There’s no question how powerfully smells can affect us. Just think about how the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies makes you think of your mother, or how a whiff of a certain cologne takes you back to a first date from 10 years ago.
Danielle Sade, president of the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists and author of the The Aromatherapy Beauty Guide explains how natural scents, derived from plant sources, can do even more than trigger old memories.
Essential oils, used in aromatherapy (the practice of improving/maintaining health and beauty with essential oils) can help the mind and the body relax together, Sade says. Certain oils, such as orange blossom (also known as neroli), do this by recruiting the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering our “rest and digest” state – as opposed to our sympathetic nervous system, which produces our “fight or flight” state. The “rest and digest” state is the same state you’re in when you’re asleep, when you’ve just woken up, and when you begin to meditate.
It is particularly useful to start your day by triggering this feeling, so you can approach your to-do list with a calm mind, and practise a little self-love in the process.
“It’s the morning that’s the trick,” Sade says.
One way she uses essential oils in her own routine is by adding a couple drops of diluted orange blossom oil to a hot, wet facecloth. You can also add it to the water you wash your face with.
“It’s a beautiful thing to do every morning,” Sade says. “It pampers you.”
Sade uses this time of devoted self-care in the morning almost as a version of meditation. It’s a very simple way to make yourself feel grounded, relaxed, and ready to take on the day.
And if you’re thinking that putting oil on your face is a recipe for breakouts, Sade says not to worry, when diluted properly in a carrier oil, essential oils are actually very good for your skin.
3 Relaxing Oils
- Neroli (orange blossom)
- Rose Otto (rose)
- Geranium (smells like rose, but much more affordable)
- 5 More Ways to Use Essential Oils
Add 1 drop of essential oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil and add your bath water to unwind.
- Mix a couple drops with a fragrance-free natural cream to moisturize.
- Use your favourite oil in a diffuser 10 or 15 minutes before going to sleep.
- Mix with honey or Himalayan salt to make a luxurious shower gel or scrub.
- Book an aromatherapy massage, which combines the powers of touch and scent, for pure relaxation.
- You can easily and affordably create a ritual of self-care with essential oils, Sade explains. “You don’t need to be rich,” she says. And remember, a little goes a long way with essential oils, as they must be diluted in a carrier or base oil for safe use.
Carrier Oils to Dilute Your Essential Oils
- Jojoba – all-purpose for all skin types
- Apricot Kernel – good for all different skin types
- Sweet Almond – good for very dry skin
- Grapeseed – good for oily skin
It’s important to go to reliable sources to purchase your essential oils, Sade says. Health food stores often carry them, and the staff should be knowledgeable about the oils and what they’re good for. There should also be a botanical name on the bottle, as true essential oils are derived from plants. You can contact the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists for more information to get started.