Smell your way into a calmer, better life—everything you need to know about essential oils and aromatherapy
Whether its the aroma of freshly brewed coffee beans during early mornings or the trailing scent of earthy lavender form a flickering candle, scents have the potential to soothe our spirits, change our moods and transport us to a different time.
During stressful times, self-care is paramount. We've found welcome respite in wellness rituals that keep us glowing both inside and out, from breathwork sessions to skincare treatments. Why not take it to the next level by embracing the power of smell into our self-love routine?
Welcome to the world of aromatherapy and essential oils. From rubbing oils to the gentle mist escaping from a diffuser, the century-old method of therapy isn't just about smelling nice. Essential oils, when used responsibly, have the soul-soothing ability to stave off anxiety, clear the mind and even reduce physical ailments that we may be experiencing, e.g. from sitting all day at your WFH station.
But with so many different types and uses out there, it can be overwhelming to navigate if you're just starting out. Are these plant extracts really that powerful? Why can't I dab two drops directly onto my skin? What can I use all these different scents for?
We've done the research and put together everything you'll need to know to get into aromatherapy and essential oils. Relaxation is only a whiff away.
What is aromatherapy?
Practised for centuries by different cultures from ancient Egypt to China, aromatherapy is an alternative form of holistic therapy that uses essential oils—oil extracts of plant essences—in a variety of ways to heal the body, mind and spirit.
How does it work?
Our sense of smell is linked to the deepest parts of our brain, which goes on to trigger emotional and even physical responses when we experience aromatherapy.
Once formulated to work in harmony with our bodies, the exposure of different aromas to our noses can trigger positive physiological changes, such as relaxation, better sleep and increased energy, while the physical use of essential oils can help ease muscular aches, improve circulation and even act as a strong antioxidant.
How can I use aromatherapy in my daily life at home?
Aromatherapy is most commonly used via inhalation through candles, diffusers and room mists, bringing the scent of the spa to our homes while boosting overall wellbeing and humidifying the air around you.
However, there are many different ways to experience the healing scents for various effects. For example, steam inhalations with antiviral and antibacterial oils are useful to get relief from cold or flu symptoms, while an aromatic bath releases tight muscles and reduces stress with a calming oil. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin in oil blends and lotions, applied during massages or topically.
Do I need to dilute essential oils?
Yes—just because they're all-natural doesn't mean they're gentle for our bodies. As highly concentrated, volatile plant extracts, essential oils must be handled with care as a couple of drops go a long way and can cause more harm than good if not used responsibly. In most cases, essential oils are mixed with a carrier oil—a neutral, plant-based oil that acts as a base and facilitates better absorption of the oil by the body. Common carrier oils include sweet almond, coconut, jojoba, olive and grape-seed.
The general rule of thumb is a 1 to 5% dilution but dilution ratios vary on personal needs and individual essential oils so always refer to guidelines and warnings—and remember to spot-test before use.
What are the benefits of different essential oils?
Each oil has a unique scent and properties that can be applied for many different uses. Derived from parts of plants or trees, essential oils have a complex nature that is difficult to reproduce, and some oils contain substances that only occurs naturally.
Here are some of the most popular essential oils and the common uses for every occasion:
- FOR A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP — Countless studies have proven how beneficial scents can be for getting quality shut-eye. Rich in linalool, lavender has a sedating effect that calms the central nervous system. Place a few drops on your pillow or use a diffuser to reap its beauty sleep benefits all night long.
- FOR A MENTAL PICK-ME-UP — When the WFH slump hits in the late afternoon, consider getting a reboot by taking a whiff of an invigorating blend or refreshing yourself with an oil-infused face mist. Rosemary is known to help increase memory by 75%, while peppermint and basil are proven to help with brain burnout.
- TO ACHIEVE INNER BALANCE — Stave off anxious feelings and alleviate tension in less than a minute by massaging a calming oil blend into your pressure points. Like the tea, chamomile has a relaxing effect while the sweet scent of rose oil is proven to be beneficial for anxiety reduce stress.
- FOR AN ENERGY BOOST — Feeling fatigued and the caffeine isn't hitting? Oils from citruses like lemon and grapefruit are associated with aiding depleting mood and energy levels by stimulating areas of our brain that promotes happiness. Herbaceous oils such as peppermint stimulate deep breathing which oxygenates the brain and helps to increase alertness.
- TO PURIFY YOUR SPIRITS — If you're feeling a bit nauseated, eucalyptus and tea tree have invigorating effects which alleviate chest and head congestion and can help you breathe better. On the other hand, the comforting warmth of ginger will stimulate tired appetites and disperse any signs of dizziness to get you through the week.