Welcome to week three of Hitting Your Reset Button, a series focusing on finding mindfulness and a fresh start in our daily lives. On week one we looked at the seven chakras and how to rebalance them when we feel like we are out of alignment. In week two, we hopped on our yoga mats and moved through seven asanas, or yoga postures, specifically designed to increase flexibility and reduce anxiety. This week is all about using aromatherapy to change your space, and your life.
Using Aromatherapy to Heal
Aromatherapy can be a great practice for enhancing your spaces and creating a therapeutic experience. Whether you’re looking for more holistic approaches to wellness, trying to reduce your use of harsh chemicals in the home or just want your space to feel refreshed and revitalized, using these essential oils can make all the difference.
I’m always asked, “Does aromatherapy really work?” Consider this: Studies show that aromatherapy works by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions.
Aromatherapy has so many potential health benefits, including:
- Relief from anxiety and depression
- Improved quality of life, particularly for people with chronic health conditions
- Improved sleep
- Reduced pain for people with osteoarthritis of the knee
- Improvement in quality of life for people with dementia
Essential oils used in aromatherapy are typically extracted from various parts of plants and then distilled. The highly concentrated oils may be inhaled directly or applied to the skin through massage, lotions or bath salts. If you want the aromatherapy oils to directly touch your skin, just be sure it’s diluted by a “carrier” such as a lotion base or a few drops are blended into base oils like coconut or jojoba. Below, I map out a few oils that I have recommended to both my yoga students and skincare clients for years.
Easily the most popular and widely used essential oil, lavender is the perfect relaxing scent to have in your aromatherapy stash.
Lavender is useful for:
- skin issues
- speeding healing
- improved digestion
- pain relief
- reduced inflammation
While most essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil, lavender is one of the few that’s safe to apply directly to the skin. So try placing a few drops in your hands. Rub your hands together and deeply inhale the aromatic goodness. For promoting healthy sleep, add a few drops to a diffuser and place in the bedroom before sleep. You can also diffuse it into a room for a calming scent that reaches and connects with your whole family.
One of the best smelling essential oils that nearly everyone loves, peppermint offers a wide range of health benefits as well as a lift to your energy. Its minty scent is reminiscent of candy canes and minty mojitos.
Peppermint is useful for:
- alleviating headaches
- relieving digestive issues such as gas or heartburn
- reducing feelings of stress and anxiety
- killing germs (particularly in the mouth)
- freshening air
- cooling and refreshing
- relieving congestion
Use peppermint essential oil in a cool mist humidifier during winter months for fighting colds and cleaning the air. Add a drop to a glass of water and use as a mouthwash. Place a few drops with a carrier oil (coconut, jojoba or Vitamin E, for example) and massage into sore or tired muscles. Peppermint is particularly great after a workout.
3. Tea Tree
Another essential oil with a strong odor, tea tree oil is also commonly called ‘Melaleuca’. This scent is very medicinal with a camphor odor and is great for aromatherapy.
Tea tree is useful for:
- healing acne (It’s a staple for estheticians including myself.)
- treating athlete’s foot and other fungal infections
- reducing dandruff
- treating bad breath and killing mouth germs.
- Insect repellent
- reducing congestion and cough due to cold
Apply directly to cuts, scrapes, and acne in order to kill germs and promote healthy healing. Add a drop to a glass of water and gargle to kill germs in the mouth. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply topically to skin affected by athlete’s foot, nail fungus, or other infections. Land a few drops in smelly sneakers and it will eliminate bad odor quickly.
This oil has a sweet, flowery scent that some people compare to apple blossoms. It’s an earthy, straw-like smell that many people who prefer a less overpowering aromatherapy experience find a connection with.
Chamomile is useful for:
- promoting relaxation and inducing sleep
- lifting mood and relieving depression
- fighting bacteria (good for sores, acne, mouth)
- soothing digestive problems
- promoting youthful looking skin and hair
Add a few drops to a cool mist humidifier and place in the bedroom to help calm and relax yourself. Or add a few drops to a water bottle to create a pillow spray or room spray. Add a drop to your favorite herbal tea or apply directly to the abdomen to soothe digestive problems. Do not use if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
5. Sweet Orange
Sweet orange is my COVID-19 must! Popular and typically affordably priced, open a bottle of orange essential oil and your room will smell like you just peeled a fresh orange. It speaks to uplifting your mood during a stressful time.
Sweet orange is useful for:
- uplifting mood and easing anxiety
- boosting immune system
- preventing infection
- helping cognitive function
- disinfecting households
- reducing inflammation
- decreasing hypertension
Place a few drops into the palm of your hands, rub your hands together to build a little heat up and inhale three to four times. Add a few drops of orange essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water to use as a room freshening spray, counter disinfectant, or bathroom cleaner. Place a few drops of orange oil into a cool mist humidifier and diffuse into your space to boost your mood, improve blood flow, and help reduce stress.
If you are pregnant, under the care of a doctor, on a variety of medications or just new to this altogether, it’s always a good idea to consult a physician prior to experimenting with aromatherapy and have a chat with them about how it can best serve you.
Be sure to check back next week for the fourth and final installment of the Hitting Your Reset Button series, where we’ll be looking at self love as a practice and ways we can capitalize on small emotional highs that we’d normally tend to deny ourselves. This series has been all about refreshing and re-energizing you, and you won’t want to miss this last one.