Today I want to talk about essential oils that are especially beneficial for boosting that “it’s freezing cold and the sun has not been out in weeks” sort of vibe. You know, the one in which many of us in the northern hemisphere can relate. Among other reasons, this feeling shows up for many of us from months of not getting as much sunlight as we do in the warmer months and oftentimes not getting as much outdoors time as our bodies and minds need.
Certain essential oils can be very beneficial in boosting this “winter” mood. If you’re wondering how and why, the short answer is that essential oils are derived from plants, and plants basically contain much of the medicine needed to live healthy and vital lives. So let’s take a look at some of these lovely mood boosting oils and talk more specifically about plant medicine, shall we?
Bergamot (citrus bergamia) is a citrus fruit oftentimes grown in Italy and usually described as a cross between lemon and sour orange. Its fruit is very sour and its peels are super aromatic. Typically essential oils from bergamot are produced from these peels and through a cold-pressed process, rather than the steam distillation process typically used with other essential oils.
To quote this awesome (and adorable :)) article, “[bergamot is] anti-bacterial, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic and its scent is uplifting and bright, cutting through gloom and crankiness like a knife of pure sunlight.”
Of the many benefits and uses that bergamot is known for, the big ones that apply to mood boosting in the winter months include:
- its ability to act as an anti-depressant by promoting uplifted spirits and relieving feelings of negativity and apathy,
- it contains calming qualities that promote better sleep,
- and the same article even discusses bergamot’s reputation for letting go of emotional trauma through its mood lifting properties.
Whoa. Powerful stuff, huh??
Grapefruit essential oil (citrus paradise, citrus racemosa, and citrus maxima), like bergamot and other citrus, is obtained from the peels and through a cold-press extraction method.
To be scientifically precise and according to this article, “[g] is composed of limonene, alpha-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, geraniol, linalool, , decyl acetate, neryl acetate, and terpineol, out of which the top two constituents are limonene and myrcene.”
Grapefruit essential oil has many awesome properties, but the ones specific to boosting our winter moods include:
- its ability to boost the immune system. A strong immune system absolutely plays an important role in managing our mood and overall health.
- The same article also addresses hormones and grapefruit’s ability to activate positive brain activity, while also stimulating the endocrine system (therefore metabolism), AND the nervous, digestive, lymphatic, circulatory, and excretory systems. (WHOA, right?)
- If the above weren’t enough, grapefruit is also specifically known for its happy and calming properties — making it an excellent mood lifter!
Ylang Ylang 
Ylang ylang (cananga odorata): a fun oil to pronounce 😉 that is full of big benefits. This awesome oil is typically extracted via steam distillation of the ylang-ylang tree’s flowers, which are oftentimes found in the rainforests of various South Pacific and Asian Islands.
Interestingly, the word ylang ylang is derived from the Tagalog language’s “ilang ilang.” In Tagalog, a language of the Austronesian language family, “ilang” means wilderness. Cool, huh?
According to this 2006 study , ylang ylang can:
- decrease blood pressure and work as an anti-depressant,
- act as a mood lifter, and increase feelings of joy and hope.
- Additionally, this study  suggests that ylang ylang’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties are used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, which are oftentimes worsened during the brutally cold winter months.
- Other research  suggests ylang ylang helps with insomnia, fatigue, and the nervous system.
Clearly, ylang ylang rocks! You can simply inhale it directly from the bottle, diffuse it, or consider one of my tinc blends containing ylang ylang, such as Soothe or even quite appropriately, my Winter Mood Boost blend 🙂
Patchouli (pogostemon cablin or pogostemon patchouli) is another beneficial oil to keep close during the long winter months. Extracted by steam distillation from the leaves of the patchouli plant, scientifically speaking, “[t]he basic components of patchouli essential oil are alpha patchoulene, beta patchoulene, alpha guaiane, alpha bulnesene, caryophyllene, norpatchoulenol, patchouli alcohol, seychellene, and pogostol.” 
Due to the medicinal properties of these components, patchouli packs a powerful health punch! According to the information found in this article, patchouli is known to:
- relieve depression by helping to release positive hormones such as serotonin and dopamine ;
- reduce inflammation, which is important for many reasons, but is especially beneficial if dealing with skin conditions resulting from or exacerbated by cold winter weather;
- and stimulate circulation and immunity, which can ultimately serve as a mood lifter.
Frankincense — also known as olibunam — is derived from a resin taken from Boswellia trees. Frankincense is truly a special oil. Famous as one of the precious oils used in the Bible, its powers to help and heal our bodies are truly remarkable. If you are interested in learning more about its skin-healing benefits (one of its many powers), consider this informative article . For our purposes here, let’s look to the mood-lifting and stress-busting benefits of frankincense:
- First, it has become associated with nootropics , “…a class of chemicals that have been found to offer cognitive benefits when ingested.”
