How Aromatherapy Can Boost Psychological and Physical Health

aromatherapyIn holistic psychotherapy, we use anything and everything that can help someone’s mind, body, and spirit. Aromatherapy is an easy, inexpensive, and speedy way to lift your spirits, energize you, or calm your nerves. It can also boost immunity, reduce pain, induce sleep, and even lend spiritual support when used in conjunction with yoga, chanting, or meditation.

Last year, I read an article about researchers in Japan who took office workers out to the woods for a day of walking, poetry, music, picnics, and general replenishment. I think the term was “tree therapy.” When the interviewer asked the main researcher what he did when he could not get to a forest, he said he kept a bottle of fir needle, balsam fir, or essential oil of pine on his desk and would take a whiff whenever he felt stressed.

I took the advice of the Japanese researcher and use essential oils before sleep or during the day to both evoke a sense of being in the forest and for its relaxing properties.

Every real estate agent knows the power of scent and will suggest you bake some chocolate chip cookies before an open house, or simply simmer cloves, cinnamon, and orange peels in a small pot of boiling water to evoke a homey, welcoming smell.

Scents also trigger memories, both welcome and unwelcome. If you remember a scent from your childhood that engendered a feeling of safety or peace, you might want to re-create it with essential oils.

I remember having a root canal years ago. I put some lavender essential oil on a tissue and let that sit on my upper chest as the dentist worked. Not only did it calm me, it lessened the discomfort. Lavender oil can also be used to help alleviate anxiety, headaches, depression, joint pain, migraines, and agitation in cases of dementia.

These days, before I do yoga, I like to take a drop of an essential oil and rub it between my palms. Inhaling a few whiffs helps create a sense of centeredness and grounds me in the moment.

If it’s late afternoon and I need a bit of a boost, I will eat a strong mint, as peppermint wakes me up and sharpens the senses. Oil of lemon mixed with rosemary will also improve concentration. Years ago, there was an industrial psychology study done in a factory where they pumped lemon oil through the air filtration system and noticed how productivity improved.

To ensure a great night’s rest, try putting a few drops of lavender on a tissue or old, rolled-up sock (the easiest and least expensive aromatherapy diffuser I have found).

Have a cold and feel congested? Inhale some eucalyptus, or just put half a dozen drops in the bottom of a steamy shower. It instantly creates your own eucalyptus steam room, opening your sinuses and clearing congestion. (Olbas brand makes an inhaler that works wonderfully when you can’t immediately jump in the shower.)

For a general immune tonic, mix a few drops of Edens Gardens Four Thieves oil with a little carrier oil, like almond, and rub on the bottom of your feet. This is a lovely ritual to soothe children into bedtime while boosting their immunity.

Just as chamomile tea can be soporific and calming, inhaling chamomile is also a quick fix for stress or tension. When the mind relaxes, the muscles also tend to relax. So, if you are experiencing muscle fatigue, stiffness, or tightness, try chamomile, lavender, pine, or anything else that you find emotionally soothing.

Bergamot, a scent from the citrus family, can also be used as a mood booster and antidepressant.

Once you find a scent that works for whatever it is you are trying to improve, stick with it. Over time, you will deeply associate that smell with feeling calmer, more relaxed, and grounded. At some point, even thinking of the scent will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system.

Since there are so many different oils and blends, it’s best to go to a health-food shop and sample the scents of different essential oils to see how you react. Something may be purported to relax you, but if you find the fragrance cloyingly sweet or too sharp, it may actually irritate or annoy you.

While there are many different companies selling essential oils, I am partial to Edens Gardens for a few reasons: they are fairly priced, excellent quality, and include a pamphlet on 101 uses for essential oils as well as a catalog, a beautiful little reference book that succinctly explains the benefits of each oil.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, therapist in Buffalo, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Cynthia

    Cynthia

    November 11th, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    What a charming way to introduce something into your life that you feel could be lacking! We don’t always have the opportunity for tree therapy where I work, but if I need a little breath of fresh air and can’t get out, I am sire that for a little while at least this sort of thing could really lift my spirits.

  • cheri

    cheri

    November 11th, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    I am guessing then that this is one big reason why many massage therapists or some in spa settings will also incorporate aromatherapy into their treatment packages?

  • Rowena

    Rowena

    November 12th, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    I had a friend once who worked in this field and at the time that I knew her I suffered from terrible headaches all of the time. There was no rhyme or reason to them, it was just something that I felt like I had to either live with or feel like I was popping ibuprofen all the time. She gave a me a little tip that in her experience she had found that peppermint oil could really help to reduce the headaches or at least help them go away faster. So I bought some and any time I would feel a headache coming on I would put a little on my fingertips and gently massage my temples with it as well as sniff a little of it. You know what? This has worked miracles for me. I still get headaches but peppermint oil always seems to do the trick for helping to relieve that tension that I am sure causes them and helping them go away.

  • meg

    meg

    November 12th, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Is there a listing anywhere that could tell me which scents I should consider for certain things? I would love to know about relaxation techniques and anything along those lines

  • Ellie

    Ellie

    November 16th, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    I love the idea of incorporating aromatherapy with an exercise regimen such as yoga. I think that when you add something like this it will enhance the experience that you have, adding even more health benefits to something that is already doing something so good for the body. I like the idea of lavender for a calming scent, but now I need to find something that can invigorate me through some of those outdoor, brisk winter runs that can feel so good once you get moving and hit your stride but which can be so difficult to start just because the weather can be so daunting.

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    January 3rd, 2015 at 5:41 AM

    Thank you all for your comments and tips.

    As for where to get more information, I recommend ordering something from Edens Gardens as they will send you their pamphlet and booklet, both of which provide many ways to use essential oils, as well as information on each of the oils they carry and what it does.

    For less than the price of a paperback you will have information and an essential oil.

    You might want to try their blend called Restoration. It’s very centering and soothing, yet uplifting.

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