. Lavender soothes and calms. I find myself sighing as if with relief at the lifting of a burden when I inhale Lavender essential oil. Its effects are palpable.
And there’s scientific evidence to support its use in mood management. A 2003 study concluded that lavandula tincture (a tincture of Lavender essential oil in alcohol) may be of therapeutic benefit in the management of mild to moderate feelings of sadness in conjunction with other therapies. This conclusion was bolstered by a 2014 study.
It is also worth noting that “lavender oil showed no sedative effects … and has no potential for drug abuse.”
Of course, one doesn’t need the excuse of mood management to diffuse or otherwise enjoy the magnificent fragrance of Lavender essential oil. I inhale it straight from the bottle, apply it to my wrists and the back of my neck, spray it (with water or alcohol) on my bed linen, and basically use it any way I can. Whenever I can.
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