The Lovely Scent of Relaxing Essential Oils

Don’t let the stress of the holiday season get you down—let aromatherapy relax and indulge you.

| November/December 2007

  • Blend calming essential oils, like chamomile, geranium or lavender, to create a sense of tranquility.
    Photo by Fotolia/Botamochy

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.

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