Beat Depression and Anxiety Without Drugs

In light of the shocking suicides of fashion icon Kate Spade at 55 and Anthony Bourdain at 61, experts encourage us to take anxiety disorders and depression seriously.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults aged 18 and over, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The ADAA points out that is it not uncommon for those who suffer from these disorders to also suffer from depression. And the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that 16 million adults in America suffer from at least one major depressive episode every year.

“Depression can be a dangerous health condition which can lead to severe consequences, including suicide, if not addressed correctly,” Dr. Ellen Kamhi, author of "Cycles of Life, Herbs for Women," tells Newsmax Health.

“Therefore it is a health concern that should be evaluated by a licensed professional. However, there are times when self care is appropriate. For example, if the depression is mild, seems to be a passing phase within a short period of time, caused by a specific event such as moving, retiring or some other life change or linked to SAD (seasonal affective disorder), natural therapies can be helpful.”

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One of the most powerful anti-depressant therapies is the use of pure essential oils.

Kamhi says that aromatherapy or the use of essential oils as inhalants can actually interact with the olfactory system that connects the nasal cavity to the brain. The natural constituents of the oil can help bring the brain back into balance and relieve stress and mild depression, she adds.

“Do not confuse essential oils with herbal extracts,” she says. “While herbal extracts are prepared by soaking herbs in water or alcohol, the production of essential oils requires a more sophisticated process of distillation, which yields a highly concentrated product ... Using essential oils as an inhalant is a safe way to experiment with these ‘scentsational,’ powerful products.”

Kamhi recommends placing a few drops on a cotton ball and placing it near your nose. You can also make a refreshing mist by filling a spray bottle with three ounces of pure spring water and adding 10-12 drops of essential oil or place the oils in a diffuser, carefully following the directions.

Some of the essential oils that can be useful in staving off depression are:

Lavender. Research has found that that lavender may be as effective as a common drug used to treat depression. In a study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, researchers attributed lavender essential oil as an antidepressant because of its ability to regulate the brain messenger known as serotonin — the “feel-good” chemical that is often out of balance in people suffering from depression.

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Lemon. The fresh, invigorating scent of lemon can actually ward off depression according to the journal Behavioral Brain Research. Scientists found that lemon was effective as an anti-depressant.

Chamomile. Chamomile has been used for centuries to reduce stress and promote relaxation. According to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review, inhaling chamomile vapors is often recommended in many countries as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression.

Sandalwood. This essential oil is a natural anti-anxiety and mood lifting aid. It’s a common fragrance used in incense and as an aromatic oil it has a very soothing and calming effect.

Bergamot. This oil is a great antidepressant because it so invigorating. Inhaling bergamot oil can produce a feeling of joy, freshness and energy by improving the circulation of the blood. A 2011 study in Thailand found that mixing bergamot with lavender essential oils lowered blood pressure, pulse rates, breathing rates and skin temperature. In addition, the participants reported that they felt calmer and more relaxed than the placebo group.

Use any essential oils sparingly as they are highly concentrated and if you are applying them to your skin, perform a skin patch test first, says Kamhi. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any new form of treatment.