What if we told you that if you learnt how to use aromatherapy oils, your life could be a little less stressful? Think about it: How many times this week have you wished that your workload was a little less stressful? Or felt tired after yet another night of bad sleep? Or prayed for a confidence boost before a big meeting? These are emotions that pretty much all of us experience every single day, but so few of us do anything to aid ourselves through the tricky times, even if it takes a matter of seconds.
Now, aromatherapy may trigger more than a few sceptical eyebrow raises, but there is something in stealthily sniffing an essential oil through the day’s more trying moments. And whether or not you believe the practice can remedy unsettled moods, you can at least agree with this: Aromatherapy oils smell beautiful. For those who are ready to open their minds to mood-boosting fragrances, we’ve spoken to Neal’s Yard Remedies aromatherapist Fran Johnson about the most essential of essential oils.
>Keep scrolling to discover the scents that aim to promote relaxation, confidence, and brain function.
This one’s not surprising. It’s for good reason that most pillow mists contain a dose of lavender. Little rivals this essential oil when it comes to promoting good sleep, and it’s even been proven by scientists. “It contains sedative or hypnotic properties to help with a restful night,” says Johnson. And while we don’t recommend burning an oil that will help you nod off, we do suggest doubling its soothing effects by adding it to a bath.
Johnson concurs: “There’s nothing quite like a lovely, hot bath to soothe and nurture. Adding essential oils to the bath can benefit you in many different ways.” To bathe with lavender, fill the tub first and turn the taps off. Then, blend up to five drops of lavender oil in two teaspoons of base bath oil or full-fat milk and add it to the water. The effect is dreamy. (Excuse the pun.)
“Grapefruit is the perfect oil to start your day with,” says Johnson. “It has an energising and stimulating effect on the mind and body.” You won’t have time to burn it in the morning, so use it as part of a confidence-bolstering shower, adding three to five drops of the oil to a washcloth and placing it on your chest. The hot water will release the vapours of the grapefruit scent, so take a few deep breaths. Then, massage the cloth all over your body once you’ve turned the shower off.
It’s not just aromatherapy that says frankincense is a great stress reliever. One of its active compounds is incensole acetate, a neuroactive chemical believed to communicate with the limbic system to influence the nervous system. In animal studies, this process has been shown to alleviate feelings of anxiety, so it’s hardly a wonder that frankincense is the go-to essential oil for meditation. Johnson recommends sniffing frankincense to slow the breath and calm the mind. Keep a bottle in your desk drawer or handbag, and add a few drops to a tissue for on-the-go soothing.
“Citrus oils are incredibly energising,” says Johnson. “They give you that zesty spring in your step, which is perfect for the morning, and encourage positivity. When you’re feeling sluggish, you might turn to caffeine to survive the day, but essential oils can be a great way to get a natural energy boost.”
Orange, lemon and bergamot oils also create a fresh fragrance blend for summer, but they should never be applied directly to skin, as they’re much too concentrated. Instead, blend them with a carrier oil like coconut oil and tap onto pulse points, or opt for a scented rollerball like this one from Tisserand.
Sometimes the old remedies are the best remedies. In folk medicine, rosemary was considered effective at improving brain function and long-term memory. There’s definitely something in it, too; in a study conducted by psychologists at Northumbria University, it was noted that sniffing the oil enabled people to better “remember events that will occur in the future” by 60% to 75%.
Johnson says this is partly down to the fact that rosemary is stimulating, helping to enhance how alert you feel and your propensity to remember things. “Peppermint is also popular to help support memory focus,” she adds, “as well as your concentration and mental performance.”
Next: Who knew? Read how drinking water can make you feel bloated.