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Top 4 Essential Oils for Depression


Essential Oils for Depression - Dr. Axe

Depression is incredibly common. In fact, you may be near someone every day and not even know that he or she is suffering from depression.

However, there are symptoms that may signal signs of depression, such as fatigue, sadness, moodiness, low sex drive, low self-esteem, loss of appetite, feelings that the tough days will never end, and never accepting invitations to go out with friends or get involved in activities. I know that seems like quite a list, but there are many more behaviors that could be an indication that you or someone you know is suffering from depression.

Luckily, there are natural remedies for depression out there, including using certain essential oils — similar to the way you can use essential oils for anxiety. Below are my top four essential oils for depression treatment.

Top Essential Oils for Depression

In clinical trials, essential oils have been proven to elevate mood. You may be wondering how essential oils work. Because smells are carried directly to the brain, they serve as emotional triggers. The limbic system evaluates the sensory stimuli, registering pleasure, pain, danger or safety. This then creates and ultimately directs our emotional response, which can include feelings of fear, anger, depression and attraction.

Our basic emotions and hormonal balance are in response to the most basic smells. This makes scents very powerful in our day-to-day lives because they’re a direct pathway to memory and emotion — which is why they can fight depression and anxiety. Here are my top for essential oils for depression:

1. Bergamot

Bergamot oil is a great antidepressant because it’s very stimulating. Bergamot can create a feeling of joy, freshness and energy by improving the circulation of your blood. It’s also shown the ability to work as a natural remedy for anxiety, as a 2011 study in Thailand found that bergamot lowered the anxiety response in rats. (1)

Another 2011 study hypothesizes that applying a blended essential oil that includes bergamot to participants helps treat depression. The blended essential oil mixed bergamot with lavender essential oil, and participants were analyzed based on their blood pressure, pulse rates, breathing rates and skin temperature. In addition, subjects had to rate their emotional condition in terms of relaxation, vigor, calmness, attentiveness, mood and alertness in order to assess behavioral changes.

Compared with the placebo, blended essential oil caused significant decreases of pulse rate and blood pressure. At the emotional level, subjects in the blended essential oil group rated themselves as “more calm” and “more relaxed” than subjects in the control group. The investigation demonstrates the relaxing effect of a mixture of lavender and bergamot oils, and it provides evidence for its use in medicine for treating depression or anxiety in humans. (2)

You can use bergamot oil by rubbing two to three drops into your hands and cupping your mouth and nose. Breathe in the oil slowly. Try rubbing the oil on your feet and stomach, too.

2. Lavender

Lavender oil benefits mood and has long been used to help battle depression. A study published by the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice reported that 80-milligram capsules of lavender essential oil can help alleviate anxiety and depression. The study also showed that there were no adverse side effects from using lavender oil to treat anxiety and depression. This is great news since we know that synthetic medications and psychotropic drugs often have many negative side effects. (3)

A 2012 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice evaluated 28 women at high risk for postpartum depression and found that by diffusing lavender in their home, they had a significant reduction of postnatal depression and reduced anxiety disorder after a four-week treatment plan of lavender aromatherapy. (4)

Yet another study showcasing that lavender aromatherapy improves mood was done on people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can result in depression. Lavender had amazing results, showing signs of enhanced moods. The results revealed that the lavender oil, when used daily, helped decrease depression by 32.7 percent and dramatically decreased sleep disturbances, moodiness and overall health status in 47 people suffering from PTSD. (5)

To relieve stress and improve sleep, put a diffuser by your bed and diffuse oils while you sleep at night or in the family room while you’re reading or winding down in the evening. Also, it can be rubbed topically behind your ears for the same benefits.


Top four essential oils for depression - Dr. Axe


3. Roman Chamomile

Chamomile is one the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation. This is why you see chamomile as a popular ingredient in candles and other aromatherapy products, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form.

