Aromatherapy: What it is, how it works on depression

What you need to know:

  • ‘Aromatherapy’ – also known as ‘essential oils therapy’ – is a holistic healing treatment system that uses natural plant extracts to bolster human health and well-being

Dar es Salaam. Did you know that more than 264 million people globally suffer from depression – which leads to some of them committing or attempting to commit suicide?

Also, did you know that the various factors that are usually cited for this mental condition include – but are not limited to – personal insecurity, gender-based violence (GBV) and family issues in general?

It was in this regard that a young Tanzanian entrepreneur, Anastasia Goronga, embarked upon dealing in aromatherapy products which help people to get relief from stress that more often than not leads into depression and possible death from it.

‘Aromatherapy’ – also known as ‘essential oil therapy’ – is a holistic healing treatment system that uses natural plant extracts to bolster human health and well-being.

Earlier in life and during her school days, Ms Goronga’s dream was to get employed by an international organization and earn a relatively huge salary. But, clearly, that dream never became a reality on terra firma, the ground.

After she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Quantity Surveying from Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam in 2018, Ms Goronga was employed on a year-long contract by a private company.

That was where and when a colleague and close friend at the workplace – and who had had no counselling on the matter – wanted to commit suicide.

This triggered in Ms Goronga a strong desire to learn about aromatherapy online. In due course, she came across a report by the Word Health Organization (WHO) to the general effect that depression can result in some bodily and mental disabilities – but that this can be controlled, and even surmounted.

Although she learnt much about aromatherapy online, she also garnered knowledge on the subject-matter from books and consultations – and from the Small Industries Development Organisation (Sido) – on aromatherapy, thus gaining useful knowledge on blending natural oils.

All in all, what she learned about the subject-matter further fuelled her curiosity to pursue aromatherapy full-time – in which case she did not renew her employment contract with the company.

Aromatherapy, Ms Goronga says, “is one of the greatest therapies in the world, and is currently used in the management of chronic pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia, as well as some cognitive and other stress-related disorders.”

But, the greatest challenge for us in Tanzania is that the concept is still new. Not many people know much about it; its benefits; its importance in everyday life – and, therefore, the market for it is still small, she says.

“I want people struggling with mental health to be free to speak about their problems, and to find help without feeling guilty or ashamed about it. Apart from providing the highest quality aromatherapy products in Tanzania, I want society to be more aware, accept and support people with mental health problems,” she said.

How she started the business

Ms Goronga started the aromatherapy business in 2020 with an initial capital of only Sh1 million which she had saved from her salary.

To produce the materials used in aromatherapy, she currently imports organic essential oils from South Africa, and other inputs from Kenya.

“I hope we will start production of the essential oils here in three years time from now,” she said – adding that she currently reaches 100 customers per month online and physically, and the plan is to reach over 500 a month.

“My market is growing. I am selling more to online customers who get to know of my product via Instagram. Other customers are the ones who have been informed about me by my former customers. I regularly get feedback from those who have already used my products – and this gives me the strength to keep going,” Ms Goronga says.

“I now feel that I no longer need to be employed on a salary, and I love what I am now doing: aromatherapy. Through that, I am confident that I can change the life of a person directly or indirectly – and I will help as many people as I can who are struggling with mental health.”

Noting that “there currently are four people working together under Sido-Kilimanjaro,” Ms Goronga says the plan is to “employ 15 people after a year from now – and 100 people after three years. Some of these will be farming and caring for the plants in the field, while others will be engaged in extracting the essential oils to be used in manufacturing the final product to be used by our customers.

“Usually, businesses do well if and when people get to know about, and understand them. Then they try the products, and finally get hooked to them,” she pontificates.

The future…

Ms Goronga plans to open a special clinic – ‘Pearl Clinic’ – for women and girls with mental health challenges, including especially stress, depression and anxiety.

“I have found out that many women are especially insecure, with many of them getting stressed for some reason or another, but sometimes because of their body shape. So, we want to tell them that, even if your body shape isn’t particularly attractive, you are still beautiful!

“I want to create a space where women will be free to talk about their mental struggles. A space where they will feel loved, appreciated and properly handled both physically and mentally. The proposed ‘Pearl Women’s Clinic’ will reach out to more women, and work closely with them,” she said.

“I believe in self-employment, as it is quite possible to start small and grow. Of course, there are ups and downs. But, with hard work, consistency and resilience, one can succeed,” Ms Anastasia Goronga said.

“Many young people get stuck in fear of trying and starting a business. If we can overcome this fear, I believe it will become that much easier for many dreams to become a reality sooner than later,” she stressed.