Essential Oil Use To Ease Depression And Assist With Decreased Dependency On Pharmaceutical Anti-depressant Drugs

By Beau Miakinkoff, LMT, LMP, CA, IAC

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of advertisements on the airwaves of television and radio, in magazines and newspapers, and all over the internet touting the use of anti-depressant pharmaceutical drugs.  Perhaps you have even heard your doctor recommending  them as well.   The modern medical industry believes depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that psychotropic drugs can correct.  It is estimated that 33 to 35 million American adults are likely to experience depression at some point during their lifetime. 1   These psychotropic drugs are over prescribed, under monitored and the adverse side-effects of the continual use has reached epidemic proportions resulting in a nation of mental and physiological degeneration of health and well-being.21  This thesis will explore the use of essential oils to ease the symptoms of the dis-ease of depression.

The ultimate goal of this thesis paper is to 1.) raise awareness of the need to decrease the dependency and usage of pharmaceutical anti-depressant drugs, 2.) show cause to allow the human brain to holistically serve the body and mind and spirit via aromatherapy, and 3.) to support the notion that essential oils as an alternative health care option may be considered for the harmless treatment of depression.

To begin with, an agreed upon description of depression must be clarified, as it seems there are some discrepancies, depending upon whom or what is consulted to determine the definition.  Depression has been alluded to by a variety of names in both medical and popular literature for thousands of years. Early English texts refer to “melancholia,” which was for centuries, the generic term for all emotional disorders.4   The New American Webster Dictionary states for the third reference of the word as:  “an unwarranted and prolonged condition of emotional dejection” 3   Depression as described on the website of an anti-depressant drug is “a serious biologic disease that affects millions of people each year.” 1   The truth of the matter is, everyone experiences some unhappiness, often as a result of a change, either in the form of a setback or a loss, or simply, as Freud said, “everyday misery.”  In the medical world, depression is now referred to as a mood disorder*, and the primary subtypes are major depression, dysthymia (chronic and usually milder depression), and atypical depression.4  *Which basically is what the Webster Dictionary calls it but the medical world has assigned subtypes and also subcategories under the subtypes.

Major Depression:    Although anyone can develop depression, some types of depression, including major depression, seem to run in families. Whether or not depression is genetic, the disorder is believed to be associated with changes to levels of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and norepinephrine. 1   In major, or acute depression, at least five of the symptoms listed below must occur for a period of at least 2 weeks, and they must represent a change from previous behavior or mood. Depressed mood or loss of interest must be present. Symptoms of Major Depression:

1. Depressed mood on most days for most of each day — irritability may be prominent in children and adolescents

2. Total or very noticeable loss of pleasure most of the time

3. Significant increases or decreases in appetite, weight, or both

4. Sleep disorders, either insomnia or excessive sleepiness, nearly every day

5. Feelings of agitation or a sense of intense slowness

6. Loss of energy and a daily sense of tiredness

7. Sense of guilt or worthlessness nearly all the time

8. Inability to concentrate occurring nearly every day

9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

In addition, other criteria must be met:

* The symptoms listed above do not follow or accompany manic episodes (such as in bipolar disorder or other disorders).

*They impair important normal functions (such as work or personal relationships).

* They are not caused by drugs, alcohol, or other substances.

*They are not caused by normal grief.

Dysthymia (Chronic Depression):   Dysthymia, or chronic depression, afflicts 3 – 6% of the general population and is characterized by many of the same symptoms that occur in major depression. Symptoms of dysthymia are less intense and last much longer, at least 2 years. The symptoms of dysthymia have been described as a “veil of sadness” that covers most activities. Possibly because of the duration of the symptoms, patients who suffer from chronic minor depression do not exhibit marked changes in mood or in daily functioning, although they have low energy, a general negativity, and a sense of dissatisfaction and hopelessness.

Atypical Depression: About a third of patients with depression have atypical depression. Symptoms include overeating and oversleeping. Such patients tend to have a feeling of being weighed down and react strongly to rejection. It tends to occur more in women, unmarried people, and those with other emotional disorders, such as anxiety or substance abuse. It also may impair functioning more severely than ordinary depression does.4,5, 10, 18

Psychotropic (anti-depressant) drugs are being prescribed for reasons other than depression21 such as for agitation, to encourage weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, stress, nerve pain, associations with diabetes,  fibromyalgia,  panic attacks, bulimia, PDD, obsessive compulsive disorder, premenstrual syndrome, chronic pain, and eating disorders, restore balance of “certain” neural chemicals in the brain, to act on the CNS in the brain, to enhance the effects of “certain” natural chemicals in the body (GASA), to stop smoking, control HBP, and to change serotonin and/or norepinephrine levels in the brain.