Chamomile benefits your emotions by providing soothing qualities to help with depression. According to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review, inhaling chamomile vapors using chamomile oil is often recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression. (6, 7)

4. Ylang Ylang

Ylang ylang may have a funny name, but it has amazing benefits for helping stave off depression and negative emotions associated with depression. Inhaling ylang ylang can have immediate, positive effects on your mood and act like a mild, remedy for depression. Research shows it can help release negative emotions such as anger, low self-esteem and even jealousy! (8)

Ylang ylang works because of its mild sedative effects, which can lower stress responses helping you relax. To enhance confidence, mood and self-love, try diffusing the oil in your home or massaging it into your skin.

Depression by the Numbers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, conducted a survey in 2013 on mental behavior disorders. It covered both residents of households (persons living in houses/townhouses, apartments, condominiums; civilians living in housing on military bases; etc.) and persons in non-institutional group quarters (e.g., shelters, rooming/boarding houses, college dormitories, migratory workers’ camps, halfway houses). They noted that major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S..

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2010), major depression also carries the heaviest burden of disability among mental and behavioral disorders. In 2013, an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This represented 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults.

Among adults aged 18 or older in 2013, 10 million (4.2 percent) had serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year. The percentage of adults in 2013 with any mental illness (AMI) in the past year was highest for adults aged 26 to 49 (21.5 percent), followed by those aged 18 to 25 (19.4 percent), then by those aged 50 or older (15.3 percent). Women aged 18 or older were more likely than men aged 18 or older to have AMI (22.3 vs. 14.4 percent) and SMI (4.9 vs. 3.5 percent) in 2013. And to add to these shocking numbers, in 2013, there were 2.6 million youths aged 12 to 17 (10.7 percent) who had major depressive episode (MDE) during the past year. The most common reason that youths aged 12 to 17 gave for receiving specialty mental health services in 2013 was feeling depressed (50.2 percent). (9, 10)

The causes of depression are numerous as well. Chronic stress, emotional problems from the past, hormonal imbalances, alcohol, poor diet causing nutritional deficiencies, lack of sun exposure, toxins in the body and food allergies are all contributing causes.

One of the most common ways that people are treated for depression is through prescription medication. While everyone’s situation is different, it’s all too often that these meds have serious side effects, such as suicidal thoughts, weight gain and unusual personality changes.

A government study that was published in the Washington Post stated: “Antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients with the disease even if they receive the best possible care.” (11) While I’m not suggesting that all meds cause this problem and I want to make it clear that you should talk to a doctor immediately if you feel you’re suffering from depression, I do believe that it’s possible to treat depression through other means, like the essential oils for depression mentioned above.

A  2008 study with 58 hospice patients presented some interesting conclusions regarding the effectiveness of essential oils for depression. The hospice patients were given hand massages once a day for one week with an essential oil blend in 1.5 percent dilution with sweet almond oil. The essential oil blend consisted of these essential oils in equal ratios:

  • bergamot C. aurantium var. bergamia
  • frankincense Boswellia carterii (Birdw.)
  • lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.)

All patients who received the aromatherapy hand massage reported less pain and depression with the conclusion that aromatherapy massage with this essential oil blend is more effective for pain and depression management than massage alone. (12)


Depression by the numbers - Dr. Axe


How to Use Essential Oils for Depression

There are several ways you can use essential oils for depression.

To relieve stress while improving sleep, put a diffuser by your bed and diffuse oils while you sleep at night. You can also rub topically behind your ears, on the back of the neck, your tummy and bottoms of the feet.

The right oils can make a great massage oil, whether you have a full body massage or just use self-massage techniques. Below is a great recipe that you can try!

Lavender and Chamomile Massage Blend for Depression


  • 20–30 drops pure lavender essential oil
  • 20–30 drops pure chamomile essential oil
  • 2 ounces grapeseed oil


  1. Blend all ingredients well into a glass jar.
  2. Massage into your entire body, or take it to your masseuse and ask him or her to use it, 2–3 times per month.
  3. You can also use hand and neck massage oil daily or even massage into the bottoms of your feet at night before going to bed.

Essential Oils for Depression Risks

Use any essential oils sparingly, whether internally or topically. High levels might cause reactions and sensitivity, so be sure to do a skin patch check before using on a regular basis. You also want to use caution if you take blood pressure medications or have an existing heart condition. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any new treatment.

