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Treating Depression Symptoms With Aromatherapy

Jul 13, 2008
The miraculous relationship between plants and their environment is continuously unfolding. These organic, colorful entities are ceaselessly participate in a magical process, in a dance with water, earth, air and sunlight. The nearly immeasurable possible combinations of plant genes and environmental conditions have allowed for incredible diversity in floral expression, resulting in a vast array of natural botanical materials. These include gourmet fruits and vegetables, complex spices, medicinal herbs, natural perfumes and therapeutic essential oils. Man continues to explore further into the jungles and rainforests, knowing mother nature is the true master of creation.

The distinction in plants between food and medicine is blurred at best. Researchers regularly report new medicinal properties in plants once considered salad fixings, or even just weeds. Fruits and berries once thought supremely plain nourish us with some of the world's most potent anti cancer agents. The same goes for common teas and spices; green tea is arguably the most effective anti oxidants known. The Indian spice Turmeric has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties...and this list continues to grow. This lack of distinction also exists between natural fragrances and therapeutic essential oils. The oil of Lavender flowers, rich in ketones, does triple duty as a perfume, an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent, and calming aromatic that can help ease tension and allow restful sleep.

The use of alternative therapies continues to grow. More and more people are looking to the wisdom of nature for support for many ailments, both somatic and psychological. Interestingly, the cause of much illness, from a natural healing viewpoint, is a state out-of-tune with nature. The further we stray in our diets and lifestyles from natural ways an means, the more out-of-balance we find ourselves. Lack of balance with the earth, the material source of our physical beings, leads to 'dis-ease'. But help to find balance once again is all around us - because plants have created their fantastic botanical materials in processes guided by the rhythms of the earth, we can turn to plant wisdom to again find our way.

A depressed emotional state is a common reason for using complementary and alternative therapies today. A wide range of psychological, physical, and energetic issues can lead to feelings of depression and a pervasive outlook of negativity. Moreover, once in a state of depression, patterns can arise that make relief all the more difficult to find. The use of essential oils for uplifting the psyche and spirit is becoming more widespread because of the oils' broad and dramatic effects. While the oils themselves may not directly affect the underlying cause of depression, they may help individuals break free from depressive cycles - they may provide the impetus to 'get off the couch', so to speak, and begin creating long lasting change. Many natural healers believe depression to be a result of, like many other ills, of being out of balance; being unable to 'sync up' with the natural state of harmony that permeates the universe. For relieving this is-harmony, aromatherapy can be a very powerful means to infuse one's body and mind with the most concentrated, sublime botanicals nature has to offer.

In humans, the olfactory (sense of smell) region is an area of about 2 and a half square centimeters, and is located in each of the two nasal cavities between and below the eyes. Containing approximately fifty million primary sensory receptor cells, this region is highly intricate, being 10,000 times more perceptive than the sense of taste. When compared to sight, we find that olfaction is more complex - it is able to distinguish a nearly infinite number of element compounds at very low concentrations. In order to perceive the visible spectrum, humans use only three types of photoreceptors; in contrast, the sense of smell relies on several hundred distinct classes of receptors.

Essential oils stimulate multiple regions in the human brain, including those controlling our hormonal and emotional reactions. Aromatic oils have direct and profound effects on our innermost control systems which balance our feelings and mental states. When inhaled, aromatherapy oils passing through the outer layers of the sinuses and activate the olfactory nerves. There, the brain is directly stimulated, producing powerful systemic effects, with the most immediate being on the emotions.

In both Naturopathy and Ayurvedic Medicine (The Science of Life), essential oils are considered to enhance the flow of prana (essential life force), enhance and nourish ojas (sustaining energy and immunological essence), and brighten tejas (clarity and mental luminosity). In Traditional Chinese Medicine, essential oils in general are medicines for the Shen, the spiritual essence that resides in the heart and guides and governs consciousness. Used consciously, essential oils powerfully enhance positive mental and emotional states.

Further, the medicinal properties of essential oils, through their ability to support physiological healing, can also be of great benefit to the heart and mind. A Korean study on the effect of aromatherapy on pain in patients with arthritis found that receiving massage with lavender, marjoram, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint oils significantly decreased both the pain AND mental depression levels.

