S.A.D, Winter Blues & Aromatherapy

by Penny Price October 16, 2020 10 min read

S.A.D, Winter Blues & Aromatherapy

As the days get shorter and the nights become longer this can cause changes in our body, commonly known as S.A.D or seasonal affective disorder. The NHS defines S.A.D as ‘A type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.’ They estimate that as many as 1 in 15 people suffer from SAD between the months of September and April.

Contributing Factors to Unhappiness in Winter

  • Cold weather: 58%
  • Dark mornings: 60%
  • Loss of sleep: 18%
  • Financial worries over Christmas: 25%
  • Loneliness: 14%
  • General stress: 23%

S.A.D - Not a Myth

Most scientists believe that the problem is related to the way the body responds to daylight. With SAD, one theory is that light entering the eye causes changes in hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making us wake up.

It’s thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression. If you’re going through a bout of winter blues, lack of daylight is probably playing a part.

According to a recent study, sunlight keeps serotonin levels high by decreasing serotonin transporter (SERT) activity. For this reason, patients afflicted with SAD experience increased SERT levels as nights lengthen, thereby diminishing active serotonin levels while increasing the risk of depression.

Depression Facts

Depression is a serious illness. When you’re depressed, you may have feelings of extreme sadness that can last for a long time. These feelings are severe enough to interfere with your daily life, and can last for weeks or months, rather than days.

It’s estimated that 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. (verywellmind.com)

In 2014, 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and over showed symptoms of anxiety or depression - a 1.5% increase from 2013. This percentage was higher among females (22.5%) than males (16.8%). (mentalhealth.org.uk)

In 2013, depression was the second leading cause of years lived with a disability worldwide, behind lower back pain. In 26 countries, depression was the primary driver of disability. (mentalhealth.org.uk)

Depression can affect people of any age, including children. Studies have shown that 2% of teenagers in the UK are affected by depression.

People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience depression themselves. Depression affects people in many ways and can cause a wide variety of physical, psychological (mental) and social symptoms.

Self Help

There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the effects of SAD. Wherever possible, you should:

  • try to find time each day to get outside
  • sit near windows when you are inside
  • take regular, moderate exercise
  • eat a well-balanced diet
  • leave any major projects until summer and plan ahead for winter
  • not put yourself under stress and learn relaxation techniques

Using Aromatherapy to Ease Common Symptoms of S.A.D

  • Lowered energy and fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Oversleep
  • Weight gain
  • Weakened immune system
  • Severe depression
  • Feeling sad
  • Sluggishness
  • Heavy feeling in legs and arm

Aromatherapy and the Winter Blues

Rather than use essential oils to depress the system, it is better to use oils which are known to be stimulating and invigorating!

Frankincense -Boswellia carteri

There are base notes that are used and chief amongst them is Boswellia carteri. Frankincense has, among its physical properties, the ability to slow down and deepen the breath. It is most often used for grief and depression, having remarkable effects on clients who have been in depressive states for a long period of time

Melissa True - Melissa officinalis

We also need to be aware that a middle note oil, Melissa officinalis, has been used for the longest time as a treatment for depression. Culpepper said that it “driveth away all troublesome cares and thoughts out of the mind.” Lawless suggests that on an emotional level Melissa is outstanding, having traditionally been used as a tonic for the heart and a remedy for the ‘distressed spirit.’

Eucalyptus Staigeriana - Eucalyptus Staigeriana

This appears to have the most profound effect on the emotional level. It is uplifting, anti-depressive and has been used at PPA extensively in the treatment of ME. The high levels of aldehydes (21-37%) means that although the oil is non-toxic, it can be a mild skin irritant, especially if used neat (there are no reported incidents of such however). It appears to have a profound uplifting effect on the mind and immune system.

Happy essential Oils!

Lemon - Citrus Limon

Many research studies have mentioned oil of lemon, and it is generally accepted that it is anti-microbial and also anti-depressant. Helps produce clarity of thought.

Mandarin - Citrus Reticulata

Babies and children and the elderly favour Mandarin essential oil. It is extremely gentle with an uplifting, cheerful smell. It helps to banish depression and anxiety

Grapefruit - Citrus x paradise

Used for the nervous system for depression, headaches, nervous exhaustion and stress. Said to be euphoric and slightly hypnotic

Lime - Citrus aurantifolia

Very stimulating, especially where there is apathy, anxiety and depression. Refreshing and uplifting to a tired mind.

Warming Essential Oils

Cinnamon -
Cinnamomum Verum

This spicy essential oil has an exotic, intense aroma that is often reminiscent of baking and other heartening memories. Its warm, subtle wood and earth aroma has a brightening and uplifting effect on the mood and is reputed to ease feelings of stress.

Ginger- Zingiber Officinalis

The warming and energising qualities of this woody, spicy, and earthy essential oil have earned it the nickname the “Oil of Empowerment.” As this name suggests, it is reputed to help replace feelings of weakness and stagnation with zeal and fortitude. Ginger Oil is said to be helpful for managing mood fluctuations that are sudden and volatile, making it beneficial for those who suffer from emotional imbalance.

