Quick! What is the first thing that came to mind in that statement? What does this season upon us smell like to you? A crisp fall morning walk through the leaves? Grandmas baking? Pumpkin spice lattes?
The associations we make in our brains with certain smells are largely created in our youth- and they’re a powerful thing. Fresh cut spruce trees might be suggestive of Christmas to you, but if you grew up in an area with a lot of logging it might just be another day. Maybe you had an artificial tree growing up? Scent-based reminders of our youth can be a painful experience (your passed on aunts perfume?) or completely healing & comforting (moms chicken soup?) there’s no doubt. Aside from mood being affected via association, different scents can be medicinally useful. Enter essential oils.
Essential oils are the oils extracted from the roots, leaves, flowers or other parts of various plants. The oils themselves will have different effects on the human body depending on the oil itself and how it is used. Some may enhance your focus, clear a headache or promote calm. They can be used in a number of different ways from inhalation therapy (think eucalyptus when suffering from a head cold), topical application (tea tree oil has fantastic antimicrobial properties!), or in water such as a bath.
A few tips:
- One of my personal favourite essential oils is lavender. Adding lavender oil to a damp rag thrown in with the rest of the wet laundry is a great alternative to a scented dryer sheet. Dabbing a bit onto the back of the wrists or neck before bed is a great way to relax. A few drops in the bath imparts additional relaxation. Topical application of lavender helps to heal burns or other abrasions on the skin (note: essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier oil in order to be applied to the skin). The opportunities to use this fantastic alternative remedy are endless!
- Massage using a lotion or carrier oil blended with essential oils is a real treat!
- Different methods are used to separate the oils from the remainder of the plant, and some require chemical means. Avoid purchasing or using oils that are ‘solvent extracted’ as the damage that could be caused to the body from these chemicals may outweigh any benefit gained in the first place. As with anything that is going in or on your body, choose organic whenever & wherever you can.
- Aromatherapy has been around for a very long time! The Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Chinese in ancient times have been linked to various areas of what we now call aromatherapy though the term has been around for less than 100 years.
- Some oils may interact with medications you may be taking, so research any contraindications before using this alternative medicine. Just as with anything else.
- When feeling under the weather, I like to create a steam inhalation bowl for myself using hot water, a few drops of eucalyptus oil and a towel to drape over my head. Be sure that the water isn’t so hot that the steam will burn your face or you’re unable to complete an inhalation, but hot enough to help loosen what’s lurking in your sinuses. Have a box of tissues nearby and stay under as long as you can. The steam will also open the pores in your face, so take advantage and follow it up with a facial mask! Note that different types of eucalyptus will affect different parts of the lungs, and choose your remedy accordingly.
- Beware artificially scented products such as candles or air fresheners. There’s little chance they’re using anything more than lab created smells designed to appeal to you and not to benefit you in any real way. Artificial fragrances can be a real problem for a lot of people without even realizing it.
- Check out a few more favorite oils!