A slow drizzle drips outside my window as I write this – a common occurrence in this part of the world – and I find my spirits darkening with the color of the sky.
Looks like it’s time to reach for the lavender essential oil.
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is just one in a happy group of essential oils that have been shown to relieve depression and uplift the spirits. It’s a great one to know about because it’s easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and has a multitude of other uses.
In fact, lavender oil occupies a prime space in my traveling first aid kit. I bring it everywhere and have employed it for everything from bug bites and bee stings, to swollen glands, and even – in a pinch – for a toothache.
But that’s another story. Today we’re talking about beating the blues.
How can a little bottle of oil possibly transform those pessimistic inner grey skies to sunny hope-filled horizons?
Essential oils are concentrated essences of plants. The aromatic essence is separated from the plant matter and water, most often through the process of steam distillation. The resulting liquid is not at all oily, so essential “oil” is somewhat of a misnomer.
Because they are so concentrated, these essences possess powerful therapeutic properties. And one of the easiest ways to experience their benefits is through your sense of smell.
Well, duh, I guess that’s why it’s called “aroma-therapy.”
I’m no chemist, but the way I understand it is our sense of smell has receptor nerve endings that make a non-stop direct pathway to the brain. This is why just a whiff of a certain scent from the past can bring you right back to that place and time.
The lavender plant has been used for centuries to help with depression, stress and irritability. And while the dried flowers stuffed in sachets – or the fresh ones just pinched and sniffed – have some of that aroma-therapeutic action, the essential oil will really pack a punch.
And lavender is joined by a posse of other essential oils that assist in uplifting the spirits.
Or, perhaps you want to experiment with blending essential oils to create your own signature “happy scent.”
Whatever your reasons, here are some other essential oils that might lift your emotions out from the dumps (you know – those ones you find yourself down in sometimes.)
- Sandalwood (Santalum album) – especially good for depression that results from being physically and mentally depleted.
- Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) – great for premenstrual depression, and for the anxious feelings that result from abstaining from addictions.
- Neroli (Citrus aurantium) – this precious oil made from orange blossoms gently lifts the mood, can reduce fear and instill confidence.
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) – sweet, tropical and flowery, this scent can moderate feelings of anger, frustration, fear and of course depression.
Keep in mind that essential oils vary wildly in price. Some of the above listed oils, such as sandalwood and neroli take hundreds of pounds of plant matter and dozens of hours to extract an ounce or two. Therefore, a couple of drops might run you upwards of a dollar. But, with these precious oils a drop goes a long way, and sometimes all you have to do is sniff the bottle lid to get an aroma-therapeutic effect.
So – all you have to do is open the bottle and sniff?
Well, actually, yes – a person can receive the anti-depressive benefits from an essential oil simply by taking a whiff. But there are numerous other methods to utilize these healing substances, especially when you want to enjoy the benefits of a blend of oils.
Here are a few of the easiest and most effective ways to use essential oils for aromatherapy:
- Massage or Body Oil – This way you get the added healing power of touch. Add 5-20 drops of essential oil per ounce of vegetable oil and rub on the body. Children, people with health concerns and pregnant women should use the smaller amount.)
- Bath – Fill the tub with water, add 3-15 drops and swish around. Sink in and inhale those cares away!
- Diffuser – There are many types of essential oil diffusers available, ranging from simple ceramic rings to place around a light bulb, to fancy (and expensive) nebulizers that utilize the oils for optimum therapeutics. The best diffusers don’t use heat, but any type of diffuser will spread that healing scent around a room and elevate the mood.
- Room Spray – cheap and effective. Simply mix 20 drops in four ounces of water, shake very well and spritz around the room. You can even close your eyes and spray a mist around your face. Since essential oils don’t blend well with water, it is crucial that you shake that thing every single time you spritz!
Well, now you might be raring to go wild and banish those blues with essential oils. But where can you find them?
Just as different oils vary in price, different companies sell a huge range in quality of these aromatic essences. If you want to get the maximum bang for your buck, it’s worth it to shell out at little more at the get-go.
High quality, pure essential oils are far more effective in aromatherapy than their synthetic or diluted counterparts.
Many health food stores and herb shops sell high quality essential oils, and they can also be purchased online directly from the supplier. Some things to look for when you are purchasing essential oils:
- Is the Latin name listed on the bottle? Companies that care about the quality of their product make sure the essence is made with the proper variety of the plant. The best essential oils always include the scientific name on the bottle.
- Are the prices the same for each individual oil? Since the amount of time and plant matter required to extract different oils is huge, this is a sure sign that the essential oils are not pure.
- Is the oil sold in a tinted bottle? Essential oils are affected by heat and light, and high quality essences are always packaged in amber glass (or another dark color.)
See – it’s so easy! At bare minimum you can pick up a bottle of lavender oil and be feeling cheerier in minutes.
IMPORTANT CAUTION: If you are pregnant, lactating, or experiencing a serious health condition, you should consult a qualified health practitioner before using essential oils. Do not take essential oils internally, or apply undiluted to the skin unless directed by a practitioner.