Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils and it acts on the mind and body simultaneously. The limbic system in the brain recognizes scent, attaches emotion the scent, and creates a learned memory of that scent-emotion connection. This is what’s responsible for the variety of psychological and mental effects of aromatherapy, such as relaxation, mood enhancement, improved focus,and increased energy. Additionally, the topical use of aromatic oils has physiologic effects as they are absorbed trans-dermally and act as antifungals and antiseptics, muscle and nervous system relaxants, and anti-inflammatories.
How to practice aromatherapy
This is a simple way to establish the mood and atmosphere for an entire room. All you need is a candle diffuser and your aromatic oil. The candle heats the oil that you place in the small dish above the flame, releasing the aromatic chemistry throughout the room. Choose mint or rosemary for increased focus during your kids’ homework time or your work time, lavender to relax the household for bedtime, lemon balm for energizing your mornings, and oregano or basil to create a warm, homey atmosphere.
Inhalation is the fastest way to achieve the benefits of aromatherapy as each breath carries the chemistry of your aromatic oil into contact with the surface area of your lungs’ alveoli and is then circulated through your bloodstream and throughout the tissues of your body. Simply rub a small amount of your infused oil onto your wrists, temples or even right below your nose. Through college, I frequently used mint, Roman chamomile, and rosemary on my wrists to increase focus during study sessions because it’s easy and discreet to take a whiff of your wrist when you need a mental boost of focus and clarity. (Bonus tip: because scent acts on your limbic system to create learned memory, using aromatic oils during study time and then again prior to an exam triggers your memory of study material!)
Massage & Topical
Like pretty much anything you put on your skin, aromatic oils are absorbed trans-dermally and exert their effects internally.
Lavender has anti-inflammatory properties and is especially effective for migraines and headaches caused by head and neck tension. If you or a loved one suffers from tension headaches, use lavender oil to perform a gentle shoulder, neck, temple, and forehead massage to alleviate tension and inflammation.
Rosemary oil is great for relieving joint pain and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that follows a hard workout as it contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds. Simply use the rosemary-infused oil as massage oil on the affected area.
Lemon balm oil improves circulation and has an energizing effect. It makes a great morning moisturizer, shower oil, or follow-up to your dry brushing routine.
How to make infused oils
There are several ways to make herb-infused oils but the solar method is my favorite due to its simplicity.
Place herbs in a clear glass jar with carrier oil (olive, almond, castor, jojoba, and coconut make great carriers). You need a ratio of about 2tbsp herb to 1 cup carrier oil.
The herbs will expand a little bit so be sure to leave about an inch of space at the top of your jar.
Cap the jar and leave it in a sunny spot for 2-4wks (you can bring it inside at night, but it’s not necessary).
After 2-4wks, strain the oil through cheesecloth and your oil is ready for use!