Most antidepressants are believed to work by slowing the removal of certain chemicals from the brain. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and norepinephrine). Neurotransmitters are needed for normal brain function and are involved in the control of mood and in other responses and functions, such as eating, sleep, pain, and thinking. All of these reasons may be relieved with the use safe of essential oils via aromatherapy.24

A number of antidepressants (chemicals) have been compared below:

Compound SERT NET DAT H1 M1-5 α1 α2 5-HT1A 5-HT2 D2
Agomelatine  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ? 270  ?
Amitriptyline 4.3 35 3250 0.95 9.6 24 690 450 18 1460
Amoxapine 58 16 4310 25 1000 50 2600  ?  ?  ?
Atomoxetine 8.9 2.03 1080 5500 2060 3800 8800 10900 940 35000+
Bupropion 45026 1389 2784 11800 35000+ 4200 35000+ 35000+ 35000+ 35000+
Buspirone  ?  ?  ?  ?  ? 138  ? 5.7 174 362
Butriptyline 1360 5100 3940  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Citalopram 1.16 4070 28100  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Clomipramine 0.28 38 2190 31 37 38 3200  ?  ?  ?
Desipramine 17.6 0.83 3190 60 66 100 5500 6400 350 3500
Dosulepin 8.6 46 5310  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Doxepin 68 29.5 12100 0.17 23 23.5 1270 276 27 360
Duloxetine 0.8 7.5 240  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Etoperidone 890 20000 52000 3100 35000+ 38 570 85 36 2300
Femoxetine 11 760 2050 4200 184 650 1970 2285 130 590
Fluoxetine 0.81 240 3600 5400 590 3800 13900 32400 280 12000
Fluvoxamine 0.81 240 3600  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Imipramine 1.4 37 8500 37 46 32 3100 5800 150 620
Lofepramine 70 5.4 18000 360 67 100 2700 4600 200 2000
Maprotiline 5800 11.1 1000 2 570 90 9400  ?  ?  ?
Mazindol 100 1.4 11  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Mianserin 4000 71 9400  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Milnacipran 123 200 10000+  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Mirtazapine 1500+ 1250~ 1500+ 1~ 1000~ 500~ 100~ 1500+ 10~ 1500+
Nefazodone 200 360 360 24000 11000 48 640 80 26 910
Nisoxetine 383 5.1 477  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Nomifensine 1010 15.6 56  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Nortriptyline 18 4.37 1140 6.3 37 55 2030 294 41 2570
Oxaprotiline 3900 4.9 4340  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Paroxetine 0.13 40 490 22000 108 4600 17000 35000+ 19000 32000
Protriptyline 19.6 1.41 2100 25 25 130 6600  ?  ?  ?
Reboxetine 720 11 10000+  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Sertraline 0.29 420 25 24000 630 380 4100 35000+ 9900 10700
Trazodone 160 8500 7400 1100 35000+ 42 320 96 25.0 35000+
Trimipramine 149 2450 3780 0.27 58 24 680  ?  ?  ?
Venlafaxine 82 2480 7647 35000+ 35000+ 35000+ 35000+ 35000+ 35000+ 35000+
Viloxazine 17300 155 100000+  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Zimelidine 152 9400 11700  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?

The values above are expressed as equilibrium dissociation constants. It should be noted that less is more. SERT, NET, and DAT correspond to the abilities of the compounds to inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, respectively. The other values correspond to their affinity for various receptors.7

Approixmately thirty percent of the people who are depressed have a full remission after completing the initial prescribed course of anti-depressant treatment,.2  but, remain taking the drugs long past feeling better or normal.  A long term study found that episodes of major depression usually last about 20 weeks. 4,5,10,18  Aromatherapy has helped resolve depression in as little as 6 weeks 20  The prolonged use of the non-organic chemicals makes it difficult for discontinuing the use of drugs.  A dependency develops, an imbalance in the “ecosystem” of our bodies develops, organ malfunction develops, and entire body systems break down.  A horrific cycle of adding more pharmaceutical drugs to treat these subsequent symptoms and “sicknesses” is never-ending.  Other studies show that the benefits of depression medication have been exaggerated, with some researchers concluding that, when it comes to mild to moderate depression, antidepressants are only slightly more effective than placebos.   This raises the valid question of:  is depression really caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain?   It appears that researchers know very little about how antidepressants work. There is no test that can measure the amount of serotonin in the living brain. There is no way to even know what a low or normal level of serotonin is, let alone indicate that depression medication corrects these levels. 8  

