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Anxiety and depression are prominent disorders experienced by members of our population and are a leading cause of disability. If you have experienced any type of mood disorder that you find has disrupted your daily life, the following statistics and discussion about conventional methods of treating these issues shared by Dr. Michael Karlfeldt, ND, PhD are eye-opening.
Dr. Karlfeldt also visits with Amanda Olsen about easy and practical ways to use essential oils to help with different symptoms of mood disorders including anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

Approximately 20.9 million American adults or about 9.5 % of the U.S. population age, 18 or older in any given year, have a mood disorder. A major depressive disorder is a leading cause of disability in the U.S., for ages 15 – 44. Anxiety disorders that include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, traumatic stress, generalized anxiety disorders, and various kinds of phobias all are grouped in this category. 

Approximately 40 million American adults, 18 and older are about 18.1% of people in this age group have an anxiety disorder.

We are told depression is a due to a low seratonin level. A class of medications called selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRI for short, are a class of compounds widely used as anti-depressants and are used to treat depression, anxiety, and personality disorders.

How SSRIs work

These SSRIs are believed to increase the extra cellular level of the neurotransmitter, seratonin by inhibiting the re-uptake of this neurotransmitter into what is called a pre-synaptic gap or pre-synaptic cell. There is a gap between the nerve cells, and there are neurotransmitters that bridge this gap. This is where the seratonin works, and when it is moved from one location to the other, it becomes “bound”. The SSRI prevents seratonin from being reabsorbed. That increases the level of seratonin in the gap and makes it more available for usage later on.

Clinical trial data

There are two different meta-analysis of clinical trials published in 2008 and 2011. What was found is that in mild to moderate depression, the effect of these SSRIs is small or none compared to the placebo, while in very severe depression, the effect is between relatively small and sometimes can actually be substantial.

This 2008 meta analysis combined 35 clinical trials that were submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for licensing of the four newer SSRI anti-depressants. Authors of these studies attributed relationship between the severity and the efficacy to reduction of the placebo effect in several depressed patients, rather than an increase of the effect of the medication. So they were looking at this as more of a placebo effect rather than the actual medication itself.

To date, there hasn’t been a single study in humans that validates the theory of low seratonin in depression. Low levels are found in a minority of patients. Also, an anti-depressant marketed as Stablon which increases the reuptake of seratonin, which by reducing seratonin activity, appears to be equally effective as those that decrease it or have no effect on it at all. So manipulating seratonin levels does not consistently result in either a depressive syndrome or an improvement in the depression.

Anti-depressants of all category seem to work about the same, regardless of their pursuing mechanism of action, with about 73% of the response being unrelated to the pharmacologic activity.

Results of conventional, pharmaceutical treatment

In short, the expectation of relief and subsequent change in symptoms experienced by responders is related to the perception of the side-effects. This analysis suggests that anti-depressants may only have about 10% efficacy above and beyond the placebo effect. When you also consider the suppression of the negative studies, permission of sedatives in the trials or replacement where the removal of non-responders in the trial occurs, and the allowance of the placebo-washout by pharmaceutical companies, you may start to wonder and also worry that you may have been sold a large bill of goods.

So when efficacy, long-term risks, and increase in suicide and violent behaviors are taken into account, it is marveling when you consider the “star power” of all these medications.

Some of the most commonly prescribed anti-depressants include Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, and Prozac

Herbal treatment for depression

Interestingly in Germany, the most commonly prescribed anti-depressant is the concentrated extract of the herb, St. John’s Wort.

Causes of anxiety and depression

Why do we get anxiety and depression? I look upon these disorders as the brain’s inflammatory signal. When we have inflammation in a muscle or joint, we get a pain signal. When there is inflammation in the brain, we become or anxious, or start to experience some other mood or mental disorder.

Dr. Michael Karlfeldt: With me I have Amanda Olsen. You are THE essential oil girl, right?

Amanda Olsen: Yes, I am!

Dr. K: Today we are talking about anxiety and depression and different mood disorders. How can essential oils benefit someone with a mood disorder like depression or anxiety?

AO: Essential oils are very powerful for any mood disorder. I have children who struggle with depression and anxiety, and I struggled with it myself, so I’ve had personal experience. And I’ve been able to help other individuals and families with this.

Dr. K: That’s amazing, just with essential oils then?

AO:  Yes, and nutrition and diet changes as well.

Dr. K: How do essential oils impact your mood? How does that work?

