As nice as it would be to experience sunshine, rainbows, and happiness every day, the reality of situation stressors such as difficulties at work or in our relationships sometimes cause us to have some truly awful days. From getting into an intense argument with our romantic partner to having a last-minute project dumped on us at work right before a long weekend, many of us experience situations that could potentially cause us to feed overwhelmed or angry on a regular basis. However, sometimes the source of a more chronic type of depressed mood is the imbalance of chemicals in the brain, causing a deficiency in the consumption of certain neurotransmitters that allow us to feel happy and at ease. These deficiencies can turn molehills into mountains for some, producing psychological barriers that can block the experience of joy.
The Role of Anger in Depression
Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, referred to the experience of depression as anger turned inward (1). And in many ways, this accurately reflects many of the symptoms and emotions expressed by people who experience chronic depression. Oftentimes people suffering from depression feel inadequate and unable to find the motivation within themselves to be happy and change their own mood. This can become a cyclical pattern, causing people to feel constant frustration towards themselves for their inability to break this pattern. These inner voices that can be shamelessly critical and unforgiving perpetuate these feelings of shame, which in turn causes more anger and depression.
Coping with anger and depression, whether it be situational or stemming from a chronic condition, is no easy task. There is no one simple supplement or daily exercise that is powerful enough to relieve these emotions fully. Rather, we are left with the harder task of working every day to stick to daily routines that lift our spirits and aid in emotional stability. Sometimes, for more severe circumstances, what we really require is a solid therapist and temporary pharmaceutical remedies that help to stabilize our emotions. That being said, there are a number of all-natural herbs and oils that we can work into our daily routine to add to the holistic healing we need to address bouts of anger and depression.
How Can Essential Oils Help Relieve Depression and Anger?
Research has revealed the power essential oil can have on an array of bodily functions, ranging from regulating the autonomic nervous system, to treating severe pain (2, 3). Given this wide range of benefits, it should come as no surprise that aromatherapy and the use of essential oils can also have significant impact on emotional affect. And although more severe cases of chronic depression might be better suited for treatment methods involving prescription drugs, aromatherapy can be used effectively as a supplement to those methods, or by itself for less severe situational cases.
But how does it work? Chemically speaking, the inhalation of essential oils activates the limbic system – an important part of the brain that helps to control pleasure, pain, mood, and general emotion. It does so by sending a trigger to the brain through the olfactory nerve. In turn, this activation of neurons directly impacts our emotional and memory response, which can help to boost mood when we need it most.
And with that, here are the best essential oils for depression and anger.
Bergamot Essential Oil
This essential oil is actually extracted by using a cold-press mechanism using the rind of a bergamot orange fruit. Most people recognize the distinct taste of bergamot because this is the additive that gives earl grey tea its unique taste. The extract provides the body a wide range of benefits ranging from increasing energy flow and boosting mood, to improving blood circulation and working as an anti-depressant. For example, research has revealed bergamot’s ability to reduce anxiety and stress levels by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid levels in the hippocampus, which is most often associated with anxiety relief (4).
Another study involving participants in Japan observed bergamot oil’s effects on feelings of anxiety and fatigue, which found that bergamot elicited a significant reduction on symptoms when mixed with water vapor (5). Given that mental fatigue and stress are often linked to feelings of burnout and depression, it is no wonder why many prefer bergamot oil aromatherapy as an all-natural way to reduce depression and relieve feelings of anger.
Using Bergamot Essential Oil for Depression:
- Mix with lavender oil in your diffuser to help reduce stress and promote positive mood
- Rub a few drops into the feet (diluting with your favorite carrier oil), massaging it into the wrists, or on the shoulders to relieve tension
Lavender Essential Oil
Historically speaking, the use of Lavender dates back to ancient Greece and Rome as it was often used as a bath additive to help soothe the body and purify the mind. While most people today can easily point out lavender by its bright purple color or its distinct pleasant scent, many people are vastly unaware of the benefits it can provide in treating a number of ailments. From headache relief to treating skin irritations, the extract from this flowering plant remains one of the most widely used essential oils today. In fact, the National Cancer Institute has even recommended lavender be used to help patients manage the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Lavender oil has been studied in a number of research capacities to have significant impact on boosting mood and reducing the symptoms of depression. For example, one study on college-aged women found that regular inhalation of lavender showed significant beneficial effects on reducing insomnia and depression (6). Other studies that observed the actual chemical effects lavender has on the nervous system also conclude that lavender oil has potential for use on a number of ailments due to its anti-anxiety and anti-depressive properties (7)
Using Lavender Essential Oil for Depression:
- Diffuse in your bedroom to help aid with sleep and calming the mind
- Inhale or waft the oil vapors directly from the bottle
- Rub topically several drops into the wrists or ankles to achieve similar results
Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
The ylang-ylang tree is a tropical plant native throughout parts of India, Malaysia, the Phillipines, and Australia, and is commonly harvested for the flowers that can be used to make an essential oil. It is used in a number of cosmetics, perfumes, and even household cleaners due to its pleasant and delightfully delicate smell, while the essential oil can be inhaled and enjoyed for a number of benefits on regulating emotion. In fact, research has linked the regular use of ylang ylang essential oil in aromatherapy settings with improvements in self-esteem (8). Other studies have revealed that ylang ylang can also reduce blood pressure, which could in turn reduce the likelihood of developing more serious conditions such as heart disease (9).
