A spa gift basket filled with fragrant lotions, soaps and more isn’t just a cute decorative item for your bathroom. It’s also a gift of wellbeing! Research suggests that aromatherapy products boast tons of physical and emotional health benefits. So when you surround yourself with those mesmerizing scents, you’ll feel not only pampered, but healthier too. Here’s everything you should know about aromatherapy, from its history to how different scents affect your mood and health.
What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils—that is, oils extracted from the roots, leaves, seeds or flowers of plants—in a therapeutic way. The healing aroma of these oils can be inhaled directly from the oil, or it can be inhaled indirectly when spa products are applied to the skin. It is said that these fragrances stimulate sensory receptors in the nose, which in turn send pleasing messages through the nervous system and straight to the parts of the brain that control emotions and memory. Because each essential oil has different ingredients from different plants, each has a different affect on the body.
The History of Aromatherapy
The practice of using scented oils to improve quality of life has been around for ages—almost 6,000 years, to be exact. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Chinese used essential oils in everyday items like perfume, medications and cosmetics. But the official science of aromatherapy as we know it today wasn’t founded until 1928, when French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the healing power lavender oil has for treating burns. Health care professionals all over the world became more and more interested in aromatherapy by the 1950s, and the craze finally reached theU.S.in the 1980s.
Because the sense of smell is so closely tied to the center in the brain that’s in charge of memories and emotions, using aromas to relax and unwind can make a positive change in how we feel. When it comes to emotional benefits, aromatherapy:
- Helps you balance your emotions and boost your mood, making you feel more positive and happy
- Increases your confidence
- Calms your nerves and reduces tension
- Triggers positive memories and past emotions
- Improves focus and concentration
- Reduces feelings of anxiety and depression
Physical Benefits of Aromatherapy
The effects that aromatherapy has on our wellbeing aren’t just limited to our emotions. The positive signals sent to the brain through the sense of smell make some positive changes to our body too. Physically, aromatherapy:
- Relaxes muscles and eases pain
- Balances skin moisture levels and helps minimize conditions such as acne
- Stimulates blood circulation, enhancing your immune system, energy levels and more
- Soothes an upset stomach
- Helps fight conditions such as hair loss, constipation, insomnia, psoriasis and more
- Battles bacteria and helps remove toxins from the body
- Promotes rest and encourages deep sleep
Aromatherapy Benefits of Different Scents
Because every scent affects you differently, the soothing spa aroma you choose for your day of relaxation really depends on what problem area you want to target. Here’s a list of a few popular fragrances and how they help you:
Lavender: Treats insomnia and headaches; relieves stress; promotes feelings of positivity and happiness; helps improve cognitive performance
Rosemary: Relieves muscle pain; increases blood circulation, boosts feelings of happiness; reduces stress
Cherry Blossom: Calms and rejuvenates
Spearmint: Aids digestion; eases nausea and vomiting
Citrus: Decreases feelings of depression; reduces stress; enhances mood
Peppermint: Improves memory; increases alertness
Jasmine: Balances hormone levels; nourishes skin; relieves anxiety, depression and muscle tension; brings out feelings of love
Ylang-Ylang: Promotes calmness; reduces stress; enhances memory and information processing; eases upset stomach
Sandalwood: Relieves congestion and nausea; reduces inflammation; alleviates depression; quenches dry skin
Which aromatherapy scent do you and your friends love to unwind with at the end of a stressful day?