Shorter days, dark mornings and cold temperatures make many of us feel a little tired and low. Some winter blues are normal, especially in the northern latitudes where the sun disappears for months. Many of us lack energy, want to sleep more and crave for sweet foods during the darkest time of the year.
Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder
There is a difference between a bit of winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), a type of depression that usually appears during the winter months. S.A.D is often treated with light therapy. The Mental Health America website and the sad.org.uk website have more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms and treatment.
Winter blues is sometimes said to be a mild version of S.A.D. Obviously, I am not suggesting in this article that you should start to treat S.A.D. with bergamot essential oil. If you do use the following oils and you are taking medication for wintertime depression, these citrus oils are safe to use and do not interfere with any medicines.
Essential Oils for the Winter Blues
Citrus oils are some of the best essential oils to relieve winter blues symptoms. They are uplifting and cheerful, and most people like their scents.
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) is an uplifting, energizing oil. This energizing quality makes it a great oil for those who get tired, sleepy and unmotivated during the winter months. It is one of the best oils to use in your oil burner on a dark morning when it feels so hard to wake up.
Orange (Citrus aurantium varieties: sweet and bitter orange both work) has a sunny character that is perfect during the winter when sunshine seems far away. It is mildly relaxing and can be used in an evening bath blend, but it has an uplifting quality that makes it useful throughout the day. Add a few drops of orange essential oil to your oil burner on its own or combine it with grapefruit or bergamot.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is the oil most aromatherapists turn to when their clients complain about feeling low or unhappy. Bergamot is the traditional aromatherapy mood lifter. Use it in the burner, in bath blends and in massages, as long as you remember that when used on the skin bergamot can cause sensitivity to the sun.
How to Use Citrus Oils to Beat the Winter Blues
- add 3-6 drops to your essential oil burner. Use one oil or a combination: citrus oils are generally safe for most people, so you can let your personal preferences guide you
- make a citrus blend for your bath: try any combination of citrus oils you like or happen to have in the cupboard. Up to 6 drops in a bath is enough. If your skin is sensitive, blend the oils in 1-2 teaspoons of almond, jojoba or other carrier oil, or full-fat milk
- get an aromatherapy massage from a qualified aromatherapist.
Citrus oils blend well together, and they blend well with many other essential oils. Most are safe to use even during pregnancy from the 2nd trimester onwards. Mandarin (tangerine) is considered safe throughout pregnancy in low dilutions (0.5-1%). When applied directly on the skin, some citrus oils can irritate sensitive skin, so dilute them first.
Sources: Patricia Davis: Aromatherapy, an A-Z (Random House, UK, 2004)