It’s important to make sure that any essential oils you choose are 100 percent pure. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your doctor first. While most oils are safe for children, please do proper research and review with your physician.


  • Depression affects tens of millions of people around the world and is the most common mental disorder in the U.S.
  • There are many ways to naturally treat depression, particularly with essential oils.
  • The top four essential oils for depression are bergamot, lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang.
  • You can use essential oils for depression topically or aromatically, usually as a cream or in a diffuser.
  • If you use these four essential oils for depression, you’re sure to lower your stress levels and anxiety, helping reverse feelings of depression.

Read Next: The Top 7 Essential Oils for Anxiety

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  1. KIm on

    I would like to know if you can use another oil besides evening Primose Oil for my Hormone Balancing Serum? Its so hard to get….And where in the neck do I put this?

    • Chris Julian on

      Evening Primrose Oil is also known as GLA ..( I think it is spelled..gamma linoleic acid)..Personally I take GLA Complex by Shaklee..2 capsules a day to balance my hormones You can check it out at ( use the search bar to find it) Hope that helps!

    • Jan on

      Kim, Imuse Young Living oils. These are great for hormones. …….
      Clary Sage Oil……inhale….reduces cortisol levels, improves thyroid levels, balances Estrogen production.

      Thyme oil……balances progesterone

      Rose, lanvender, Chamomile, and Frankensnce oils are all also very good.

      Ocatea oil……balances hormones and endocrine system

      Myrtle oil…….rub on throat

      Progessence Plus…..2-4 drops on throat and wrists at bedtime.

    • Emily on

      Hi there
      My boyfriend has been suffering from severe depression since his father died a year ago. He is on anti depressants but he wants to try oils. What are the best for depression and also his anxiety. Is there a good blend? Thanks

  2. beverly on

    I’m not well in many areas… but for this question I have asthma and allergies to many foods… inside triggers and outside… are these oils safe to use for me and what would be the bset way

    • Jenny on

      There are several essential oils that help asthma symptoms and may even help with lung damage. Eucalyptus, Roman Chamomile, Lavender, Peppermint, and Rose are just a few…After using essential oils I have noticed a drastic change in my allergies (sinus and the ones that cause skin irritations). If you do research and decide to use essential oils in your everyday life, I just urge you to research brands and make sure you choose a very pure oil. Personally, I use DoTerra.

    • Shelly on

      I have allergic asthma and am allergic to ragweed. Camomile is in the same family as ragweed, so use with caution, maybe trying a small amount to see if you have a reaction. For example, if I drink camomile tea, my throat gets itchy and I get congested. If I use a body wash or lotion with camomile, I get a rash. Hopefully you’ll be fine because camomile has many benefits, but I want to spare you a bad reaction in case you are allergic.

    • Cid on

      Gluten and sugar can be serious triggers for depression (arthritis, and many other inflammatory reactions in the body) – I can see where a Paleo diet would be incredibly helpful with depression.

      • Emily on

        Hi Emily
        The Paleo Diet is invaluable for almost all health issues, by removing gluten and dairy you remove alot of stress from the digestive tract. The gut is intrinsically linked to the nervous system, once the gut is healthy the mind follows. Paleo is 80% fresh clean veggies and fruit, 15%fresh clean meat and 5% nuts and seeds -roughly. Cull as many stimulants as you can, coffee, tea, alcohol, smoking etc. Pete Evans in Australia is a good advocate to check out, find him on Facebook and go from there. To help support the gut, get a good probiotic mix, usually at least three different stains of gut flora. Herbal support for depression include a really good Vitamin B supplement (an absolute must, do not skip the Bs), St Johns Wort, the herbal anti depressant, must be taken consistently for three weeks before results will be felt, then you need to take 2 week breaks every three months to prevent desensitisation (this can interfere with pharmacuticals so make sure you have checked everything first), there is also a really good Stress and Anxiety mix by Fusion, which uses chinese herbs too and that is very effective. I cannot stress the importance of clean eating, plenty of clean water (rain or filtered) and some form of exercise, even just a leisurely stroll everyday, our bodies are made to move and they break down if we don’t. I hope this gives you a few things to look at. Have an idea what you want and make sure you discuss your plan a qualified naturopath or other health practioner to ensure no interference with any others medicines. As for the essential oils, I can only go on the information in the above article as this is a fairly new area to me. Best of luck and Peace.