Following are some oils that have a reputation for up-lifting Shen, enhancing prana, nourishing ojas, and brightening tejas - combinations that may have marked effects on symptoms of depression. These oils can be used alone or in combination in a nebulizing diffuser (producing a fine mist of oils for inhalation), or in aromatherapy massage, thereby inhaled and absorbed through the skin concurrently.

Bergamot (pressed from the peels of bitter oranges) has a strong reputation for its ability to gently uplift. In terms of Chinese medicine, this is a direct result of its smoothing the flow of Liver-Qi ('Chi' or Life Force), the liver being thought of as the seat of the eternal soul. Bergamot combines the ability to both relax the nerves and refresh the Spirit; it is suitable for many types of depressive states.

Neroli (from the flower of bitter oranges), like Bergamot, regulates the Qi - and like Jasmine flower oil, comforts the mind and heart. Neroli is called for at a core level, for the type of depression that comes from nervous and emotional exhaustion. Neroli uplifts the mind and Spirit with its potential to nourish and unify. Neroli assists in retrieving and releasing repressed emotions, with potential to nourish and unify a fragmented psyche. Neroli is specifically indicated for individuals who, in order to escape from emotional pain and suffering, cut themselves off from their feelings and senses.

The essential oil of Chamomile flowers is used when the depression manifests in a moody, irritable, dissatisfied outward expression. Chamomile essential oil is earthy, rich, and grounding with significant calming and uplifting qualities.

When depression is of an overly aggressive, 'fire' nature, it often involves a lack of joy and love in one's life. These are the root emotions of the heart and mind. Joy is an extension of innate harmony and perfection, an experience of emotional and spiritual well-being. There is often an accompanied lack of enthusiasm and interest, along with an inability to become inspired. Essential oil of Rose petals may have dramatic effects on this state. Rose is considered the premier heart opening aromatic, bringing joy and opening the heart to loving experience. Jasmine is also specifically indicated for depression of a 'fire' nature.

What follows are a few recipes for uplifting and releasing depressed emotional states - use your intuition to find the right one. Often, the single essential oil or blend you find most attractive will be the one that serves you best. Experiment, explore, and have fun with these fantastic gifts of nature. These blends may be used in a diffuser or candle lamp, unless where a carrier oil is indicated - blends with carriers are intended specifically for aromatherapy massage (self-massage is very effective, as well as a simple massage from a friend or loved one).

For opening the heart:1 part Rose 3 parts Sandalwood 1 part Sweet Orange or Bergamot 3 parts Jasmine 1 part Ylang Ylang 1 part Sandalwood. For brightening, refreshing and uplifting:3 parts Bergamot 1 part Ylang Ylang 1 part Grapefruit2 parts Bergamot 2 parts Clary Sage 1 part Frankincense3 parts Bergamot or Sweet Orange 2 parts Clary Sage2 parts Frankincense 1 part Lemon 1 part either Jasmine or Neroli. For nourishing:1 part Roman Chamomile 1 part Vanilla 10 parts carrier oil of choice. For a floral and earthy aroma (uplifting and softening to Spirit):1 part Neroli 1 part Vanilla 1 part Orange or 1 part Sandalwood 1 part Chamomile 1 part Bergamot 1 part Helichrysum.

Single oils can certainly be used as well. For depression with negativity, try Bergamot, Chamomile, Helichrysum, Neroli, Orange, or Spikenard. If there is a marked lack of joy, try Rose, Jasmine, Melissa, Patchouli, Rosemary or Ylang Ylang. If overthinking and worry are causing blockage, try Cardamom, Frankincense, Lemon, Marjoram, Myrrh or Vetiver. For regret and remorse, try: Clary Sage, Cypress Leaf, Hyssop Decumbens, or Pine Needle.For inability to cope with overwhelming situations, try: Rose Geranium, Ginger, Jumpier or Thyme.

While aromatherapy can provide support in many cases, it may not be for everyone. Seek professional assistance in any case where one is losing the will to live, or any other seemingly impossible situation. Aromatherapy can be used in concurrently with other treatments, though one should consult their care giver to ensure there are no contraindications with any prescribed medication.
About the Author
The author is the co-owner of www.anandaapothecary.com - More aromatherapy resources are available on this site.
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