Aromatherapy is a system of caring for body, mind, and spirit with botanical oils such as rose, lemon, lavender and peppermint. Whether they’re added to a bath or massaged into the skin, inhaled directly or diffused to scent an entire room, these natural, aromatic oils have been used for nearly a thousand years to relieve pain, care for the skin, alleviate tension and fatigue and invigorate the entire self.
You can begin to explore the benefits of aromatherapy at home with only a handful of inexpensive oils, says Los Angeles aromatherapist Michael Scholes of Aromatherapy Seminars, an organization that trains professionals and others in the use of essential oils. Here are the six oils that Scholes recommends for their safety, versatility, and value:
Six oils and their uses
Caution: All first-time users of essential oils should perform a skin test to avoid allergic reactions. Place a drop of the oil on a cotton swab and apply it to the inside of the writs or to the inner elbow. Cover with a bandage and don’t wash the area for 24 hours. If no itching or redness, the oil should be safe for external use.
Citrus oils: Great for dispelling a somber mood, citrus oils work well in a diffuser and create a bright, uplifting atmosphere, says Scholes. Lemon, lime, orange, mandarin and grapefruit oils are relatively cheap.
Floral oils: They’re the best for stress relief, according to Scholes. “Aesthetically, most people find florals the most appealing.” He suggests adding florals to unscented lotions and bath oils or mixing them with carrier oils for a soothing massage. While rare, precious floral oils such as rose and jasmine can be pricey – a tiny, 1/3-ounce bottle of rose oil imported from Turkey can cost over $175, for instance – the same quantity of geranium, which smells very much like rose, costs only $10.
Lavender: “If there is one oil no home should be without, it’s lavender,” says Scholes. An excellent first-aid oil, lavender soothes cuts, bruises and insect bites and can also be added to your usual bath oil for a relaxing, stress-relieving soak.
Peppermint: This is a great mental stimulant, says Scholes, who recommends adding a drop to an unscented facial lotion and applying the lotion under the nose or behind the ears. Peppermint can also help your stomach: Add a drop, mixed with a teaspoon of honey, to a cup of herbal tea to ease intestinal discomfort, suggests Scholes. (Honey is added to help quickly disperse the essential oil within the water.)
Rosemary: An invigorating oil for low-energy days, it works well in an aroma lamp or a diffuser, says Scholes. “You can also inhale right from the bottle,” he adds.
Tea tree: A versatile antiseptic and very gentle to the skin; Scholes suggests applying a single drop directly to the skin to speed the healing of cuts and pimples.