Springtime brings many things; from gentle April showers to fields of wildflowers, this season is full of scents and sounds. However, rain stops, and flowers fade, leaving behind faint memories in their wake. Baking cookies evoke different memories in different people, from warm memories to off-putting ones. Different smells have long been known to evoke strong feelings in people, driving an entire field of study devoted to scents and how they affect us. Aromatherapy uses various fragrances to help balance and support a person’s mental health and well-being and we, your friends from Crucial Vacuum would like to help you improve that.
Aromatherapy as a term was first coined by a French chemist in 1937. Rene-Maurice Gattefosse wrote a book titled Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales, where he listed many therapeutic properties of essential oils. Even though this is the first time the word was used, the theories and techniques behind aromatherapy can be found in many ancient civilizations, including China, Egypt, India, and Greece. The oldest written history of plant oils being used in healing was in the first century CE, when a Greek botanist wrote a 5-volume series detailing herbal remedies and medicines.
If you’re looking into starting aromatherapy, there’s not much you need: essential oils and a diffuser. Essential oils are extracted from plants naturally, using water distillation or expression (cold pressing). Chemical extractions interfere with the delicate structure of the volatile oils which are essential to aromatherapy.
One of the more popular essential oils used in aromatherapy is lemongrass. Lemongrass grows in warm tropical climates and the plant is still used as a medicinal herb and digestive aid. Lemongrass oil is noted for its calming effects and relaxing properties. Because it is so soothing, people use lemongrass as a treatment for insomnia. A few drops in your diffuser and it’s easier to get a full night’s sleep. Lemongrass is not recommended as massage oil because of the high concentration of citral. Citral in concentrated doses will irritate the skin. If you want the scent of lemongrass to stay with you, add only a few drops to your bathwater. The dilution will eliminate the irritation, but the calming smell will remain with you all day.
Another essential oil many people love is lavender; it’s so popular that many people regularly choose it as their favorite scent. Lavender oil is what started the modern aromatherapy boom, as its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties on a burn prompted Gattefosse’s initial studies into the medicinal properties of plants. Lavender is a flower which blooms all over Europe, Africa, and southwest Asia. Depending on the region where the lavender is grown in, the oil will take on different notes as well. Dutch lavender is much sharper, where English, or common lavender is very sweet. Lavender oil is smooth and subtle, but has a distinct fragrance. It is used as massage oil, a bath tincture, and in diffusers. Users find it to be soothing with a great calming effect. This is a great oil for someone just starting aromatherapy.
If you’re looking for something uplifting and energizing, you should try peppermint oil. This oil is very strong and loaded with menthols. If used as massage oil, a little goes a long way. There is a large amount of menthol in peppermint oil, which contributes to its energizing effects. This thin oil can be used in a diffuser, as massage oil, or as part of a morning bath routine. It’s definitely not something you want to use before bedtime as one of its chief properties is to wake you up. Mints have long been used as anti-nausea remedies, so if you find yourself queasy, a few drops of mint nearby can help soothe your stomach. Because of how strong peppermint oil is, it can irritate your sinuses if you breathe it in directly. The safest use is in a high quality diffuser where the oils can be enjoyed naturally.
There is one thing you need to know when you start aromatherapy with a diffuser. Make sure you clean your diffuser every three months. The easiest way to do this is to first unplug the unit. Put about half the recommended fill amount of water in the unit. Add 10 drops of white vinegar. The vinegar will clean oil residue which remains in the diffuser. Run the diffuser for four or five minutes, then drain completely. Spot clean with a cotton swab and vinegar to remove any other residue spots, and then rinse with cool water and empty. Dry your diffuser completely, and it’s good to go again.
Aromatherapy is a great way to naturally relieve stress or to get a little pick-me-up without caffeine. Over 700 essential oils are known and produced, each with its own variation to tickle your olfactory nerves and delight your senses. No matter what your preference, there are always new things to try, from bath bombs to soaps to lotions. Starting aromatherapy is entering into a world filled with the familiar with unfamiliar results.