By: Kristine Stein, Naturopathic Practitioner, Certified Herbalist, Level One Certified Aromatherapist, BS, MS
The days are getting longer, which is great news for those of us that live in northern latitudes where sunlight is limited to less than nine hours a day in the dead of winter. However, as we all know, the cold will be around for a while which can have a negative effect on people’s mood and outlook. I am going to share some information on chemical constituents in essential oils that can be very effective in improving one’s mood and outlook. I will also share a simple recipe that will help bring some sunshine and positivity to your daily life.
How Essential Oils Improve Your Mood
Scents have a direct impact on the amygdala. The amygdala is a structure deep within the brain that elicits various emotional responses and helps to process memories. The olfactory bulb is connected to this primitive part of the brain. This is why certain scents or smells can take us back to a previous place in time and provoke memories. Essential oils are a simple, yet effective tool that can be very beneficial to improve negative thoughts and effects of stress by utilizing the olfactory bulb/amygdala connection.
The following essential oils are rich in a chemical family known as esters. Esters are a by-product of a chemical reaction that occurs between an alcohol and an organic acid. They are anti-inflammatory, have a balancing effect on the central nervous system (especially in the case of anxiety, depression and stress), can act as a sedative, and help to release muscular and nervous tension. Some essential oils that contain high amounts of esters include lavender, bergamot, clary sage, ylang ylang and Roman chamomile. I will focus on bergamot, clary sage and Roman chamomile.
Benefits of the Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) comes from Southern Italy and the essential oil is produced from the peel of the ripe fruit. It has a bright, citrus-like scent. It helps to balance the hypothalamus gland which is the center of deeper emotions like fear and anger. The hypothalamus is very much impacted by stress as well, which bergamot works well to support. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, bergamot helps to harmonize the Shen (spirit) and helps move liver energy (Qi). One thing to note is that bergamot is phototoxic, which means it can make you more sensitive to sunlight possibly causing sunburns or dermal inflammation.
Benefits of the Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) is an herb native to the Mediterranean and yields a sweet, yet earthy scent when distilled. As a member of the mint family, this plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and has impressive blue and purple flowers. Clary sage has a long history of medicinal use that dates as far back as Ancient Greek and Roman times. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it replenishes Qi energy that is depleted and helps to move energy that is “stuck.” The essential oil is good for depression, anger, mental fatigue, and fragility.
Benefits of the Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is another great herb from the Mediterranean. Roman chamomile is in the aster family and produces small, daisy-like flowers. The foliage has an apple-like scent that is detectable in the essential oil. The scent of Roman chamomile has a calming and restorative effect on the nervous system. It is a great herb to utilize when stress is the culprit of depression or anxiety.
Recipe for a Spritzer for Depression or Anxiety
The following recipe is a spritzer that can be used as often as needed for depression or anxiety. It can be sprayed on clothing, linens, or even on the skin.
Note: Due to potential allergies, I suggest people do a patch test with any essential oil before applying it to the skin. Simply apply one drop to the inside of the wrist and wait approximately 30 minutes. If no reaction occurs, you most likely do not have a sensitivity to that oil.
This recipe is a 2.5% dilution which is safe, but therapeutic.
1 oz. amber bottle with atomizer (the amber glass helps to prevent light from degrading the essential oils)
1 oz. distilled water
Essential oils of bergamot, clary sage and Roman chamomile (For a 2.5% dilution, we will use approximately 15 drops per ounce.)
Add 3 drops of Roman chamomile, 4 drops of clary sage, and 8 drops of bergamot to bottle. Finish the spritzer by adding distilled water to the bottle, shake well and you’re all done! Now you can spray as often as you wish to help elevate your outlook and mood.