Aromatherapy is a "feel good" therapy. When you start to work with scents, your first step is to figure out which ones you like
. Be aware that when you sample the smell of essential oils, some can be mighty strong before they're diluted (they'll tone down after you dilute them). Some oils work best by themselves, while others appeal to you more when mixed with one or two other oils. For example, patchouli has a very heavy, earthy scent by itself. But once you blend it with a lighter scent, such as bergamot, or dilute it with a base oil, such as sweet almond oil or apricot kernel oil, patchouli becomes much softer on the nose. back to top
What materials do I need?
Below is a list of must-haves for a basic aromatherapy kit. Depending on how you use the oils, you'll also need the following essentials, which can be found at a health-food store.
- A room diffuser: Made especially to be used with essential oils, diffusers work by heating the oil with a candle or electricity to help release its scent into the air.
- Spray bottles: Spray bottles come in handy when you want to make a fresh room spray with your favorite essential oil. Simply add oil to warm water in the bottle, shake, and spray.
- Base oils: Many essential oils are too strong to be used alone. Base oils, such as jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, or apricot kernel oil, can be used with essential oils in your favorite beauty recipes, including massage oils, facials, and perfumes.
- Small glass bottles and labels: If you plan on playing scientist to make your own aromatherapy recipes, you'll need some small glass bottles and labels for storing your new creations. Try to find dark-colored bottles, which will keep light from getting in and changing the scent of your secret formula. back to top
Bergamot is a small evergreen tree whose pear-shaped fruits look like small oranges. The oil of these fruits is pale green and smells like citrus. Bergamot is an uplifting scent that can be stimulating and refreshing after a stressful day. Many people use bergamot alone, while others mix it with chamomile, lavender, geranium, or sandalwood to enhance the scent.
To liven up your mood, add 7 to 10 drops of bergamot oil to the water in your room vaporizer, use it in a room diffuser, or put a couple of drops on the light bulb in a lamp. You can also add a few drops of bergamot to a couple of teaspoons of apricot kernel oil to make a refreshing foot massage oil.
Bergamot can cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun, so be careful if you mix it up in any kind of lotions, soaps or creams. back to top
The pale yellow oil of this daisy-like flower has a sweet, dry aroma that may remind you of dried apples. It has a long-time reputation for chasing away stress and anxiety. Chamomile
has a strong scent, so you may want to use it in small amounts (no more than 30 drops at a time).
To unwind after a long day, mix a few drops of chamomile with a few drops of lavender and geranium. Then put 10 to 20 drops of the mixture into a hot bath. Many people add 20 to 30 drops of chamomile oil to their shampoo to take advantage of its relaxing effects.
Note that some people have a reaction to chamomile oil in preparations used on the skin. If you use the oil alone or in a mixture, be sure to do a test on a small patch of skin first. back to top
Geranium oil comes from shrubs that bear pink, red, or white flowers—you've probably seen them growing in gardens and window boxes. The oil of geranium comes from the leaves, stalks, and flowers. It is greenish and has a flowery, rosy, and sometimes minty smell. Geranium is an uplifting scent. Professional aromatherapists may use this oil to help ease the symptoms of depression. Geranium can be even more uplifting when blended with bergamot, lavender, or sandalwood. Mild on the skin, geranium is one of the top five essential oils recommended by aromatherapists for skin treatments, such as herbal facials and massage.
Here's an easy way to use geranium oil: In a bottle, mix 7 to 10 drops of this essential oil with 5 teaspoons of jojoba oil, and shake well. You can rub this oil combination on your temples and hairline as a gentle facial massage to relieve stress and lift your spirits. back to top
Lavender is an evergreen shrub with spikes of bluish-purple flowers on long stems. Its oil is colorless or sometimes pale yellow, and it has a calming effect when used in aromatherapy. Lavender is one of the most popular scents used in aromatherapy. Many people use it to calm down and relax. In fact, lavender is even used in many hospitals to help women relax while giving birth.
One easy way to enjoy the benefits of lavender is simply to burn lavender-scented aromatherapy candles. You can find them at specialty candle stores as well as most health-food stores. back to top
A small evergreen tree grown in North American, Europe, and Asia, juniper berry has a rich, floral scent that is slightly musky. It tends to have a relaxing and warming effect when used in aromatherapy. Many practitioners rub a combination juniper berry oil and base oil on people's skin to help ease the body and muscle aches.
Juniper berry can give off a strong odor, so you may want to use it in small amounts. It can also be blended with bergamot and sandalwood to temper the strong odor.
After a stressful day or before a big event, add 8 to 10 drops of juniper berry oil to your bath water. While you gently soak in the tub, the scent of juniper berry will warm your aching muscles and help you relax. back to top
Patchouli is a medium-sized plant with egg-shaped leaves that give off that familiar patchouli scent when rubbed. The oil is dark brown, and its scent is earthy and musky. You may notice that patchouli oil smells strong at first, but then seems to soften. Patchouli tends to have a warming and stimulating effect when used in aromatherapy. Many people use patchouli oil as an everyday scent in place of perfume.
To learn how to use it to create your own signature scent, check out Make Your Own Aromatherapy Perfume
. back to top
Grown in Asia, sandalwood is an evergreen tree that produces a yellowish liquid. Sandalwood has a soft, sweet scent that tends to be calming on the nerves. It is often used professionally to help ease the symptoms of depression.
When you're feeling down, dab sandalwood essential oil along your hairline, behind your ears, and on the back of your neck. Find a relaxing place and rest while your skin absorbs the oil and you inhale its scent. This oil can be used straight or mixed with a base oil. However, before using it directly on the skin, be sure to do a skin test on your wrist. back to top
A small tree native to Australia, the tea tree produces a pale yellow oil that smells like medicine. When used in aromatherapy, tea tree oil
can have a strong cooling and head-clearing effect on your body.
After a sports event or a long, hot day at the beach, rub a tea tree cream (found in many health-food stores) on tired arms and legs for instant soothing and relief. For this purpose, the cream and gel formulas work better than the oil itself.
Many therapists also recommend using diluted tea tree oil for massage. To make a massage oil, mix 5 to 10 drops of tea tree oil with a base oil, such as jojoba oil. When used straight on the skin, some people develop a mild skin rash or a burning sensation.
Before using, be sure to test a few drops of tea tree oil (mixed with one teaspoon sweet almond or apricot kernel oil) on a small area of the skin, such as the inside of your wrist. Don't apply undiluted tea tree oil to your skin. back to top