by Siobhan O’Connor
Ask anyone who’s spent a little time with me and they’ll tell you: I’m obsessed with aromatherapy. I typically have three different in my purse, I spray people with diluted versions of them at parties, I share them with my sometimes-stressed colleagues and friends. This has been the case for a long time, but once I learned more about its powers to heal me and transform my mood, my interest really took off. Smell, we all know, is powerfully connected to memory—that’s why that stranger on the train who’s wearing your first boyfriend’s cologne (Lord help him!) can stop you dead in your tracks. Smell can also shape your mood in ways that are quite remarkable.
Here, the three things every amateur aromatherapy lover must know before they get started:
1. Not all oils are created equal. The tidy rows of bottles you see lining the counter at health food stores? Not what you’re looking for. To work, essential oils need to be super-concentrated and carefully crafted, and they are incredibly powerful for your mind, body and your spirit when they are. Many of these plants and flowers have incontrovertible evidence supporting their use to heal us! But you’re not going to get these benefits unless you’re working with high-quality oils. That means organic, wild crafted and, ideally, made in small batches.
2. You can use them anywhere, anytime. I like Hope Gillerman’s muscle remedy, which I apply directly to sore areas, and since it comes with a great rollerball, I can do this at work, at my yoga school, or on my way out for the night if I’m feeling achy. It’s especially great after a hard yoga class or boot camp—I use it before the pain hits. I also love them for sleeping—especially if I’m not sleeping at home. I keep Gillerman’s sleep remedy in my handbag: I inhale 2-3 drops on a tissue when I need to hit the hay; I also love pure lavender for the same reason. Finally, I spritz myself (and my coworkers, friends and boyfriend) all day long with room mists by Lotus Wei.
3. Understand that they can seriously affect your mood. This is important! Essential oils should not be used willy-nilly because this isn’t perfume we’re talking about. But investing in high-quality oils can be an amazingly effective (and completely drug-free) way to reduce stress, sleep better, and even look better. Recent research has shown lavender can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body, and another study showed that jasmine may be as effective as Valium for anxiety! I love Tata Harper‘s anti-irritability treatment. Inhaling it has stopped silly spats in their tracks, helped my coworkers chill out and smells so good that it’s often mistaken for perfume—which I like to use it as! Because honestly, is there anything better than being told “You smell amazing”?
Tips on how to use them:
Remember that oils are super-concentrated, and can irritate or even burn the skin if you use too much.
—Drip a few drops on a tissue and hold it to your nose taking 10 deep, meditative breaths.
—Put a few drops on your hand and rub them together, warming the oil and releasing the fragrance. Cup your hands over your nose and inhale as above.
—Put them on your skin! Be very conservative in the amount you apply directly, obviously.
—Put four or five drops in the bath for a sinus—and stress—clearing bath.
—Bring it with you in the shower and apply a few drops to your hands, rub them together and pretend you’re at a spa.
—Dab a few drops on the corner of your pillowcase at bedtime.
For more on how to blend your own, I love these decks by Hope Gillerman.
Siobhan O’Connor is a member of our Wellness Week expert panel. Wellness Week, March 19-25, is your chance to look and feel your best with exclusive spa treatments, private training and more, all at $50 prices or 50% discounts. Learn more at wellnessweek2012.com