While we may eat with our eyes, the aroma of a restaurant or a meal hits us first and sends our taste buds either into a happy dance or running for the hills. If you meet someone and they are wearing a certain scent, it either attracts or repels. Fragrances create powerful, sensory responses and it’s no surprise that inhaling a healthy whiff of some scents can create joy, fear, love, disgust, relaxation and even sleep.
The world of aromatherapy is built upon the idea that certain fragrances touch off not only emotional but physical responses. The idea that what we smell can soothe what ails us or even help us slumber is pretty beautiful. Burning incense or turning on your diffuser does more than sweeten the air or get rid of odors in your home. The scent you choose, the essential oil you drop into the water is usually done for a specific reason — it makes you feel and your body react a certain way.
Why is that? And what are some scents that soothes our senses?
Let’s see, shall we?
Relief for the ages
Belief in aromatherapy is ancient. Wealthy Egyptians relaxed and gave over to slumber with the help of frankincense and myrrh — of course. Romans fell asleep to the smell of chamomile and Hippocrates believed in the benefits of aromatherapy. Yep, the dad of all doctors was into indulging in scents to relieve a multitude of issues and he believed there was something in essential oils that made your body and emotions feel better.
Using these seem to activate parts of your smell receptors, waking up parts of your brain such as the limbic system and the hypothalamus. What is believed is certain scents may cause the creation of serotonin, that all-around feel good chemical. And you don’t have to burn the essential oils, by the way, to breathe them in and get the benefit. Rubbing some on certain areas of your skin can also bring about a welcome, soothing reaction — a dab on your pressure points, gentle rub in your joints may make all the difference in your day.
True essential oils are extracted from plants and flowers. Not all are created equal, so if you choose to indulge in a little aromatherapy, make sure you use those that are pure and natural. A lot of filler is added sometimes — please, take care. Also, just because the scents we’re sharing are known to soothe, calm, relax, and even help you sleep, some oils and fragrances cause allergic reactions in some people. Please double check before you dive into any of these.
Here are 5 scents we enjoy from time to time to relax and calm us in our day-to-day, and may make sleeping come that much easier at night.
The oil derived from the flowers of bitter orange trees, Neroli oil — aka orange blossom oil — has been known to take the edge off when you’re feeling anxious. It has a sweet, spicy kind of scent that tends to calm and some even say helps stop worry in its tracks. Neroli is one of those oils that's nice to have at times like the ones we're currently living in. Personally? It's one of my all-time favorite scents to drop into my diffuser and immerse myself in at the end of the day, anytime.
Talk about ancient, this biblical fragrance comes from the resin of the Boswellia tree native to Africa, India, and parts of the Middle East. The woody, sweet scent is a legendary stress reliever that is used to keep anxiety at bay. It also blends well with other calming fragrances such as lavender, rose and orange, and lately it looks like this thousands year-old soothing scent may be just what you need for a good night’s sleep.
Having a cup of Earl Gray tea with a touch of lemon always makes my day. It mellows me out, no matter what, and I never really thought about it until I began using bergamot oil in my diffuser. Same secret ingredient that makes one of my go-to hot drinks taste uniquely exotic and incredibly satisfying. Extracted from the rinds of the citrus fruit that grows on the bergamot orange tree, this wonderful fragrance is another nice stress reducer and relaxation-bringer. Interestingly enough, if you’re feeling put upon or completely worn out, a drop of bergamot oil on a tissue or placed in your diffuser and sent dancing across your olfactory nerves has been known to give you relief.
Truly one of our favorite flowers and teas, jasmine has been called the “valium substitute.” Wonderful for soothing your mind, body and soul, this unassuming flower essence lowers your heart rate and makes you want to sleep. A natural alternative to prescription sleep aids that looks, smells and tastes amazing? Love it.
Can’t sleep? Juniper oil is your friend. Actual tests showed that subjects who inhaled these small, round, woody smelling gin-makers felt relief from fatigue, nervous exhaustion, menstrual cramps, and insomnia. Seems the little bugger that makes one hell of a martini is capable of bringing your body to the land of Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod all by itself, and without even having to be shaken or stirred.
We’ve shared just five of our go-to essential oils, but there are so many more and we like switching them up from time to time. Try sandalwood, Roman chamomile, lemongrass, that old standby lavender, and more. Remember when you use these to make sure you check whether you’re allergic and actually talk to your doctor before you dive too deep into the fragrance pool. It’s a tiny bit of assurance to achieve balance, but worth it if you really want to get heavy into the world of aromatherapy.
If you’re ever going to place essential oils on your skin — we love massaging these luxuriously delicious stress relievers into those achy, tired spots at the end of the day — dilute them with what are called carrier oils like sweet almond, avocado or jojoba. Once you do that, you can put it on your skin or add it to a nice, warm bath to relieve tension or unwind in glorious leisure. Placing a few drops of the fragrances in an atomizer with water then spraying a gentle mist on your pillow is also a great way to enjoy a good night of holistically enabled sleep.
Aromatherapy is one of nature’s ways of allowing your senses to take care of your body and mind. Give yourself over to some of Mother Earth’s homegrown olfactory indulgence and let yourself slip away into pure relaxation.