What Can You Do?
According to the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) SAD affects three to five percent of adults in
SAD develops during dark and rainy months when there is a lack of natural light. When natural light (composed of all the colours of the rainbow) enters the eyes it strikes the pineal gland at the base of the brain, which secretes melatonin. Melatonin affects sleep, mood and the reproductive cycle. Normally melatonin increases at night (telling your body you are tired) and decreases in the morning (allowing your body to wake up). With SAD, melatonin production occurs later than usual, causing tiredness when one should feel awake. Light also plays a part in the endocrine system (hormonal system), which plays a principal role in the health of mind and body.
Worldwide studies are showing that environmental aromatherapy works and mainstream doctors are starting to pay attention. Aromatherapy works by matching a specific essential oil (extracted from plants) to a specific ailment. Scientists aren't exactly sure why aromatherapy works. They do know that upon inhaling, the odours from the essential oils travel to the brain via the olfactory nerve tracks reaching the limbic system of the brain (which controls emotions). At this point the limbic system is somehow triggered—releasing neurochemicals (brain affecting chemicals) causing the brain to associate one of three action responses: calming, balancing or stimulating.
Rosemary's Amazing Abilities
CAT scans have revealed that the inhalation of rosemary essential oil accelerates electrical activity (increases alertness) in the cerebral cortex. Rosemary is mint-like sweet with the scent of honey. It not only increases alertness but when employed in massage, body lotion and body oil, rosemary may: stimulate circulation, fat metabolism, gallbladder and heat discharge of skin; increase low blood pressure and liver metabolism; and improve sugar metabolism. Generally people with high blood pressure or epilepsy do not use rosemary because of its stimulating nature and the accelerated activity on the electrical impulses of the brain.
Other Effective Oils and Blending
Other essential oils that can be used to effectively combat SAD include:
bergamot(uplifting), orange (energizing), lemon(stimulating), mandarin(revitalizing), coriander(motivating), geranium(balancing), grapefruit(cheering), petitgrain(revitalizing), neroli(peaceful), peppermint(restoring), rose(reassuring & healing), and lavender(relaxing & comforting). All these oils have unique properties and can create positive responses when individually used. When blended with other essential oils, you can create a synergistic blend with compounded positive results. To ensure effectiveness, it is recommended to consult an experienced aromatherapist or purchase a synergy that has already been professionally blended. Always obtain instructions for use from the aromatherapist for effective results.
Pre-blended formulas in massage oils, bath blends, body and foot lotions may also be purchased. It is very important that you use 100% natural products as much of the commercial aromatherapy is little more that synthetic perfume oil blended in concoctions of synthetic chemicals. Stay away from ingredients such as phenoxy ethanol, DEA, TEA, artificial colour, methyl or propyl parabens, propylene glycol, and quanterium15 as these chemicals may be carcinogenic, toxic and/or irritating.
Varying qualities of essential oils will alter therapeutic results. It is advised that you make sure any essential oil you buy has undergone proper testing to ensure purity. Things to look for include purity and botanical authenticity (pure plant-sourced essential oils), Complete oils not constituents; an example of this would be geranium not geraniol. Geraniol is just one of over 300 naturally occurring chemical constituents that make up geranium essential oil. Geraniol can be synthetically created and therefore does not hold any positive plant life therapy. Altering and/or dissecting essential oils disturbs the perfect balance of the plant oil and thus is not recommended for true aromatherapy. Therefore always use complete, plant derived essential oils.
Vitamins and Herbal Supplements
The following supplements are recommended for combating SAD or any kind of depression: B12, B-complex, Vitamin C, St. Johns Wort, 5HTP, Greens drink, evening primrose and calcium/magnesium. Consult the health care advisor before beginning a new program.
Nutrition & Healthy Lifestyle
When dealing with the "winter blues" and SAD, it is important to strive for an overall healthy lifestyle. Studies show that one of the best ways to help eliminate "the blues" is by exercising. Also, a balanced diet is necessary to be truly healthy. Certain organic foods such as brussel sprouts, lemons, oranges and grapefruits are recommended daily due to their Vitamin C content. Green leafy vegetables, and eggs help to provide B vitamins. Try to avoid genetically modified food. Drink lots of water (8 glasses a day) and try to slowly eliminate processed sugars and refined white flour products (which deplete the body of much needed B vitamins).
A healthy lifestyle should be the foundation of any get-well or be-well program. Once the foundation is in place, one can introduce such therapies as aromatherapy, herbal or vitamin supplementation, pilates, circuit training and juicing. It is always important to feel comfortable with new therapies and consultants. If you feel uncomfortable about any type of therapy, do your own research and ask many questions—after all, this is about you and your good health.
Suzanne Laurin-Seale is an aromatherapist/consultant, providing 100% pure essential oils(GCMS-tested) and related products for any be-well, get-well lifestyle. For more information on SAD- related products please drop by Suzanne's specialty store, Nature's Creations Aromatherapy & Wellness at 205 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver; 604.990.0833.