  3. Tami on

    I want to use Breath on my one year old for bronchitis. I plan to rub it on his feet with a dollar bottle. I will be making it myself.
    How many drops of Breath should I use with how many drops of fco ? Would like to know the proportions so I do not get it to strong.

  4. carmilita on

    I use doTERRA’s brand of essential oils.

    I like to bergamot, frankincense, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, wild orange and serenity mostly. I also like ginger and whisper as well!

  5. Amy Siler on

    Last year, I had a breakdown and ended up in the psych. unit of the hospital for 7 days. They put me on celexa, ativan, sleeping pills and folic acid. I left feeling more depressed than when I went in. I spent several months just trying to get out of bed. It was tough. I have a strong background in natural medicine and decided to throw away the meds. Once off of them I felt better. Then, I increased my maganesium and fish oil and a good probiotic, boy this made me like a new person. Although before the incident I was already taking good vitamins but, I did not understand the lack of minerals in my body. For the past few months I have been using doTERRA to help too and it does work! I use alot of frankincense and wild orange and some lavender. I am always looking for other ways to help with the anxiety too. Thank you!

    • Julie on

      Hi Amy, I had a similar experience and found complete relief and reversal of symptoms (including hideous anxiety) by following Julia Ross’s protocol from her book The Mood Cure (you can download this from Amazon as a kindle book for less than $10). Basically increasing protein in my diet, eliminating stress foods, taking Vitamin B and E, magnesium and GABA (the later being an amino acid, made an enormous difference with the anxiety). Now I am also using essential oils and for once in my life feel extremely well and in control of my mind and body…and better still have dumped all medication. All the best in your journey to recovery, you will get there :) I hope this helps.

    • Alicia Avila on

      Essential oils are great for depression and anxiety.
      I also found Louise Hay meditation YouTube videos for depression, fears, anxiety. Use positive affirmations daily and you are on your way to healthy mind.

    • Jan on

      Jo, I use Young Living oils with animals. I use many different ones with our dog Duke. Young Living is great for dogs. What exactly do you want them for your dog? I use them for Duke’s digestive system, neck and leg…knee problems, sinuses, allergies, sneezing, immune system, and many other things. I have used YLmoils on ther animals, too.

      • Michele on

        Please be very careful applying oils directly on dogs! After being directed to apply Young Living oils on my dog, he developed a bad infection at the site of application.
        Please use caution. Better yet, use oils aromatically with animals.

      • Mary Ann OMalley on

        Many oils are not good for dogs nor cats.the best thing let’s say lavendar for a dog put a drop on his research says oils are not safe on animals.and even in people with thyroid,kidney or a compromised liver same with dogs.with cats oils are a nono,they store the oils and become toxic.

  6. Jackie Schroeder on

    My brand of choice for essential oils is Native American Nutritionals. Whole New Mom did an extensive study on EO brands and this was her clear winner. Check it out on her blog. They are 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade and less expensive than DoTerra or the other multi-level marketing oils. Free Shipping too. My favorite oil is a blend called LOVE. You cannot go wrong with that one!

    • Brenda on

      I use NAN oils too and love them! I trust in this company, they are high quality oils! I luv using ylang ylang for my anxiety and depression, but have to blend well with jojoba oil as I’m sensitive to this oil. I also inhale frankinsence each day as recommended by Dr.Axe. This really helps too :)
      Please don’t ever use essential oils on cats, it’s a no-no unless under a qualified
      Aromatherapist and holistic vets instructions.

  7. Susan N on

    What if the company I buy essential oils from is currently out of stock on roman chamomile? They are actually not harvesting it right now? They have other blends that contain roman chamomile, but it’s not the same as pure RC.

    • Leslie Gillin on

      Susan, Young Living has a chart that tells you which oil to use instead when the oil you want is out of stock/not being harvested. I can send it to you if you can’t find it.

