The wonderful aromatherapist JC Shannon gives this information about how to use aromatherapy to help with SAD

Can aromatherapy help SAD?

Yes it can, but the reasons may not be what you expect. Aromas affect people’s moods, behavior, concentration, and work performance but not because they work as a drug. Rather, aromas work on us through our experiences with them. Aromatherapy is a powerful tool to use when dealing with SAD because you respond to the memory that is associated with the scent.

What to use

When choosing your essential oils to use, you need to think about what type of scent gives you happy memories. What scents make you smile? Make you feel like you have energy, that your thoughts are clear and focused? Do you like citrus, flower, woody, herbal, spice, or medicinal? For example, Orange is the most popular essential oil. Think about eating an orange. What does it make you think of? When I eat one, I am a child again going on summer hikes with my family and watching my dad squeezing the juice and pulp into a cup for me to have for breakfast. And I am smiling.

Here are a few suggestions of oils that are the most used when fighting SAD. The top 3 are Bergamot, Grapefruit, and Rose. Other oils are Clary Sage, Jasmine, Cinnamon Bark, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang, Melissa, Peppermint, Spearmint, Basil, and all citrus oils.

Bergamot (Citrus aurantium var. bergamia):

The #1 oil for treating depression comes from a fruit so sour it is inedible. Truly an example of making the best out of life. It has a tangy, fresh, citrus scent with a lingering sense of calm. For massage blends, it is better to use Bergamot FCF, which has the  furanocoumarins removed, making it not phototoxic.

Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi):

The energetic, tangy, fresh scent picks up the mood and helps you feel more awake and energetic.

Rose (Rosa damascene):

This is an incredibly potent oil that can help change the mood of everyone in a room. In its neat (undiluted) form this oil is incredibly strong. Also, true steam distilled Rose oil is extremely expensive. However, if you can blend it with a carrier oil with about 5% Rose to 95% carrier oil, you get a lovely Rose scent that is perfect for helping you lift your mood. Many essential oil companies will sell a blend of Rose oil already diluted.

Phototoxic oils:

When using citrus oils in a massage blend, it’s better to avoid phototoxic oils when you can. Phototoxic oils are ones that can cause sun sensitivity where they have been topically applied. While you can use them, just make sure you wait 3-4 hours before exposing that area of skin to the sun.

  • Phototoxic Essential Oils: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon (Pressed Peel), Lime (Pressed Peel).

  • Non-Phototoxic Essential Oils: Bergamot FCF, Lemon (Distilled), Lime (Distilled), Mandarin, Orange, Tangerine

Ways to use:

Diffusion: Diffuse the oil or oils of choice. The best times are in the morning, after lunch, and any time you know will be hard. If you work in an office cubicle, it would be good to look into small diffusers that would help you get the scent of the oils without them spreading to office mates.

Massage: Aromatherapy massage does two things, it gives you tactile, physical contact with another person, and the aroma of the essential oils gives you a boost, as well as a new memory to associate with the scent. This can be a full aromatherapy massage from a massage therapist, a basic shoulder and neck massage from your significant other, or you massaging the oils into your neck and shoulders and arms. You will achieve the benefits any of these ways. Always add your oils to a carrier oil before applying to skin.

Carrier Oils: When applying essential oils topically, always add to a carrier oil. 4-8 drops in ½ teaspoon of carrier oil is the best way to get started. This is a cold-pressed vegetable oil that will help “carry” the oil into your skin. There are many you can try out. Some of the popular ones are Fractionated Coconut Oil, Virgin Coconut Oil, Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Aloe Vera Gel, Sweet Almond Oil.

Bath: An aromatherapy bath is the other way to use essential oils to treat SAD. Soaking in the tub can help anyone. The things to remember are to be sure to add your oils to an emulsifier like a carrier oil and/or bath salts before adding to water. Also, always test the oils on your skin first.

Oil blends: The best blends are usually ones you make up for yourself that “speak” to you personally. Some you can try out to get your started would be to put a citrus oil with a spice, a citrus with a mint. Add Bergamot to Rose. Also, look at pre-made blends of your company of choice. Look through their description of the blend and find the one that sounds right to you. Buy as small a bottle as you can of the blend to try out first before you get a full size. (5 ml=1 teaspoon)

Topical Application: You can apply a few drops of diluted oil or blend of oils to the base of throat, behind ears, inside of elbow, on wrist, and on the temples (be careful to not get into the eyes.)


Here are a few recipes to help you get started. Please be sure to test on a small portion of skin before using in a massage or bath to make sure you can handle the blend on your skin.

JC’s Morning Diffusion*

  • 4 drops Bergamot

  • 4 drops Pink Grapefruit

  • 3 drops Spearmint

Diffuse when you get up in the morning.

Uplifting Massage*

  • 5 drops Bergamot FCF

  • 3 drops Lavender

  • 2 drops Clary Sage

  • 3 drops Orange

  • 2 tablespoons carrier oil of choice

Mix together ingredients and massage into neck, shoulders, upper back, and arms as needed.

Energize Your Mind Massage*

  • 8 drops Basil

  • 3 drops Peppermint

  • 2 drops Cedarwood

  • 3 drops Rosemary

  • 3 tablespoons carrier oil of choice

Mix together all ingredients and massage into neck and shoulders. You can also diffuse just the essential oils without the carrier oil.

Energize Me Spray*

  • 15 drops Clove Leaf

  • 15 drops Lemon

  • 7 drops Lime

  • 4 ounces distilled water

Add all ingredients to a 4 ounce, fine mist spray bottle. Shake well before every use and liberally spritz room as needed. Can refill the water 2-4 times before refilling the oils.

Lift Your Spirits Diffusion*

  • 3 drops Lemon

  • 3 drops Orange

  • 3 drops Tangerine

  • 2 drops Cinnamon Bark

Diffuse as needed.

Mood Elevating Bath*

  • 2 drops Rose or 5 drops of a 5% diluted Rose

  • 1 drops Palmarosa

  • 2 drops Grapefruit

  • 1 tablespoon carrier oil of choice

  • 1 cup Sea Salts

Dissolve oils into salts then add to a warm/hot bath as the water is running. Relax and enjoy for 20-30 minutes.

Anxiety Relief Diffusion*

  • 3 drops Sweet Marjoram

  • 2 drops Basil

  • 3 drops Grapefruit

Diffuse when needed. You can also add to 1 tablespoon carrier oil and apply to wrist, elbow, base of neck and behind ears. Breathe in the aroma deeply as needed.

Good luck to you! For more information, please check out these sites:

*Please note, the author of this website is not a qualified aromatherapist.  Please research these recipies before use.  You do so at your own risk.