I have a tendency to get wound up right around three-ish in the afternoon, likely caused by staring at a computer screen for far too long without a break. When this happens I always reach for my essential oils- lavender in particular, which is a well know relaxer. Today’s guest post expands on an earlier post on essential oils; highlighting how they affect our body, mind and spirit.
How Aromatherapy Affects Mind, Body and Spirit
Aromatherapy—the process of inhaling or absorbing scents derived from essential oils—can do more than just provide a temporarily pleasing sensory experience. It can also help improve a woman’s mind, body and spirit in a number of ways. There is a wide range of essential oils to choose from, and each one brings its own specific set of benefits. Some essential oils provide even multiple benefits at once: for example, citronella is purifying and revitalizing— and it helps keep bugs away!
Aromatherapy can be applied in a variety of settings: try adding some essential oils to a hot bath or a traditional hot sauna. You can also apply diluted essential oils directly to your skin for better absorption. Even better, why not treat yourself to an extra-relaxing aromatherapy massage?
How Aromatherapy Affects Your Mind
Most people know about aromatherapy’s calming effects, but it can also be used for energizing purposes. Scents like lavender, vanilla and chamomile can help with stress relief and relaxation, while peppermint and eucalyptus provide a boost of mental energy. Cedarwood can help improve mental clarity and focus.
Aromatherapy has also been used to treat anxiety and depression. One study found that caffeinated mice were calmed by lavender, sandalwood and other essential oils. (Keep this in mind for the next time you overdo it at Starbucks!)
How Aromatherapy Affects Your Body
Research on the physical benefits of aromatherapy is still evolving, but there is evidence that aromatherapy can have positive effects on your body as well as on your mind. Essential oils have been shown to help heal minor wounds and reduce inflammation. They can also help regulate our digestive and sleep cycles.
Aromatherapy is known to increase blood circulation, relieve congestion, and boost your immune system. Have a cold? Try breathing some eucalyptus oil—or rub a bit on your chest in lieu of traditional drugstore ointments. Other oils that help ease a cold include frankincense, lavender, lemon, rosemary and peppermint.
For women in particular, it’s good to know that aromatherapy can help regulate hormones and lessen menstrual cramps. Various essential oils have also been used as part of some labor and delivery practices. One study even showed that women who applied lavender oil reported a marked difference in postpartum discomfort. (Certain oils, including lavender oil, which contains deodorizing and cleansing properties, are especially suited for topical application. However, almost all essential oils require dilution, so be sure to read the instructions carefully before applying anything directly to your skin!) Another study found that menopausal women who received aromatherapy massages reported the most relief from symptoms.
How Aromatherapy Affects Your Spirit
Aromatherapy has been an integral component of spiritual practices throughout history. Essential oils were used as part of many ancient religions (check out this list of oils frequently used during Biblical times!) and they can be part of your contemporary spiritual practice as well. Try diffusing some essential oils during your meditation practice. Certain essential oils are specifically suited to spiritual rituals and can help bring about a sense of focus and connection to the divine. These include cedar, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, myrrh, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang. However, you don’t have to stick to these traditional spiritual scents: just pick the scent that speaks the most to you. If you consistently use one scent for your meditation practice, smelling it at other times is likely to bring you a feeling of peace, relaxation and focus. Take a quick whiff of your favorite meditative scent before your next stressful work meeting. You’re likely to feel a renewed connection to your spiritual side and fewer anxieties about daily life.
With all of these benefits, there is no reason not to try aromatherapy. Just be careful to shop only for pure essential oils (not watered-down “fragrances”) and read the instructions carefully. As always, be sure to check with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.