Black Pepper - Piper nigrum

Dry, musky, spicy, and – naturally – peppery aroma that is reputed to energise the mind, stimulate circulation, and warm the skin. It is said to be beneficial for supporting general emotional wellness. With a fresh, crisp quality, the aroma of this oil can be diffused to enhance mental focus, clarity, and endurance. Its is said to promote the ability to reflect on thoughts, feelings, experiences, and behaviour patterns with sincerity, fairness, and conscientiousness.


  • Knasko, 1992 found that lemon EO lifts the mood and encourages more positive thoughts.
  • Incensole acetate promotes the anti depressant and sedative properties of Frankincense. (Moussaieff and Mechoulam, 2009)
  • For something stronger Eugenol inhibits monoamine oxidase (prevents the breakdown of serotonin and dopamine) so clove can be used.


  • Sweet basil is a general tonic to the whole body. It is antispasmodic, antiseptic, antiviral, carminative, a nervous system regulator and a decongestant.
  • Martins et al. (1999) reported that basil oil is beneficial for the alleviation of mental and physical fatigue
  • High Linalool content which is an uplifting component.

Cognitive Function

  • Rosemary has been shown to help with concentration.
  • Some scholars now say that using one drop of the essential oil every day on the wrists will help prevent senility.
  • Mojay refers to it as an excellent tonic for the body's yang energy

Irritability & Moods

  • Sweet Marjoram is traditionally used as a stimulant and reportedly ‘prevents blockages in the sympathetic nervous system’ (Fischer-Rizzi, 1990) and balances the parasympathetic nervous system
  • It is also commonly used in aromatherapy as a neurotonic to relieve negative emotional states such as anxiety and irritability.

Immune System

  • Inhalation of black pepper oil for 7 minutes was found to increase adrenaline and sympathetic nervous activity.
  • Made up of 30% sesquiterpenes which are balancing and 60% terpenes which are stimulating.
  • Black pepper is found in our Nurture vitality oil.

Looking to the chemistry

Essential oils are complex and made up of lots of different chemical constituents. Therefore aromatherapy can help positively affect your hormone production, brain chemistry, and stress levels. It can help to look at the chemical constituents when choosing Essential Oils to help combat depression and stress.


Emotionally Monoterpenes can be balancing to a person with unstable emotional states, the stimulating element helps a person to move on from a difficult time, cleansing and purifying

  • Lemon contains 90-95% monoterpenes
  • Other oils with monoterpenes include Pine, Black spruce, Juniper wood, Orange, Lime, Grapefruit, Cypress, Silver fir, Myrtle


When being used for the emotions sesquiterpenes can be calming to the nerves and help to bring down anger, hate and fear

  • They are especially useful for helping with irritation, they are physically good for inflammation and also help with inflamed emotions.
  • German chamomile has over 50% sesquiterpenes


Emotionally alcohols can help a person feel protected and give them the courage they need to express themselves or to move on from a situation.

  • Alcohols can be stimulating to the mind so make good memory aids and help clear mental chatter.
  • Rosewood contains about 90% alcohols
  • Other oils with alcohols include Geranium, Sweet Thyme, Palmarosa,


Physically phenols are very powerful stimulants and this works the same on the mind, due to the power they often stimulate new thoughts and perspective

  • Phenols can help with self-belief, esteem and courage. They are also very purifying and can help with moving on from the past.
  • Red thyme contains 70-80% phenols
  • Other oils that include phenols are Cinnamon, Clove, Savoury, Oregano, Pimento


Aldehydes are very calming to the nerves and emotions whereas other components are stimulating they are more nurturing to the mind.

  • Aldehydes are useful for stress relief, reducing irritation and controlling temper and rage.
  • Lemongrass contains about 70% aldehydes
  • Other oils containing aldehydes are Melissa, Eucalyptus Staigeriana and Litsea


Ketones must be used cautiously due to toxicity. Emotionally ketones are more sedative and calming so suit a hyper mind, they help to cleanse the mind and enable moving forward.

  • Hyssop contains 50% ketones
  • Other oils with ketones include Fennel, Tagetes, Sage, Sandalwood, Cornmint, Peppermint


Esters are very good for relieving the mind of guilt or embarrassment and helps heal those worries. They too help with irritation, anger and unreasonable behaviour.

  • Esters encourages renewal and growth and promote feelings of warmth such as love and kindness.
  • Lavender has 50% esters
  • Other oils with esters are Roman Chamomile, Geranium, Palmarosa, Myrrh, Frankincense,


Emotionally oxides are cooling so help with fraught feelings, physically they are expectorant and they can also help the mind to dispose of unwanted feelings and aid clarity of the mind.

  • Myrtle contains 75% oxides
  • Other oils with oxides include Eucalyptus Smithii, Ravansara, Eucalyptus Radiata, Rosemary, Cornmint

Housekeeping points

  • Never use essential oils internally, EVER.
  • Never apply essential oils undiluted to the skin
  • Use an electric diffuser as these are safer. However, if you are using a water-based diffuser, clean the container daily. Standing water can breed bacteria and mould, and you don’t want to diffuse that into the air your family is breathing
  • Always buy your oils from a reputable supplier who can offer advice and help along your journey
  • Do not replace medical treatment with essential oils. If you are taking medication and you would like to try out the impact of essential oils, contact a professional aromatherapist (registered with the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA), or the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA), or the Federation of Holistic Practitioners (FHT), as these therapists, will have studied to clinical levels.

