Aromatherapy and Depression
By Nur Syahid
When artiste Leslie Cheung committed suicide, he left behind a trail of speculations amidst sighs of regret. News of his “depression” arose. The realisation that even a superstar could be plagued by such problems abruptly heightened the “suffering index” of ordinary folks. Incessant natural disasters, bleak economic outlook, fear of unemployment, adolescent worries about schoolwork…these pressures from life make “depression” one of the most serious civilised diseases of this century.
“Insomnia” is also a common problem faced by people living in modern society. According to a survey conducted by the American National Sleep Foundation, three in every four women aged between 30 to 60 years are suffering from “insomnia”. “Insomnia” has already become an epidemic disease for females. The Shanghai Chinese Medical Hospital has been conducting surveys on epidemic diseases since 1996 and results indicate that 15% of Shanghai residents have serious insomnia symptoms.
These figures are concrete proof that there is a huge market demand for products that relieve stress and insomnia. The beneficial effects of aromatherapy in soothing emotions and enhancing sleep quality have long been deep-rooted in the minds of ordinary folks and have been proven in numerous clinical literatures. These constitute an important reason for the active development of “psycho aromatherapy” products, as undertaken by Yangsen Biotechnology Institute in close collaboration with Bel’Air.
Depression: Disease of the Century, Alongside Cancer and Aids Unless patients commit suicide, depression is usually not life threatening. However, one’s quality of life will suffer a drastic decline and loved ones will also be deeply affected. According to a survey report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 3% of the world population are suffering from depression at present. The report also predicted that Depression, Aids and Cancer will become the three main diseases of the 21st century. By 2020, depression will only be secondary to cancer in causing the inability to function normally and even death.
To most people, perhaps the degree of nervousness and anxiety has not reached the stage where they must receive medical treatment and advice. However, it is an undeniable fact that long-term nervousness and anxiety will affect the balance between one’s body and mind. Taipei Lian-An Clinic conducted a survey of 1164 white-collar workers who went there for health examinations. Results showed that two thirds of the patients felt worn out by life and close to 40% of the patients needed to receive professional psychiatric treatments due to depression and anxiety. Symptoms of nervousness and anxiety derived from work-related stress have reached the scale of an epidemic in America. 43% of adults feel threatened by it. Absenteeism, falling productivity and increase of medical bills, which can come about as a result of occupational nervousness, are predicted to cost the American economy several hundred billion US dollars.
Understanding the Importance of Sleep
“When I am sleeping, my mind is resting!” Many people have this misconception. However, the likely truth is that when you sleeping, only the rest of your body is resting. Your brain continues to be active as it labours on making preparations for the next day. Sleep is as essential to a healthy body and mind as food. If you have insufficient hours of sleep or lack quality sleep, your body will continuously accumulate “sleep debts” and you will have to pay for it one day. Do also note that rest is not a substitute for sleep!
Another misconception is that most sleep disorders can heal without medication. Many people who are plagued by sleep disorders do not realise that this is actually a disease, much less understand that it can be healed. Methods of healing include medication, operation, psychiatric treatment and combined therapy. Sleep disorders will not disappear naturally. If allowed to develop at its own pace, it would only worsen one’s quality of life, damage interpersonal relationships, affect one’s conduct and result in huge negative impacts, to the extent of causing accidents or deaths.
To examine the mental effects of “aromatic essential oils”, results can be basically categorised into the psychological effects deriving from aromatic scents and the physiological effects deriving from the impact of essential oil molecules on the central nervous system. Both psychological and physiological effects can cause changes in the central nervous system, internal secretion system and immunity system, hence giving rise to complex biological consequences.
Modern “psycho aromatherapy” utilises analytical tools like Micro Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Electroencephalogram (EEG), Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and Cerebral Blood Flow (CBF) to research on the direct impact of aroma on the central nervous system. It can be used to examine the effects of aromatherapy on health problems such as insomnia, depression, nervousness, mental fragility, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and memory deterioration.
According to popular understanding, aromatherapy can indeed achieve the effect of soothing emotions. People’s interest in aromatherapy is aroused when certain essential oils can genuinely alleviate the conditions of some illnesses which are hard to cure even in hospitals, such as mental fragility, depression and insomnia. According to clinical studies, besides using medication and supportive psychiatric therapy to cure depression, many doctors also encourage patients to adopt the method of aromatherapy. Both consumers and professional medical practitioners recognise the positive effects of essential oils for stress relief.
Research and Development of Nepenthe Bio-tech Pure Essential Oil It was 5pm in the afternoon. In a resting house in Taipei suburb, about 40 old folks were leisurely enjoying the uplifting scents of Bel’Air’s Nepenthe essential oil. They seemed at ease with themselves, immersed in a state of peace and tranquility away from the hassles of the world. This is the result of a test on Nepenthe essential oil, conducted over a week by a research team from Yangsen Biotechnology Institute to examine the therapeutic effects of aromatherapy in soothing the depressive emotions of old folks.
The research team members applied a depression scale to evaluate the subject’s level of depression. During the research process, the subject inhaled the aroma for 4 hours daily. Seven days later, the depression scale was again used to evaluate the subject’s level of depression. At the same time, the heart rate variability (HRV) was also measured to evaluate the subject’s sympathetic nerve activity and parasympathetic nerve activity. Earlier research has already shown that the higher the marks on the depression scale, the higher the level of sympathetic activity and the lower the level of parasympathetic activity. From the table below, we can see that after seven days of aromatherapy with “Nepenthe Bio-tech Pure Essential Oil”, the depression score has evidently decreased and sympathetic activity, which stands for anxiety, has declined dramatically. On the other hand, parasympathetic activity, which stands for calmness, has increased greatly.