Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Beating the Winter Blues: Using Aromatherapy

Guest Blogger, Christina Smith, Certified Aromatherapist, and one of our Aromatherapists on Call writes:

What is SAD?

Are you feeling blue, trapped in your house during the cold and dreary winter months? You are not alone! However, it might be more than just negative feelings about the weather and inability to get outside. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects 10 million Americans every year [1]. Those who suffer from this mood disorder may notice that it typically crops up around the same time each year [2]. Interestingly, the winter season is the prime time most individuals experience symptoms, but its important to note that it may not be the only time these symptoms complicate your life. Some individuals may experience SAD during the summer months as well [3]. It is important to note that working closely with your physician is key to understanding SAD. If you have one or more of the symptoms listed below, make an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your options[1].


 Symptoms of SAD vary widely and depend not only upon each individual but also biological factors like gender, age, and family history, as well as other factors like geographical location [3, 4]. The most common signs of SAD are: feelings of depressed mood, changes in appetite, a lack of desire to do the things you normally loved, sleep disturbances or changes in sleep, fatigue or an increase in irritability, and withdrawal from social situations [1, 2, 3, 4].

 Conventional Interventions

While any healthy lifestyle should always start with a nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet along with proper amounts of sleep and regular exercise, there are other conventional treatments regularly recommended by physicians to combat the symptoms of SAD. These include[2]:

   Medications: Many similar or identical to those used for depression can help manage the symptoms associated with SAD [1, 2, 3, 4].

   Psychotherapy: Also known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or talk therapy [2], psychotherapy may help refocus the mind and provide tools for coping with SAD. This method of therapy is useful to help reduce overall stress and teaches patients to identify their triggers and then how to manage them in a healthier way [1, 2].

   Light Therapy: The use of a light box may reduce or eliminate the symptoms associated with SAD. These devices can be found at online retailers and are simple to use. Plug in and spend up to an hour in front of the light box on a daily basis. Consistent use is key, for the duration of the winter season. Best when combined with CBT, but also very effective on its own with few or no side effects [1, 2, 3, 4].

   Vitamin D: Though not a stand-alone treatment for SAD, research shows that people who typically suffer from SAD do have low levels of vitamin D. The jury is out on whether this is an effective treatment--some say its highly effective while others find little or no effect [2].

Aromatic Interventions

 While traditional methods are helpful to many people, perhaps you prefer a holistic approach along with traditional interventions, or you want to explore complementary things you can do at home to improve your wellbeing!

Lets explore the ways aromatics may be able to assist your healing journey. Its widely known that the large, light molecules found in most monoterpenes are uplifting to the heart and mind. These include perennial favorites like citrus essential oils (Sweet Orange, Lemon, Mandarin, Grapefruit and the like). Other useful aromatic choices for SAD are listed below (keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list)

   Bergamot: Encourages and balances the spirit while also combating fatigue due to stress, tension and anxiety. Bergamot is a powerful antidote to the blue mood during the deep, dark days of winter.

   Neroli: Provides an uplifting and peaceful feeling and is lovely by itself, or blends well with rose, bergamot, or other citrus oils. Emotionally, Neroli is the specific for anxiety and can ease depression. It is a key ingredient in our anti-anxiety blend Reunite

   Rose Absolute: What else could evoke such beautiful memories of a sun-drenched summer garden than a whiff of rose? Soothing to both the spirit and the mind, while calming any irritable emotions, rose is a perfect way to be lifted up out of the dreary days of winter.

   Frankincense:  Frankincense has been used by cultures around the world for spiritual growth and meditation. It is believed to have a centering effect on the emotions. It can slow respiration, thus helping your body calm and center itself.

   Bay (Laurel): A wonderful, masculine scent for the men in our lives who may be struck with a bit of the winter blues. Blends well with citrus oils for extra brightness. Bay Laurel is a great way to perk up but be mellow and grounded at the same time.
   Lavender: It is ubiquitous in the area of self-care, and well-known for the relaxation and mellowness it can afford the user, Lavender is said to calm anxiety and/or hysteria. It is a valued addition to any sress-relieving blend of oils, whether the stress is physical or emotional. Lavender helps balance almost all extreme emotions.

Are you not confident in your blending skills, or pressed for time and want a simple solution? Dont worry and take the guess work out by trying our [3] Citrus Smile Blend--the perfect pick-me-up for those seasonal blahs!

   Citrus Smile offers a pleasant lift to the spirit and provides a wonderfully bright aroma certain to improve mood. Its called Citrus Smile because you cannot help but crack a big grin when the aroma hits your nostrils!

Next you may ask--what are the best methods of use for aromatic interventions? Inhalation is truly the best route to combat SAD. For the most versatile option, we recommend using a blank inhaler & creating a blend to suit your needs or preferences. These are perfect for use at home, at work, or on-the-go in a pocket or purse! If you spend a lot of time at home, then a diffuser or warmer may be a good option.

 Putting it all together

Arming yourself with information is key; action is the next step.  A visit with your primary health care provider is always a great place to begin. Next, make small changes over time, instead of large ones. This helps reduce being overwhelmed by lifestyle changes. Change one thing a week until youve implemented your new plan. Be gentle with yourself and remember that spring is just around the corner!

Finally, visit us at www.naturesgift.com to explore our selection of aromatics, learn more from our blog or email one of our Aromatherapists with a question! Wishing you a warm and cozy late winter season!

Resources (accessed 1/18/2018)
[1] Season Affective Disorder. Psychology Today. March 6, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder Accessed Jan. 18, 2018
[2] Seasonal Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Joseph Goldberg, MD. WebMD. April 13, 2018.  https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/seasonal-affective-disorder#1 Accessed Jan. 18, 2018
[3] Seasonal Affective Disorder. National Institute for Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml Accessed Jan. 18, 2018
[4] Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mayo Clinic staff. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651 Accessed Jan. 18, 2018

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Canary in the Coal Mine

In the old days, before the advent of more modern equipment, miners would carry a canary in a cage at the forefront of their progress in the mine.  The canary would be much more sensitive to the poisonous gases which could overcome the miners.  So the canary’s wellbeing, or death, was an indicator of things to come for the miners.  If the canary keeled over, it was time to escape the mine.  Hence the phrase “a canary in a coal mine”… an indicator of danger.
The real Canary in a Coal Mine

For years I have been saying that our essential oils are ‘the canary in the coal mine’  as I see, season after season, crops fail because of extreme weather. 

The Bulgarian Lavender harvest this past summer was 1/3 what it should have been, because of heavy rains for the weeks prior to harvest time, when the lavender needed bright, sunny days.  Wildfires destroyed the world’s only Fragonia plantation two years ago.  The French wild Thyme harvesting has not occurred, because the plants were not worth harvesting for the past two years.  Again, the ‘wrong’ weather.

Today, a lengthy response from a grower/supplier of Australian oils I’ve dealt with for years, indicates trouble yet again.   I had sent him a shopping list.  He could supply nothing that I was asking for, because severe drought had prevented most of the harvests, and monsoon rains are preventing the others.

He urged me to look elsewhere, that a larger exporter might have what I am seeking, and added, “No doubt about it, Australia is in the forefront of climate change, and harvesting and distillation of essential oils is among the first of industries to be adversely affected. I hope the rest of the world takes notice, but somehow, I think not.”

Now, Australia has been known for extreme weather ever since it was settled.  But it is now suffering even wilder extremes.

And, if our essential oils are not growing and being harvested, how long will it be before the food supplies are also threatened?

What are your thoughts on this problem, and what can we, as individuals, do to make it better?