Let’s Make Recipes To Help Combat S.A.D
& The Winter Blues!

You may like to try some of my recipes as below, and if you do, please do give us feedback on how they worked – we love hearing from you!

Immune Support Massage Oil

50ml Echinacea Carrier Oil
5 Drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil
5 Drops Lemon Essential Oil
5 Drops Rosemary Essential Oil
5 Drops Tea Tree Essential Oil

Mix the essential oils in with the your Echinacea carrier oil and shake well, use for massage.

Diffuser Blends

Uplifting blend for Seasonal Affective Disorder

3 Drops Lime Essential Oil
3 Drops Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
3 Drops Frankincense Essential Oil

Afternoon delight

2 drops Orange Sweet Essential Oil
2 drops Myrrh Essential Oil
2 drops Frankincense Essential Oil

Stress-Free Mind

3 drops Frankincense Essential Oil
3 drops Lavender Essential Oil

Mountain Air

2 drops Bergamot Essential Oil
2 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
2 drops Lavender Essential Oil

Roller ball Recipes

Note: higher drops in the rollerballs so they are effective. these blends can also be used in the bath however you must dilute them in 100ml of bath foam beforehand!)


9ml Carrier Oil:Coconut,Almond,SunflowerorGrapeseed

10 drops Lemon Essential Oil
10 drops Bergamot Essential Oil
5 drops Sweet Orange Essential Oil
5 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil

Take you carrier oil and mix in the essential oil drops above, one thoroughly mixed in, pour into you rollerball bottle, secure and shake well!

Lifting low mood

9ml Carrier Oil:Coconut,Almond,SunflowerorGrapeseed

5 drops Eucalyptus Globulus Essential Oil
5 drops Ravansara Essential Oil
10 drops Cedarwood Essential Oil
10 drops Patchouli Essential Oil

Take you carrier oil and mix in the essential oil drops above, one thoroughly mixed in, pour into you rollerball bottle, secure and shake well!

Clearing the mind

9ml Carrier Oil: Coconut, Almond, Sunfloweror Grapeseed

5 Drops Cornmint Essential Oil
5 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil
10 Drops Lemon Essential Oil
10 Drops Basil Essential Oil

Take you carrier oil and mix in the essential oil drops above, one thoroughly mixed in, pour into you rollerball bottle, secure and shake well!

Recommended PPA Products

Just pop 4-6 drops in the bath or vaporiser or Diffuser and fill your home with beautiful aromas. (always dilute with bath foam when adding to the bath)

Nurture Courage

This pure essential oil blend is designed to help increase confidence and courage and can be inhaled regularly for a spiritually strengthening effect. Contains lavandin, melissa, cornmint and basil.

Nurture Joy

A beautiful, uplifting blend to help bring joy to the heart and soul. Contains ho leaf, bergamot, rose otto and eucalyptus staigeriana.

Nurture Meditation

A spiritual blend of essential oils to help promote thought and concentration. Use regularly for good effect. Blended with frankincense, rosemary, basil and lavender.

Nurture Spirituality

A blend of essential oils to help create mental vision, clarity and peace. Used regularly the oils can help bring a state of calm and oneness with the world. Contains frankincense, cedarwood, patchouli and eucalyptus staigeriana.

Nurture Vitality

This energy-giving blend is made from Lemon, Black Pepper and Eucalyptus Essential Oils. Nurture essential oil blends are a useful tool in any home and promote wellbeing in mind, body and spirit.

Nurture Clarity

A relaxing, clearing blend, beneficial for hangovers, apathy and confusion, giving a feeling of clarity. Contains essential oils of Lavandin, cornmint, basil and Roman chamomile.

Nurture Antimicrobial

A purifying blend of antiviral and antimicrobial essential oils of: Thyme Thymol, Pine, Litsea, Lavender True and Anise Star to clean the air and leave your home fresh.

Nurture Thieves

Made up of four essential Oils. Cinnamon Leaf, Clove Leaf, Eucalyptus Radiata, Lemon and Rosemary. It dates back to the legend of the Four Thieves in the 1400s and the Bubonic Plague. The Thieves used this mix of oils to help keep them safe from infection whilst they stole from people who had succumbed to the illness.

See our Essential Oils blends here

I hope you have enjoyed this blog. We love to hear from you so do give us feedback on the blog and the recipes, and how they have worked for you or your clients. All the products mentioned are available from www.penny-price.com or you can phone your order through or get advice on 01455 251020. If you are interested in training with us, please call, or email Lizzie our course administrator. Thank you for reading! Penny Price X

Penny Price
Penny Price

1 Response

Jean Humphries
Jean Humphries

December 04, 2022

Thanks P, always good to have reminders and respect your wisdom and experience. Have had SAD since before they had a name for it.

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