The most alarming revelation of anti-depressant research is the list of adverse side-effects from anti-depressant drug use that includes, but is not limited to,  nausea, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, decreased sex drive, dizziness, weight gain or loss, tremors, sweating, sleepiness, fatigue, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, yellowing of the skin and eyes, muscle stiffness, a decrease in the ability to determine distances, a diminished ability to reason, a decrease in blood sugar levels, an increase or  decrease in blood pressure.8   All of the ancillary symptoms may be relieved with the use of essential oils via aromatherapy. In more serious cases of prolonged anti-depressant use, the side effects result in violence, suicide, abnormal bleeding, brain tumors, birth defects, heart problems, stroke, seizures and death. (I am quite sure I have omitted a few other adverse side effects.)

Altering the normalfunctions of the human brain with pharmaceutical anti-depressant chemicals upsets the natural balance of the entire body.  The mind is being prohibited from deciphering and making adjustments to self-correct.  The body is unable to filter out the unnatural impurities of these chemicals and the toxins build up to the point of terminal levels.  The spirit is being deprived of normal emotions and can not comprehend the falseness (illusions) of the unnatural chemicals.  Nothing is working synergistically anymore.  Each new symptom that develops is being treated with yet another unnatural chemical.  Perhaps it is time to return to the past.  There is a need for a resurgence of alternative natural holistic medicines.  Essential oils have the capacity to fill this need.

Essential oils, (also referred to as divine essences and liquid herbs) have been around for many centuries prior to allopathic medicine.  But it has only been since the 1930’s that medical researchers have documented their effects to ease depression in peer-reviewed studies.  Essential oil use for helping with the dis-ease of depression is one of the most promising uses in aromatherapy.  Essential oils have tremendous benefits when inhaled or applied topically. They enter the human bloodstream quickly via olfaction or dermal absorption where they exert measurable psychological and physical effects.  Studies have concluded that aromatherapy with essential oils for the management of depression, anxiety, some cognitive disorders, insomnia and stress-related disorders are effective.  The authors of the study further state that aromatherapy “provides a potentially effective treatment for a range of psychiatric disorders” and “appears to be without adverse effects of many conventional psychotropic drugs”.9

Essential oils are made from the many natural chemical constituents of the whole plant.  (i.e. the plants chemicals are not being separated or isolated from the plants’ whole benefit).  They are primarily 100% botanical.  Essential oils come from the “life blood” or “essence” of the plants.  They are called essential because without them, the plant itself could not survive.

Our brains, bodies and spirits know exactly what to do with essential oils.  They can use them with little to no adverse reactions and know when enough is sufficient and can eliminate what is no longer needed.  Amazingly, essential oils encourage healing and harmony throughout the whole human well-being on all levels.

Very simply, plants and humans are not so much different in our basic needs:  Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen and Sulphur.  The plant ð food  ð man correlation:  1. Plants create glucose through the process of photosynthesis.  The plant uses light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose.  The plant uses enzymes and minerals from the soil (such as nitrogen, magnesium and sulphur) to assist with this process.  2. Plants convert glucose into amino acids. 3. Humans consume the food that contains glucose and amino acids. 4. Amino acids are joined together to produce protein in humans. The Diagram above shows how essential oils are formed in the plants. 26

 Plant energies and morphology in terms of alternative medicine and healing is the practice of utilizing the aromatic molecules from plants for medicinal and spiritual needs.  Aromatherapy with essential oils is very much the same.  Each essential oil vibrates on an electrical frequency.  (all living matter has an electrical frequency quotient)  The vibrations are influenced by the growing conditions and environment, harvesting methods, and skills of distillation in extracting the oils from the plants.

There is a vast array of essential oils for aromatherapy that may be used for helping with easing depression.  They can be used individually or blended into synergies. 11,12,13,14,15,16,17,19

Essential Oils Used for Emotional Balance

 Essential Oils Used for Emotional Balance
Angelica  1
Basil  4
Bergamot  6
Camphor  2
Chamomile, German  5
Chamomile, Roman  5
Clary Sage  5
Cypress  2
Fleabane                                            4 +  5
Frankincense  3
Geranium                                           4 +  5
Grapefruit  6
Jasmine  5 Legend:
Juniper                                               2 +  6


Lavender  5


Lemon  6


Mandarin  6


Majoram  4


May Chang  6


Melissa  4
Neroli  5
Patchouli                                             1 +  5
Palmarosa  4
Peppermint  4
Petitgrain  4
Pine  2
Rose  5
Sandalwood  2
Spearmint  4
Spikenard                                            1 +  4
Spruce  2
Tangerine  6
Vetiver  1
Yarrow, Blue  5
Ylang Ylang  5

The above chart information compiled from several essential oil reference books. 10,11,14,16,17,19

There is a correlation of how the essential “life blood of plants” oils benefit human health and how they immediately have an affinity to certain human body systems.

