Mother Earth Living

The Lovely Scent of Relaxation

Don’t let the stress of the holiday season get you down—let aromatherapy relax and indulge you.
By Laurel Vukovic
November/December 2007


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Whatever your favorite means of relaxation, aromatherapy can enhance the soothing and restorative effects. Whether you choose a bath, nap, massage, yoga, deep breathing or simply sitting in a chair with your feet up, including essential oils in your daily life can help elicit peaceful relaxation for your body, mind and spirit.

Researchers have proven that essential oils have a measurable effect on brain-wave patterns. When stimulating oils, such as basil or rosemary, are inhaled, beta brain waves (which indicate a state of alertness) are amplified. Alpha and theta brain waves, indicative of relaxation, are increased with essential oils that are regarded as calming, such as jasmine, lavender, neroli and rose.

How Essential Oils Ease Stress

Essential oils give flowers, herbs, spices and fruits their characteristic scents. But these fragrant plant essences do far more than just provide pleasing aromas. Essential oils are highly concentrated with potent healing properties and are effective for easing a variety of physical and psychological disorders.

When essential oils are inhaled or applied to the skin, the aromatic molecules enter the bloodstream and are circulated throughout the body. In this way, they help alleviate a variety of physical maladies, including digestive upsets, headaches and muscle tension associated with stress. Essential oils affect emotions in a different way. Scents are detected by olfactory cells in the nose, which communicate with the brain. The olfactory nerve pathways are a direct link to the limbic portion of the brain, which is the seat of emotions, memories, intuition and sexual response. For this reason, the sense of smell—of all of the senses—is the most influential trigger of memories and emotions.

Because scents are so strongly linked to emotions, essential oils have an immediate effect on your emotional state. By using essential oils that have calming properties, you can elicit what is known as the relaxation response—a state of well-being characterized by calmness in both body and mind. Scents also trigger memories, so it’s important to choose essential oils that you personally find pleasant and relaxing.

Bathe Away Stress with Essential Oils  

Soaking in a warm bath is an easy way to take a time-out from the stresses of daily life. Adding essential oils to the water takes the bath from a pleasant experience to a truly restorative ritual. Don’t underestimate the emotional lift that you’ll get from taking a few minutes to establish a soothing and beautiful atmosphere: Light a few candles, put on your favorite relaxing CD, and have a thick, soft towel and cozy robe close by.

Depending on the essential oils you choose, you can create a deeply relaxing bath that will prepare you for a good night’s sleep, or you can make a bath that will help you unwind from a busy day while restoring your energy for an evening out.

Baking soda or Epsom salts are excellent additives for helping evenly disperse the essential oils. In addition, baking soda helps soften skin, while Epsom salts are rich in magnesium, which relaxes the nervous system and muscles.

Tension-Taming Bath 

Geranium and clary sage calm frazzled nerves and create a bath perfect for a relaxing evening at home. Both geranium and clary sage also are helpful for easing tension associated with hormonal imbalances, and sweet orange adds a gentle, uplifting note to the blend.

5  drops geranium essential oil
3  drops clary sage essential oil
2  drops sweet orange essential oil
½ cup baking soda

Mix all ingredients together in a small container. Add to a bathtub of warm water and soak for 15 to 30 minutes. 

Mood-Mending Lavender-Chamomile Bath

Chamomile, lavender and bergamot soothe the mind and spirit and help ease the anxiety and depression that often accompany stress.

5  drops lavender essential oil
3  drops chamomile essential oil
2  drops bergamot essential oil
½ cup baking soda

Mix all ingredients together in a small container. Add to a bathtub of warm water and soak for 15 to 30 minutes.

Restful Sleep Bath

This bath is perfect for preparing your body and mind for deep, restful sleep. In India, vetiver is known as “the oil of tranquility.” The smoky scent of vetiver blends well with lavender. Rich in magnesium, Epsom salts relax the muscles and nervous system.

