As the weather draws in and lockdown drags on, we’re all looking for safe, healthy ways to boost our mood and energy. Essential oils are nature’s answer to the problem: they smell delicious, fragrance your room without dangerous chemicals and actually stimulate the brain to release endorphins that calm anxiety and make you feel better in yourself. Here are the top three choices to lighten the dark days of winter:
1. Bergamot: Bergamot oil is extracted from the rinds of citrus fruit (Citrus bergamia) that grow on bergamot orange trees. If you’re a fan of Earl Grey tea, you’re already enjoying the distinctive taste of bergamot, which is used to flavour it. But you may not know that bergamot is also powerfully active against mood disorder. A 2015 study done on women in Japan found that inhaled bergamot oil mixed with water vapor reduced feelings of anxiety and fatigue.1 Similarly, a 2013 article published in the journal Current Drug Targets reported that aromatherapy with bergamot can relieve depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders by signalling the brain to release dopamine and serotonin.2
2. Grapefruit: Grapefruit oil, which is extracted from the rind of the grapefruit plant, has been used for centuries to help beat inflammation, weight gain, sugar cravings and even hangover symptoms. But it also works powerfully to reduce stress. Research suggests that inhaling grapefruit oil or using it for aromatherapy within your home can help turn on relaxation responses within the brain and even lower your blood pressure naturally. Inhaling grapefruit vapours can quickly and directly transmit messages to your brain region involved in controlling emotional responses. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Japanese Pharmacology investigated the effects of grapefruit oil fragrance inhalation on sympathetic brain activity in normal adults and found that grapefruit oil (along with other essential oils like peppermint oil, estragon, fennel and rose essential oil) significantly affected brain activity and relaxation. The adults who inhaled the oils experienced a 1.5- to 2.5-fold increase in relative sympathetic activity that improved their mood and reduced stressful feelings. They also experienced a noticeable reduction in systolic blood pressure compared with inhalation of an odourless solvent.3
3. Lemon – Lemon oil vapour has been found to have a marked anti-stress and “antidepressant-like effect.”4 Studies, as well as clinically applied experience, have indicated that lemon essential oil can help to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.5 Researchers believe that the application of citrus fragrances for depressive patients can help reduce the doses of antidepressants needed by naturally lifting their mood, energy and motivation.6
In order to get the maximum energy-boosting benefit of essential oils, treat yourself to a diffuser which will provide a lovely fragrance in your home, or add a few drops to your bath. Never apply essential oils neat to your skin.