Mental health and anxiety disorders are very misunderstood, and yet the rates of depression seem to be skyrocketing every year, particularly in the Western world. In fact, cross-cultural studies are showing that depression seems to be more prevalent in countries with higher Gross Domestic Product – Depression is an illness of affluence.
According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer at one point in their life from a depressive episode. Women are more likely to experience depression than men and it is actually the leading cause of disability worldwide. In one paper by Steven Marcus and Mark Olfson published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, they noted a three-fold Increase in people in the USA being treated for depression. Of those treated (counseling or medication) 75% were given antidepressant medication. In fact, outpatient costs for treating depression is more than $12.5 USD per year since 2007 (Zorumski, Charles. 2011)
People are starting to turn towards natural remedies to help with depression, and one of the lesser known methods include aromatherapy for depression. Because the olfactory nerve (the nerve that detects smell and odor) is located at the roof of the nose, just below a part of the brain known as the limbic system, smells have a direct effect on the brain and can therefore affect mood.
The Limbic System is a part of the brain that is in charge of controlling emotions and retrieving learned memories. When you smell specific cologne or the perfume of your childhood favorite baked goods, the limbic system is the part responsible for associating the smell (chocolate chip cookies) with the emotion (weekends at Grandma’s house). By accessing the Limbic System, one can affect your emotions both positively and negatively.
Essential oils contain constituents known as volatile oils that impart specific biochemical reactions in the body when inhaled. These volatile oils activate the olfactory nerve and the limbic system and trigger the emotional center of the brain. Certain essential oils have very soothing and calming abilities and can be used in aromatherapy for depression.
Aromatherapy for depression is a safe, non-invasive and natural way to help ease mild depression, anxiety and even sleep disturbances. By activating your brain’s emotional center and calming the central nervous system, one can use essential oils as an adjunct to other natural anti-depressive methods.
Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, Jager W, Dietrich H, Plank C. Aromatherapy: evidence for sedative effects of the essential oil of lavender after inhalation. Z Naturforsch C. 1991; 46:1067-1072
Hardy M, Kirk-Smith MD, Stretch DD. Replacement of drug treatment for insomnia by ambient odour. Lancet1995;346:701.
Zorumski, Charles M.D., and Eugene Rubin, M.D., Ph.D. (2011) Demystifying Psychiatry: A resource for patients and families. Retrieved From: