Using Aromatherapy For Seasonal Affective Disorder
Posted Dec 01 2009 10:00pm
Many people experience a depression-like state at the same time each year, typically in the fall or winter. It’s a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and if you experience it, you may feel irritable or morose and your energy is zapped each day. Sometimes called the winter blues, SAD is a very real condition, most often affecting people in northern regions that experience distinct seasons.
One of the primary causes of SAD is the decline of full sunlight. During the spring and summer months, the sun is more visible, regulating serotonin levels, a neurochemical in the brain responsible for moods as well as melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm. When fall and winter months brings more cloud cover and less natural sunlight, your serotonin and melatonin levels become irregular, causing sleeplessness, food cravings, fatigue, poor concentration and even a sense of desolation.
Aromatherapy Treatment for SAD
Medical treatment for SAD may be in the form of psychotherapy, light therapy or even anti-depressant medications. However, if you would rather stick to a more holistic, natural approach, consider herbs and aromatherapy instead. Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils and other aromatic components from plants and herbs for the intention of elevating a person’s health, mental acuity or even mood.
Essential oils used in aromatherapy can be employed in a variety of ways such as massage, bathing and inhalation. Many essential oils have healing compounds with antiviral, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties which can help boost your immune system too. Therefore, when you partake of the essential oils through your olfactory system or skin, they enter the bloodstream indirectly to provide you with the maximum benefits.
The condition SAD affects not only your mind but your body and spirit as well. Aromatherapy is proven to help all three facets of this condition. You can even use this type of therapy in conjunction with others such as prescription medications or counseling. Here are some ways to incorporate aromatherapy into your life to help chase away the affects of SAD:
1. Lack of mental acuity and low energy levels – You need essential oils that arouse the mind and body as well as fuel the spirit. Most citrus oils such as orange, grapefruit and lime are exceptional at boosting energy as well as improve concentration. Peppermint, spearmint, rosemary and basil also help too.
2. Sleep problems – Relaxing scents of essential oils are needed to calm the mind, body and spirit and prepare them for slumber. Oils that produce relaxing effects include lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile and neroli. If you have problems waking in the morning and don’t feel like you want to get up, peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary and bergamot essential oil can clarify the mind and uplift the spirit.
3. Food cravings – People with SAD tend to overeat and crave foods to combat the feelings of depression. Essential oils such as fennel, peppermint, grapefruit and black pepper can redirect those impulses that “tell” you to eat.
When you use essential oils, it is important to mix them with a carrier oil like almond, grapeseed or olive oil before using them in a bath or for massages. Essential oils are quite strong and can burn skin without a carrier oil. Most are not meant for internal consumption so always follow the directions on your essential oils. As long as you follow the directions for proper use, you will benefit from aromatherapy and hopefully alleviate the symptoms of SAD.