- Next, frankincense has been shown to be an anxiolytic, which is basically an antipanic or antianxiety agent. In so many words, it’s a major stress reducer 🙂
- Additionally, some studies have shown that by boosting certain neurotransmitters (particularly serotonin), mood can be boosted. Research is ongoing, but some results have suggested that frankincense can help boost serotonin.
- Among many other benefits, frankincense can also help to relieve pain and improve sleep.
So basically, frankincense is pretty badass. I use it A LOT and for many different purposes. While you can definitely diffuse it alone, I personally love how well it mixes with other oils. You can find it in the following tinc recipes: my Energizing and Patience blends, my Calm Skin blend (*and stay tuned for far more frankincense in my upcoming skin line!), and my Magnificent Magnesium Butter.
There are four types of cedarwood:
- Himalayan Cedarwood (Cedrus deodara) – From the Cedar Genus
- Atlas Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) – From the Cedar Genus
- Texan Cedarwood (Juniperus Mexicana) – From the Juniper Genus
- Virginian Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) – From the Juniper Genus
Cedarwood has been used for centuries for a variety of health reasons. Current research shows that its needles have pain killing and antiseptic properties and the tree itself contains antioxidants.
It’s important to point out that the varieties listed above have different properties and therefore different benefits. For example,
- Himalayan and Atlas Cedarwood based oils typically contain Alpha-pinene  and Himachalol  as key compounds.
- The Juniper based oils contain high levels of Cedrol  and Thujopsene .
In terms of stress relievers and winter mood boosters, cedarwood also brings a lot to the table. For example,
- insomnia – cedarwood has natural sedative properties that are said to “elevate the release of serotonin in the brain which converts to melatonin and encourages restful sleep and a peaceful mind.” 
- Also, “[w]ith its natural calming properties, cedarwood essential oil is perfect for stress and anxiety relief.” 
- Of the many other benefits, cedarwood also has been shown to improve concentration and focus (many people can relate to a bad mood being dampened further by brain fog and difficulty concentrating! Read this interesting study  on the subject if curious to know more!
This article lists a number of awesome recipes for using cedarwood oil, and of course, you can always try one of my tinc blends, such as: Sleepy Time, Woodsy, After Shave Spray, Cozy Cabin, Morning Dew in the Woods, and aptly named, my Winter Mood Boost blend.
Peppermint (mentha balsamea) is one of those oils I find myself reaching for ALL THE TIME. It seems to add just the right touch to so many of my recipes. Invigorating and uplifting, it makes the perfect winter mood booster.
- a natural stimulant: it helps to boost concentration (especially when tired and stressed),
- and a mood booster: it helps to improve mood by “alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can help to boost your mood and relieve feelings of sadness as well as enhance mental performance and feelings of happiness.” 
- Cooling – peppermint contains natural menthol, which makes it excellent for soothing tired feet or inflamed skin. Sometimes a few moments of soothing relief can be all the mood booster we need 🙂
Try diffusing peppermint alone, or please consider one of my tinc blends, such as Cozy Cabin, Energizing, Breathe Easy, Peppermint Coconut Foot Scrub, Peppermint/Orange Lip Balm, Cinnamon Mint Lip Balm, OR the aptly named “Winter Mood Boost.”
(I did say how much I love peppermint, right? :))
I hope you enjoyed this list of winter mood boosters! The list is by no means exhaustive, but I have found all of these to be especially beneficial during these sometimes sunless days. Please don’t hesitate to add your thoughts/questions/suggestions (helpful and positive, please!) below. I love to hear from all of you ❤️
Be well and cheers!
As always with essential oils, it’s important to take care when using. A little always goes a long way! It is a good idea to read labels and do a little research before using a new oil because every oil is not created equally. Generally speaking though, there are a few words to the wise:
- Many citrus oils (such as bergamot and grapefruit) are phototoxic , which means that applying them topically typically makes skin more susceptible to sunburning for a number of hours following application. Read this article for more information.
- Take care when using essential oils during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There is A LOT of information out there, so I’ve learned to check carefully for reliable sources and to use common sense, so for example, I don’t ingest essential oils when I’m pregnant or breastfeeding. I probably technically could, but I err on the side of caution. Here are a few articles I recommend: this one by Rocky Mountain Oils  and this one by The Family that Heals Together .
- Many oils need to be diluted before being applied topically. Use caution when applying them “neat” or undiluted. Read here  for more information.