Aromatherapy, the use of scents from the essential oils of plants to alter mood and promote healing, is an ancient art currently enjoying a resounding revival. While many common garden plants are used in essential oils—peppermint, basil, and lavender, to name just a few—the quantities of flowers or leaves needed to produce the oil (1,000 pounds of jasmine flowers for one pound of oil, for example) means that even the most prolific gardeners would be better off buying their essential oils from catalogs or stores.
Most commonly the oils are used in the bath (put in at the very end; the water should be no more than l00°F) or in a diffuser or placed on a handkerchief and inhaled when you need a lift. Since essential oils are very potent, they should always be diluted with a base oil such as sweet almond or grapeseed before being put on your skin. And don’t ingest or get it in your eyes.
If you are pregnant or have a chronic illness of any kind, consult your physician before using any.
Here are some of the most common oils and their qualities:
Basil: Uplifting, clarifies thought processes.
Bergamot: Uplifting, yet calming.
Cedarwood: Relaxing; stress reducing.
Chamomile: Soothing and calming, excellent to use after an argument.
Fennel: Relaxing, warming, calming.
Fir needle: Refreshing, cleansing.
Frankincense: Calming, helps release fear.
Geranium: Balancing mood swings, harmonizing.
Juniper: Purifying, stimulating.
Lavender: Calming, soothing, relaxing
Lemon: Uplifting, refreshing, mental alertness.
Lemongrass: Stimulating, cleansing, tonifying.
Lime: Invigorating, refreshing.
Mandarin orange: Uplifting, refreshing.
Marjoram: Very relaxing, anxiety reducing.
Myrrh: Strengthening, inspiring.
Orange: Uplifting, refreshing.
Patchouli: Inspiring, sensuous.
Peppermint: Stimulating, cleansing, refreshing, invigorating.
Pine: Refreshing, cleansing, stimulating.
Rose: Emotionally soothing.
Rosemary: Stimulating, cleansing, good for studying, invigorating.
Sage: Cleansing, purifying.
Sandalwood: Stress reducing, sensuous, soothing, helps release fear.
Spearmint: Refreshing, stimulating.
Ylang-ylang: Uplifting, sensuous.
Adapted from Every Garden Is a Story: Stories, Crafts and Comforts by Susannah Seton (Conari Press, 2007).