3  drops vetiver essential oil
5  drops lavender essential oil
1  cup Epsom salts

Mix essential oils and Epsom salts in a small container. Add to a bathtub of warm water. Soak for 20 minutes in a dimly lit bathroom, gently towel dry and go immediately to bed.

Soothing Rose Petal Footbath

A footbath can be just as relaxing as a full bath. You’ll need a basin large enough to hold both feet. To enhance your relaxation, include marbles or smooth round stones in the bottom of the basin for massaging your feet. Lavender and patchouli essential oils are calming and deodorizing.

5  drops lavender essential oil
2  drops patchouli essential oil
¼ cup Epsom salts
¼ cup baking soda
2  tablespoons sea salt
Stones or marbles (optional)
2  tablespoons rose petals

Combine essential oils with Epsom salts, baking soda and sea salt in a small container.

Position the basin on a towel in front of a comfortable chair. Fill basin with comfortably warm water and add the mixture of essential oils and salts. Add stones or marbles, if desired. Sprinkle rose petals onto the water.

Relax, and soak your feet in the footbath for at least 15 minutes.

Lavender-Geranium Soap

An aromatherapy shower is a great alternative if you don’t have time for a bath, or as a way of setting a relaxing tone for your day. Adding essential oils to unscented liquid body soap is an easy way to enjoy the positive benefits of aromatherapy every time you shower. Lavender, geranium and bergamot create a spicy-sweet bath and shower soap that combines relaxation with mood brightening.

4  ounces liquid unscented body soap
20 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops geranium essential oil
10 drops bergamot essential oil

Pour liquid body soap into a plastic squeeze-top bottle. Add essential oils and stir thoroughly.

Ahhh … Aromatherapy Massage for Relaxation  

There’s nothing like massage for deep relaxation of body and mind. Unknotting tense muscles allows energy to flow unimpeded and calms the nervous system. Adding essential oils to massage oil greatly enhances the relaxing benefits of a massage.

Spirit-Soothing Sandalwood-Rose Massage Oil

Sandalwood, rose and sweet orange create a restorative and soothing massage oil blend.

6  tablespoons sweet almond oil
2  tablespoons jojoba oil
20 drops sandalwood essential oil
10 drops rose essential oil
10 drops sweet orange essential oil

Mix oils together in a tightly capped bottle and shake well. Store in a cool, dark place.

Calming Chamomile-Ylang Ylang Massage Oil

This sweet, floral fragrance is deeply relaxing and gently uplifting at the same time.

6  tablespoons sweet almond oil
2  tablespoons jojoba oil
15 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops chamomile essential oil
10 drops tangerine essential oil
5  drops ylang ylang essential oil

Mix oils together in a tightly capped bottle and shake well. Store in a cool, dark place.

Aromatherapy for Meditation and Deep Relaxation

Aromatherapy is a perfect complement to meditation, yoga, deep-breathing exercises and other practices that cultivate relaxation. A simple way to use essential oils is to diffuse them in a room using an electric diffuser or a candle diffuser, or to burn aromatherapy candles scented with pure essential oils.

Taking slow, deep breaths is one of the quickest ways to calm your body and mind. When you take a few moments to focus on your breathing, you have the opportunity to change your perspective and let go of stress. To practice a quick, relaxing breathing exercise, begin by exhaling completely. Inhale slowly through your nose, and then exhale through your slightly opened mouth, stretching the exhalation to be twice as long as your inhalation. Repeat this simple exercise three times, ending with a long, smooth exhalation.

Use Essential Oils Safely

  • Use only pure quality essential oils made from plants—never synthetic (also known as “fragrance”) oils.
  • Do not use essential oils undiluted on your skin.
  • Keep essential oils away from your eyes.
  • Don’t take essential oils internally, except in small amounts, such as peppermint oil in candy.
  • Do not use essential oils without a practitioner’s guidance if you are elderly, convalescing, suffer from a serious health problem, or if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Keep essential oils out of the reach of children.
  • Don’t use photosensitizing essential oils, such as the citrus oils, before spending time in the sun or tanning booth.

