Aromatherapy essential oils for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Essential oils for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This month I thought I would talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression affecting about 2 million people in the UK, and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe. The condition is more common in women than men and most likely to develop in people aged 18 to 30; it tends to start in Autumn, as the days become shorter and there is reduced exposure to sunlight, is at its peak in the winter months, and starts to improve as the days become longer in Spring. The two main symptoms are low mood and a lack of interest in life. Other symptoms may include feelings of irritability, despair, guilt, low self-esteem, indecisiveness, tearfulness, stress, anxiety, tiredness, lethargy, lack of concentration and being less active than normal.

Whilst the exact causes of SAD are not actually understood, NHS Choices state that: “Sunlight can affect some of the brain's chemicals and hormones….one theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite and sleep. These things can affect how you feel. In people with SAD, a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stops the hypothalamus working properly”.

Experts believe that the lack of light is thought to affect production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin as well as the body’s internal clock, which is responsible for regulating several biological processes (also known as the circadian rhythm).

If you believe you have symptoms of SAD it is always advisable to visit your GP, who may wish to carry out an assessment to ascertain whether you are suffering from the condition. As with any form of depression, SAD can be difficult to live with, making sufferers feel tired, stressed and unhappy. However, the NHS state that it can be treated successfully with, for example, Light Therapy, medication, or cognitive behavioural therapy.

I believe that the use of aromatherapy essential oils may also help to alleviate some of the symptoms of SAD, thereby providing sufferers with another, natural coping mechanism. I've provided a list of the essential oils below that are reputed to be beneficial in helping the sufferer feel that they are in control of the condition, rather than the condition being in control of them.

Recommended essential oils for Seasonal Affective Disorder / Winter blues:

Top notes:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)

Middle notes:

Chamomile Roman (Anthemis nobilis)
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

Base notes:

Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
Neroli (Citrus aurantium amara)
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
Rose Otto (Rosa damascena)
Sandalwood (Santalum album)
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides
Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)

Recommended carrier oils for blending:

Sweet Almond (Prunus amygdalus)
Apricot Kernel (Prunus armeniaca)
Avocado (Persea gratissima)
Jojoba (Simmondsia sinensis)
Macademia (Macadamia ternifolia)
Peach Kernel (Prunus persica)
Rosehip (Rosa rubiginosa)

Creating a synergistic essential oil blend:

In order to create a synergistic blend it is recommended to select a top, middle and base note from the lists provided, taking into account, of course, any contra-indications. I recommend using a ratio of 2:4:1 in 7ml of carrier oil. For example, if I wanted to use an all-time favourite blend of mine comprising of Bergamot, Lavender and Rose I would use 2 drops of Bergamot, 4 drops of Lavender and 1 drop of Rose in 7ml of carrier oil, such as Rosehip Seed Oil. Bergamot is sunshine in a bottle and is particularly uplifting, whilst Lavender is relaxing, and Rose, apart from having a beautiful aroma, is reputed to be a hormonal balancer. The three blended together offer an exquisite aroma that can be enjoyed in massage or in aromatherapy baths. You may also wish to add the essential oils to a base cream or lotion in the same proportions and apply morning and night.

I do hope this article has provided you with some useful information and that the use of essential oils will help to give some relief from the miserable symptoms of SAD.

Christine Fisk
Consultant Aromatherapist

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