Using Ylang Ylang Essential Oil for Depression:
- Mix into diffuser during sleeping hours to aid with stress reduction and restoration of hormonal balance
- Rub gently into wrist or ankle joints, or a few drops into the shoulder blades to reduce irritability and promote positive mood
Jasmine Essential Oil
Among the most dominant essential oils used for depression is jasmine, derived from the white flowers of the plant itself. The plant can be found in many tropical climates but is believed to be originally from the Iran region. Interestingly enough, Jasmine is actually a primary ingredient in the well-known perfume Chanel No. 5 (along with Ylang Ylang oil) and is enjoyed all over the world for its sweet, delightful scent.
One study published in the Journal of Health Research found that the inhalation of jasmine oil activated neural pathways in the brain that produced positive emotions and feelings in the group of participants (10). Other research indicates that jasmine show potential not only for reducing depressive symptoms, but for behavior arousal as well (11). Therefore, this essential oil might be an ideal relief for many individuals also suffering from lethargy and inability to take action due to the fatigue they are experiencing from depressive symptoms.
Using Jasmine Essential Oil for Depression:
- Rub gently into the ankles or wrists to aid in the relief of stress, anxiety, and anger
- Waft the fragrance from the bottle into the nose while inhaling
Rose Geranium Essential Oil
Native to certain parts of Africa, this plant produces plush pale pink or off-white leaves that smell strongly of roses. Similar to jasmine oil, rose geranium oil is also used in a diversity of cosmetic products, particularly topical lotions. This is due to research-backed evidence that the plant’s antioxidant makeup potentially has anti-aging properties (12). In addition to its anti-aging ingredients, rose geranium has also been studied for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects as well, another reason why it is commonly used in many modern cosmetic lines (13). With regard to depression and anxiety, research has also revealed that this essential oil can significantly reduce symptoms as a non-invasive, all-natural remedy (14).
Using Rose Geranium Essential Oil for Depression:
- Enjoy in your favorite reed or water vapor diffusor
- Gently waft the aroma from the bottle directly into the nostrils while gently inhaling
Wild Ginger Essential Oil
Not to be confused with the conventional ginger you might enjoy when you’re out for sushi, wild ginger essential oil is extracted from the plant that belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. Unlike some of the more delicate scents on this list, wild ginger smells spicy, enticing, and warm, with hints of pepper and lemon. For individuals experiencing anger, depression, or stress, wild ginger might prove to be a useful natural remedy. It is known to activate the serotonergic system in the brain, similar to those activated by more conventional pharmaceuticals used to treat depression. Research on animals has revealed that the inhalation of wild ginger oil significantly reduced depression-like behaviors, in addition to reducing key signs of stress and anxiety (15).
Using Wild Ginger Essential Oil for Depression:
- Dilute oil droplets into your vapor diffusor or reed diffusor 30 minutes before bedtime
- Waft the scent directly from the bottle into the nose while inhaling gently
Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
The extract from this perennial plant produces one of the most soothing, yet powerful oils that is considered to be a cornerstone in modern aromatherapy. In addition to the popularity of chamomile as an essential oil, it is also widely used in teas, candles, and some lotions for the calming effects it can have on the mind and body. In addition to a wide array of research that links chamomile tea consumption with the reduction of anxiety and stress, other studies have also made the link between inhalation of the essential oil and reduction in depressive symptoms (16). In addition to these proven benefits, chamomile in its oil or tea form can also significantly improve sleep quality, which is why it is often used as a supplement treatment for people suffering from insomnia.
Using Roman Chamomile Essential Oil for Depression:
- Mix into your favorite diffuser and enjoy around bedtime
- Breathe in gently while wafting the aromas toward your nose from the opening of the bottle
Clary Sage Essential Oil
Sage remains one of the most popular and widely-used herbs today, used in various cuisines, cleaning agents, spiritual rituals, bath bombs, and candles. The plant itself belongs to the mint family and has a strong and earthy scent and flavor. The organic matter from this herb can be extracted to create a powerful essential oil that is known to activate the dopaminergic pathways in the brain. In fact, research has revealed that clary sage shows opportunity for use as a therapeutic agent for patients with depression (17).
Using Clary Sage Essential Oil for Depression:
- Mix with jasmine essential oil into your favorite diffusor for anxiety and depression relief
- Add several drops of the oil into a hot bath, breathing in the mix of steam and aroma as you soak