Source: Keville, Kathi. Aromatherapy for Dummies. Foster City, California: IDG, 1999.

To help anchor this relaxing practice, repeat it frequently throughout the day. Take three deep breaths at the beginning of every hour, or use cues—such as the phone ringing or stopping at a red light—to remember to breathe. Meditation on the breath is both convenient and practical because you can practice any time, anywhere.

To make it easier to access a state of calmness throughout the day, allot five to 10 minutes in the morning and evening to deepen your experience of breathing meditation. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Begin by taking three deep, slow breaths. Close your eyes, and focus on the rising and falling of your belly as you inhale and exhale. Remember to make your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation to encourage the slow, deep breathing that signals your nervous system to downshift into a more relaxed state.

Essential oils that are particularly beneficial for breathing exercises and meditation include those that have been used for centuries in spiritual practice, such as frankincense, myrrh and sandalwood. However, any relaxing oils are appropriate. When you begin to associate specific essential oils with relaxation and meditation, your body and mind will immediately shift into a receptive state of being.

Sandalwood-Rose Meditative Blend

50 drops sandalwood essential oil
25 drops frankincense essential oil
10 drops rose essential oil

Combine essential oils in a small glass vial. To use in an aromatherapy candle diffuser, place 5 drops of the blend into the diffuser cup along with approximately 1 ounce of water.

Peaceful Mind Blend

30 drops geranium essential oil
30 drops lavender essential oil
20 drops bergamot essential oil
10 drops rose essential oil

Combine essential oils in a small glass vial. To use in an aromatherapy candle diffuser, place 5 drops of the blend into the diffuser cup along with approximately 1 ounce of water.

Instant Relaxation with Essential Oils  

Resources

Aromafloria
(800) 424-0034
www.aromafloria.com

AromaTherapeutix
(800) 308-6284
www.AromaTherapeutix.com

Glorybee Foods
(800) 456-7923
www.glorybee.com

Little Moon Essentials
(888) 273-0683
www.LittleMoonEssentials.com

Mountain Rose Herbs
(800) 879-3337
www.MountainRoseHerbs.com

Starwest Botanicals
(800) 800-4372
www.Starwest-Botanicals.com

When you need instant relaxation, essential oils as mists are the perfect solution. Small atomizer bottles filled with water and essential oils can be used to mist your face, body, room or bed linens and provide an immediate sense of relaxation and well-being. Make several bottles of your favorite relaxing blends in various sized atomizer bottles. Place one by your bedside, stash another in your purse and keep one at work so that you have aromatherapy relief available whenever you need it.

Stress-Busting Lavender-Frankincense Spray

10 drops lavender essential oil
5  drops frankincense essential oil
5  drops geranium essential oil
4  ounces spring or purified water
1  teaspoon vodka or distilled witch hazel

Mix essential oils with vodka or witch hazel in a 4-ounce atomizer bottle. Add water and shake well.

Mood-Calming Cedarwood-Ylang Ylang Spray

10 drops cedarwood essential oil
10 drops bergamot essential oil
2  drops ylang ylang essential oil
4  ounces spring or purified water
1  teaspoon vodka or distilled witch hazel

Mix essential oils with vodka or witch hazel in a 4-ounce atomizer bottle. Add water and shake well.

Relaxing Essential Oils

Bergamot
Cedarwood
Chamomile
Clary sage
Frankincense
Geranium
Jasmine
Lavender
Marjoram
Neroli
Patchouli
Rose
Sandalwood
Vetiver
Ylang ylang


Laurel Vukovic writes and teaches about herbs from her home in southern Oregon. She is the author of (DK, 2003) and (Prentice Hall, 2000).

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