Roots (the foundation): Roots provide stability by attaching the plant to the earth and absorbing nutrients and water from the surrounding soil, which enable the plant to survive.  Therefore, essential oils extracted from roots of plants tend to be stabilizing and strengthening. They have an affinity with the Earth element and tend to be grounding.  Essential oils from the roots have a food-like quality to them.  They are not very refined, but usually are potent stimulants of the vital functions of the human body.

Wood (the structure): The strength of wood allows trees to grow incredible heights and live for hundreds of years.  Wood oils reflect the durable nature of trees providing strength and endurance (similar to the function of our skeletal system) needed to tackle life’s challenges. Wood oils are centering and equilibrating.  Wood oils also have the power to open our consciousness to high spheres without making us lose control.

Resin (the blood): Many trees and shrubs produce resins. The gum (the sticky sap) has powerful wound-healing properties physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Essential oils extracted from resins have been extensively used in rituals and religious ceremonies, and are found to possess pronounced qualities that sooth, comfort, fortify and elevate actions on the soul and spirit.

Stems (blood vessels): Stems support the leaves and conducts the water, minerals, and organic nutrients throughout the plant. Essential oils extracted from the stems are beneficial to the human circulatory system, enhancing the delivery of vital minerals and nutrients needed for our bodies.

Leaves (the lungs): The plant’s leaf system is vital to the body of the plant.  Leaves are the factories of the plant that combine solar energy with carbon dioxide in the air and the nutrients from water and soil forming the building blocks of all living matter.  Essential oils extracted from plant leaves have a strong affinity with the human respiratory system.

Flowers (reproduction): The flower of the plant is an organ for sexual reproduction.  Flowering plants produce the seeds for reproduction within the flower itself.  When a plant produces flowers, it is the plant’s ultimate achievement!  The flower also produces the scent to attract insects for pollination.  Many floral oils such as jasmine and rose have an affinity with the reproductive system and are referred to as aphrodisiacs.  However, essential oils obtained from the flowers of plants have a wide variety of healthful human uses suggesting that these oils are indicative of helping us to reach our most highest potential as well as maintain a whole healthy body.


Root                            10%




Gum/Resin                    3%


Leaves/Stems              25%


Flowers                        29%


Fruit/Rind                     18%

Chart is compiled from information taken from several essential oil reference books that is listed for Essential Oils Used for Emotional Balance chart. 10,11,14,16,17,19

Interestingly, of the essential oils selected for their anti-depressant qualities, most are derived from the leaves & stems (25%) and the flowers (29%) of the plants. It is not by accident that the human olfactory network just happens to be the perfect delivery system for receiving the divine benefits of essential oils.

The fact that the olfactory system is so closely connected to the limbic system, is how essential oils have such a profound physiological and psychological effect.  Passing through the capillary beds of the sinuses and activating the olfactory nerves, volatile plant oils enter the brain, producing direct and powerful systemic effects – the most immediate being on the emotions. The olfactory bulb sends impulses along the lateral olfactory tract to five different structures in the brain, including the amygdala, the anterior olfactory nucleus (which helps process smells), the olfactory tubercle, the piriform cortex (which passes the signal on to other structures to create a conscious perception of the odor), and the entorhinal cortex (which processes stimuli before sending them on to the hippocampus.  The limbic system includes structures such as the hippocampus (long-term memory center of the brain), the amygdala (responsible for storing and releasing emotional trauma), the hypothalamus (the center for ANS and hormones) and the cingulate gyrus (regulates BP, heart rate and attention).16,18,22  All this translates into “If you can breathe, you can utilize essential oils for health benefits.”

