The concept of aromatherapy – you might picture soothing floral scents and calming music leading to zen – seems so appealing. But does it work?
The short answer? Yes, aromatherapy can help reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being.
what is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using scents from plant extracts; i.e. essential oils, for therapeutic benefit. Essential oils are typically made by distilling plants down to their core essence. Different parts of the plant can be used, like the flower petal, leaf, seed, or peel of a citrus fruit.
So, can smelling different aromas really change your mood? Yes – in fact, scents can actually create strong reactions in the body.
Aromas from essential oils stimulate your central nervous system and can trigger immediate emotional responses. They can even cause physical changes like reduced blood pressure and heart rate.
You may be familiar with lavender, which is believed to help reduce stress and promote good sleep. This is why you’ll find many lavender-scented products meant to relax and calm, like bubble bath or pillow spray to spritz on your pillow before you go to sleep.
Citrus scents like grapefruit or lemon are energizing. You might find these bright scents in body wash to help wake you up in your morning shower. Peppermint tea can be uplifting and help settle your stomach.
using essential oils
Distillation transforms the original plant into a highly concentrated essence. For example, it takes about 250 pounds of lavender flowers to distill just 1 pound of essential oil! Because there’s a lot of “flower power” packed in, essential oils are very potent and not meant to be used directly on the skin unless diluted. Doing so could cause irritation or rashes.
So, the most common method is diffusion into the air via a diffuser or a spray. Or, it’s fine to apply them to the skin as long as it’s a small amount that’s mixed in with a carrier oil (like olive, coconut, or jojoba) so they’re not so concentrated – only a few drops are needed. And of course, essential oils are added to many different creams and body lotions.
Curious to try aromatherapy for yourself? Go for it! (Though if you have allergies or sensitive skin, you may want to check with your doctor beforehand.) Essential oils can get you going in the morning or help you wind you down at night. There are so many options for you to enjoy!
Sources: Cleveland Clinic; Johns Hopkins Medicine; Real Simple