Aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils and certain scents to improve mood and health has become very popular lately, although it has been around for centuries.
On this page, I will be focusing only on the stress-relieving aspects of aromatherapy and will be leaving the health aspects to others.
As we all know, smell plays an important role in our lives. We use our sense of smell to warn us of danger; as in the case of smelling smoke or gas. Also, scents seem to work on your brain in a similar way to sound. Certain fragrances can energize you or relax you and in many cases stimulate memory.
Lavender is one of my favorite relaxing scents. In the olden times, as well as today, many people practice aromatherapy by using lavender to induce a restful night’s sleep. It was sewn into pillows or sprinkled on handkerchiefs to sniff when you felt stressed. That’s something I do on a regular basis.
Well, I don't sew it into pillows, but I do have lavender growing in my garden and the herb is WONDERFUL to smell! I keep adding new plants as I come across them in gardening stores or herbal markets.
I've got enough now that I've started making sachets and selling them myself. This serves a dual purpose for me. I like working with my hands and it's relaxing to make them coupled with the fantastic scent. I find it's a great way to focus on something positive for a while.
I also use best lavender essential oil on my pillow to relax me as I go to sleep or in the bath for a wonderfully relaxing soak. I will use the oil as a perfume if I know I'll be going into a stressful situation and smell it when I'm feeling anxious. I don't know if it's the power of suggestion or if the lavender is soothing my nerves, but it works for me.
Smelling a strong fragrance like mint can be very energizing. For those of you who like to garden; it grows well and is easy to maintain. Just stick it anywhere and watch it take off.
Lemon clears the mind with its invigorating scent.
Vanilla seems to be universally soothing. The scent is also very comforting to many people.
Vanilla reminds me of cookies baking and I can almost see my mom in the kitchen with freshly baked cookies when I came home from school on a chilly fall afternoon. The smell of watermelon reminds me of the picnics my family took on certain summer afternoons.
I love the smell of fall days. They remind me of the times when my mom and dad, with us kids piled into the back seat, drove to the woods to gather black walnuts. I always associate their pungent smell with the fun of wandering through the woods searching for them, although my parents did more gatherings than I did. Most of my time was spent playing and looking at all the flora and fauna.
Get the picture?
Aromatherapy seems to be an extremely powerful tool in affecting or enhancing your mood.
A few ways you can use aromatherapy to reduce stress in your life:
- As I mentioned above, pour a few drops of essential oil into a bath and have a nice long soak. Both the smell and the soak will do you good.
- Use a relaxing scent such as lavender, rose, or sandalwood as a perfume, and sniff it when you're feeling stressed.
Caution: Don't use essential oils at full strength on your skin. Some people will find it irritating. Dilute them first with a carrier oil such as almond.
- Room deodorizer. A neat trick I've found is to pour a small amount of vanilla into a pan of water and simmer it on the stove. It makes your home smell wonderful. Be careful you don't let the pan boil dry.
- Make your own custom-scented shampoo or conditioner by adding a few drops of your favorite oil to a decent unscented brand.
- Massage oil. Mmmm...this is a good one. If you have someone to give you a nice massage, add a few drops of your favorite oil to an unscented oil like almond, and enjoy.
Make sure you read the label carefully when you buy an essential oil. Make sure it says "pure" and is not a man-made substitute.
It's a good idea to keep essential oils away from children. Some of them smell so good it would be tempting for little ones to try to eat them.
Since I'm only discussing aromatherapy as it's used for stress relief, bear in mind that the herbs themselves also have the same effects as an expensive oil and at much less cost. Of course, they're not going to be as concentrated, but the smell of a fresh herb is just as nice in my opinion.
Use these aromatherapy tips by themselves, or try them out with a few of the tips in our techniques article.