AO: Just smelling an aroma can influence your brain. Your limbic system in your brain is heavily influenced by aroma. So, just by picking up a bottle and smelling it, I can feel, just by taking a deep breath I can feel more calm, more balanced, more grounded, happier, depending on which oil I’m using.

Dr. K: Okay, great! So you have the nose, and there are the hair follicles, obviously the nose is very close to the brain.

AO: Right. It’s very close to the brain. I have a diagram here that shows how taking the aroma in through the nose can influence the amygdala, and that’s where our emotions are stored. You have the hippocampus and hypothalamus, and all of that is related to hormone health, emotions, memory and concentration. And the essential oils affect all of that very positively.

Dr. K: So in essence, the nose is the closest access to your emotions.

AO: Correct.

Dr. K: Because it’s right there, as you were showing.

AO: Yes, it’s been designed that way.

Dr. K: So let’s say somebody comes to you with depression. Obviously you can’t diagnose, but what essential oils would you suggest someone to start with?

AO: I have four that I would suggest they start with. One is Balance and I’d recommend they put that on daily, topically.

Dr. K: And this is the company doTERRA?

AO: Yes, I use doTERRA essential oils. They are pure and therapeutic. You can take them internally and topically, and of course, smelling them through the bottles. So I would recommend the Balance blend.

Dr. K: And what is in the Balance that helps them be happy?

AO: There’s Frankincense and rosewood. And it helps them feel relaxed and grounded, so that they feel in the moment, and not anxious.

I’d also recommend a blend called Citrus Bliss. And that one helps with anxiety and mood as well, but it also helps you feel happy. You can use that throughout the day, put a couple drops in your water, or smell it when you are feeling down.

Dr. K: Or you can put it in a diffuser, yes.

AO: Or in a diffuser, like this, yes! This diffuser has wild orange and peppermint.

Dr. K: I’m being happy just sitting here, smelling this the whole time. So we all know the citrus blend such as the bergamot or the orange, you just smell it, and you just feel happy.

AO: Right, you feel happy. It’s very uplifting.

Dr. K: Yeah.

AO: And to calm you down too, we have a blend that’s called Serenity that has lavender and Roman chamomile, and it’s very calming. If you are having a hard time sleeping or resting at night, I recommend that one.

Dr. K: A lot of times people wake up with anxiety, or they are laying there right before bed, and they feel very anxious in that moment. So, they can use that blend at that time.

AO: Yes.

Dr. K: And also, I was mentioning earlier in the show that anxiety and depression is sometimes linked to inflammation. So how do essential oils address that?

AO: So, essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties, there are several that can reduce inflammation. I recommend that if someone is struggling with mood because of inflammation they use something like Frankincense, which is highly anti-inflammatory. I myself have used this. And, I take it internally and topically.

I want to show you how you can take it internally. It’s as easy as opening up a gel capsule,

Dr. K: And these you can buy at a health food store, right?

AO: Yeah, you can get these at a health food store. You can drop in the oil. I recommend four drops, and close up the capsule. And take that with a glass of water.

Dr. K: You wouldn’t suggest that someone take it directly like this?

AO: You can also take it directly, yes. So, two drops under the tongue. The Frankincense has a little bitter taste, so I when I put it under my tongue I also also add wild orange or something.

Dr. K: Okay, so a nice flavor, so it’s like you’re cooking.

AO: Yeah.

Dr. K: Wonderful. I guess Frankincense was one of the ah … you have the Frankincense, Myrrh and gold.

AO: Right.

Dr, K: So if it was good enough at that time, it should be good enough now.

AO: Right. Absolutely.

Dr. K: Wonderful. So, what is the difference between doing it as an essential oil versus taking it as an herb?

AO: These are more concentrated. For example, one drop of peppermint is equal to 28 cups of peppermint herbal tea. You are getting a very concentrated effect. These work very quickly.

For example, last night at dinner my son was having almost a panic attack. He was very upset about something that happened. He has a hard time processing his emotions. So he was freaking out.

And I took this bottle out, and I put it on the back of his neck, and I let him smell it. And I took another oil, clary sage, and I put it on his feet, and rubbed the oils on him. So he was taking them in, topically and smelling them. And within seconds he had calmed down. He had gone from a level 10 to a 5 and then after a few minutes, down to a 1.  

Dr. K: That’s what’s so amazing with these essential oils. It has such an immediate effect, and it’s such a powerful tool. Thank you very much Amanda!

AO: Thank you!

Photo by Jan Tinneburg on Unsplash