Aromatherapy for Seasonal Emotional Disorder

By Emma Huang, -CAPH®

I believe everyone enjoys the peaceful beauty of winter scenery. However, prolonged periods of cold, snowy weather and limited sunlight can trigger a phenomenon called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). As a certified aromatherapist who lives in an area where winter seems to last about half the year, I'm passionate about sharing essential oil blends that can turn the winter blues into a more uplifting experience.

 What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):

SAD, also referred to as seasonal emotional disorder, is a condition that affects numerous individuals during colder months when daylight hours diminish. Symptoms often include persistent feelings of sadness, despair, irritability, and a loss of interest in activities. Recognizing these changes in mood and behaviour during seasonal transitions may indicate seasonal affective disorder.

Common Symptoms of Winter Depression:

Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness throughout most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks

  • A sense of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability, frustration, or restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or slowed movements
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or unexpected weight changes
  • Physical symptoms such as body aches, headaches, or digestive issues without clear medical causes

Additional symptoms specific to winter SAD:

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Craving and overconsumption of carbohydrates, leading to weight gain
  • Social withdrawal resembling a state of hibernation.

How Aromatherapy Can Help:

Aromatherapy, utilizing essential oils, provides a natural and comprehensive approach to improving mood and counteracting symptoms associated with winter SAD. Essential oils containing monoterpenes, esters, and monoterpene aldehydes play crucial roles in addressing seasonal affective symptoms.

  • Monoterpenes: These compounds uplift the spirit, boost energy, and enhance mental clarity. Citrus essential oils, such as bergamot (Citrus bergamia) and sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), are excellent choices for combating lethargy and preventing overeating during the winter months.
  • Esters: Known for balancing endorphin and serotonin secretion in the brain, esters contribute to a more pleasurable emotional state. Lavender essential oil, rich in linalyl acetate, provides soothing relief from anxiety.
  • Monoterpene aldehydes: Infused with a lemony aroma reminiscent of summer, monoterpene aldehydes help dispel feelings of fatigue and lethargy. Melissa essential oil, with its lemon-scented aldehydes, transports individuals to a carefree and rejuvenated state.

Application Methods:

  • Diffusion: Add any citrus essential oil blend to an aromatherapy diffuser for 30 to 60 minutes, especially during the morning or when a mood boost is needed.
  • Inhalation: Inhale melissa (Melissa officinalis) directly from a tissue whenever feelings of winter depression arise.
  • Topical Application: Dilute lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil blend in a carrier oil (2- 3%) and apply to pulse points or the back of the neck for a calming and mood-enhancing effect.



Aromatherapy, with its natural and holistic approach, offers an effective means to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder during the winter months. While these essential oil blends can be beneficial, individuals experiencing severe emotional distress are encouraged to seek professional medical advice.



  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from
  • Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone.


About the author:

Emma Huang is the founder of the What Is Beauty?! program at the Canadian Aromatherapy School. With a background in skin care product development, her main philosophy is to integrate aromatherapy with professional cosmetics, pharmacy and clinical practice.

Photo credit: By Canva


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