In addition to serving as an anti-depressant, these essential oils also have the capacity of being a safe, holistic source for other conditions of which some are in relation to stress and anxiety along with the cross-over symptoms thereof. They also may assist with being  analgesic, anticonvulsive, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antineuralgic, antiseptic, antirhuematic, antispasmodic, antiphlogistic, antitussive, antiviral, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, balsamic, carminative, cephalic, choloagogue, choleretic, cicatrisant, cordial, cytophylactic, decongestant, demulcent, deodorant, detoxicant, depurative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, disinfectant, emmenagogue, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, fungicide, galactagogue, hepatic, haemostatic, hypotensive, insecticidal, nervine, rubefacient, laxative, parturient, restorative, stomachic, sedative, styptic, stimulant, sudorific, tonic, uterine, vasodilator, vasoconstrictor, venous decongestant, vermifuge, vulnerary as well as serving to balance the eleven human body systems.11,12,13,14,15,16,17

Aromatherapy use of essential oils helps to “harmonize” the body.  An integrated, holistic approach for the treatment of depression surely is a more healthful, effective way of helping 60 million Americans facing the debilitating condition called depression. Used consciously, essential oils powerfully enhance positive mental and emotional states.18

In summary, human well-being should be nourished with natural remedies for true health care.  Humans recognize and respond better with live energies.  Essential oils have a direct and profound effect on the deepest levels of the body, emotions, and psyche. The pharmaceutical companies “design” antidepressant drugs in a chemical laboratory to treat a small portion of the pathology depression with no regard for how they affect the balance of the rest of the human body’s systems.  The allopathic treatment with a manufactured chemical combination disrupts the natural, normal efforts of the human brain to self-correct what is temporarily out-of-order.  Anti-depressant drug use statistics show a pattern of treating a condition that affects the entire being with a specific non-organic chemical that targets a portion of the disorder.   These statistics reveal that this is not beneficial to the human desire of healthy, whole well-being.  An analogy of the situation represents it as allopathic medicine is dismantling a puzzle/isolating a symptom. The pharmaceutical industry takes one piece of the puzzle/symptom and treats it individually with little to no consideration of how these non-organic chemicals influence the other pieces of the puzzle/the rest of the body, mind and spirit so-to-speak. The human body is an incredible living machine.  Human well-being requires all aspects of our systems to work together to support and maintain good health.


Bibliography and Resources


2  2006 NIH study, as quoted by Michael W. Smith, WedMD

The New American Webster Dictionary 1972 “depression” 3rd referenced meaning


5 Ebmeier KP, Donaghey C, Steele JD. Recent developments and current controversies in depression. Lancet. 2006 Jan 14;367(9505):153-67.

Rush AJ, Trivedi MH, Wisniewski SR, Nierenberg AA, Stewart JW, Warden D, et al. Acute and longer-term outcomes in depressed outpatients requiring one or severaltreatment steps: a STAR*D report. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Nov;163(11):1905-17.

Simon GE, Von Korff M, Saunders K, Miglioretti DL, Crane PK, van Belle G, et al. Association between obesity and psychiatric disorders in the US adult population. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Jul;63(7):824-30.

Zarate CA Jr, Singh JB, Carlson PJ, Brutsche NE, Ameli R, Luckenbaugh DA, et al. A randomized trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant major depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Aug;63(8):856-64.


7 [93][94][95][96]


9 Perry N, Perry E, “Aromatherapy in the management of psychiatric disorders: clinical and neuropharmacological perspectives” CNS Drugs. 2006;20(4);257-80.

10 Salvatore Battaglia The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy 2nd edition, 2003 “Depression” pgs 485-487

11 Salvatore Battaglia The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy 2nd edition, 2003 “The Essential Oils”, “Exotic Essential Oils” pgs 159-300.

12 Valarie Ann Worwood The Fragrant Pharmacy 1990, pgs 98, 105-106

13 Robert B. Tisserand The Art of Aromatherapy 1977, pgs 299, 177-286

14  Valerie Gennari Cooksley, R.N. Aromatherapy  2002, pgs 238-246, 3-20

15 Daniel Penoeol, M.D., Rose Marie Penoel Natural Home Health Care using Essential Oils 1998, pgs 95- 109

16 Connie and Alan Higley, Reference Guide for Essential Oils 12th edition 2010, pgs 39-130, 32

17 Compiled by Essential Science Publishing, Essential Oils Desk Reference 4th edition 2009, pgs 37-108, 395, 534-543, 526


19 Faculty, Valerie Cooksley, RN, Laraine Kyle, RN,MSN, CMT Certificate Program in Integrative Aromatherapy Vol 2, Essential Oil Materia Medica pgs 356-399

20 Beau Miakinkoff personal experiences

21 White Dragon Therapies client experiences

22  Elaine N. Marieb Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology seventh edition 2003. pgs. 218



25 Phillip Whitfield The Human Body Explained 1995, pgs. 35-137

26 Young Living Essential Oils copyright 1999


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