Ever notice how certain smells can invoke delight bordering on rapture, an inward swooning as it were? Our sense of smell has the power to make us both exceedingly happy and downright miserable (think: porta-potty). The olfactory system is intimately connected to associative learning and emotional processing, and certain oils give off molecules that trigger signals to the brain’s limbic system.
According to a Yale Scientific article, “…the olfactory system is the only sensory system that involves the amygdala and the limbic system in its primary processing pathway. This link explains why smells are often linked to specific memories.” The other senses do not pass through these brain areas and, hence, are less likely to trigger such visceral reactions.
The basic tools of aromatherapy are essential oils. They are made from fragrant essences found in specific plant cells in a wide variety of plants, from rosemary to roses. These particular plant cells — typically located under the surface of leaves, bark or peel — derive their olfactory signature from the elements: sun, air, soil and water.
To produce essential oils, the plant essences are usually distilled with steam and/or water or are cold-pressed. Oils that are made through chemical processes are not considered true essential oils, as these chemicals negate the oil’s therapeutic value.
These days, you can find aromatherapy being used in a wide range of settings — from spas to hospitals — to treat an array of conditions. The general consensus is that certain scents can relieve pain, improve mood and promote a sense of relaxation.
Research backs this up: According to the Yale article, “Mie University School of Medicine found that patients with depression needed smaller doses of antidepressant medications after citrus fragrance treatment.” Additionally, a University of Vienna study showed that when the scent of orange oil was used in dental clinics, female patients had markedly less anxiety.
Want to start exploring essential oils but not sure where to begin? Vitacost collaborated with Adina Grigore, author of the recent book Just the Essentials, to bring you four simple recipes that show the ease and diversity with which you can incorporate essential oils into your lifestyle.
Florida face scrub
2 Tbsp. oat flour
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
2 tsp. carrier oil
2 drops sweet orange essential oil
2 drops grapefruit essential oil
In glass bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Apply a generous amount all over your face and use whatever is left on the rest of your body.
Quick tea tree mouthwash
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. hydrogen peroxide
2-6 drops tea tree oil
Pour all ingredients in bottle and shake well before using. Follow by brushing teeth. Mouthwash can be stored up to a year.
Countertop lemon spray
1 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
20 drops lemon oil
In spray bottle, add all ingredients and shake before use. Not suitable for use on granite or stone countertops.
Migraine healing oil
2 drops cinnamon leaf essential oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
In small bowl, stir ingredients. Massage into temples, between eyebrows, under nostrils, and behind ears. Reapply as needed and discard when migraine (thankfully) disappears.