      • Glenda Howland on

        It’s actually a good sign when an oil goes out of stock because of harvesting. That means they don’t run to brokers just to keep it on the shelf. Seed to seal, genuine, therapeutic value is imperative for health. Research companies.
        I wouldn’t get from Amazon, because of over pricing and tampering. I’d rather know where it’s coming from.

  8. Theresa Weindl on

    Thank you Dr Axe for helping me in my discovery of Essential Oils and other natural healing methods.Since I started making and using various oil blends, I noticed a number of wonderful health benefits and have turned some of my friends into converts. Thank you again ,and may God continue to bless your work.

  9. Theresa Weindl on

    Thank you Dr Axe for helping me in my discovery of Essential Oils and other natural healing methods. Since I started making and applying various oil blends, I noticed a number of wonderful health benefits,and have converted some of my friends into converts..Thank you again,and may God continue to bless your valuable work.

  10. Marian Sarafinchan on

    Dr. Axe what is the best brand of essential oil to purchase? If I find a good source for essential oils that are consumable are these also safe to diffuse and use as a topical if Immersed in a carrier oil? Or does one need to purchase separate oils for each purpose?

    • Elizabeth on

      I personally use Young Living essential oils. They have been around the longest…over 20 years and even have the seed to seal guarantee seal – plant, culture, harvest, distill and package. They made “essential oil” a household phrase it is today.

    • Joanne on

      Hi Marian,
      I use doTERRA and love it! They have high quality oils that at safe to use internally, and the company itself does so much for people all around the world. They have several levels of independent testing to ensure quality and potency. Oils can be purchased both individually and in kits, however you choose to buy. I invite you to check out the doTERRAblog and look at the Living Magazine for more on the company. ?

  11. Linda on

    Please listen to “Missing Link” by Dr Gary Young, the pioneer of pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. I’ve been using Young Living Oils for 2 years & listening to training CDs based on 22 years of research!
    Missing Link is a great teaching on the basics of what Essential oils are and the difference in cheap oils full of petrochemicals, Dr Young has pure lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile & hundreds of pure & blended oils, you can smell & feel the difference in these oils. Let me know if your ready to get started using them & sharing them with others because you care!

  12. Pat on

    I have been having terrible hot flashes for 15 yrs, accompanied by heart palpitations. Nothing helped. Although I use aroma therapy oil, I any afraid of using estrogen sensitive oils like Clary sage. Any suggestions.

  13. Beverley hanson on

    I have a metal heart valve and have to take warfarin. What oils should I avoid? I have always used oils since I was a teenager. 35 years ago. Lol hate to have to quit using them

  14. Maricela on

    I have a friend who was mild depression but I only have yLang ylang and lavender
    What would be the formula to use and with which carrier oil

  15. Jennifer Kelly on

    There are so many different brands of essential oils out there. Does Dr. Axe recommend a specific brand? I could not find anything on this site. Need help in choosing.

    • Kat Buxton on

      I use the PURE essential oils from They are 1/2 the cost of the competition and they have a 60-day 100% money-back guarantee. The company has over 500 safer for your home wellness products. I’ve been a customer for 6 years and I won’t shop anywhere else! It’s a shopping membership club. They have a referral program, like Dish Network, Hulu, Netflix, Vivint, etc. . I can show you the online shopping overview and you can decide if it’s a good fit for you or not.

      • Kat on

        Forgot to mention that not all Eos are created equal! Make sure you know that there is no such thing as ‘therapeutic grade’ (or grade B, C, or D). A grading system, quite simply, does not exist for EOs. It is a product of marketing and marketing alone. – National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Make sure your EOs have had GCMS testing, Chirality testing, Heavy Metal/Pesticide/Herbicide testing, Organoleptic testing, Optical Rotation/Refractive Index testing, Specific Gravity testing, Microbial testing, Flash Point testing, Isotopic Analysis, and FTIR testing. doTerra and Young Living do not have all the testing done for their oils. Melaleuca’s oils don’t contain synthetics or impurities. They are 100% pure oil extracted directly from the botanical plant source. Their oils completed the full battery of quality tests.





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