Celebrating the Seasons

The Power of Scents

Isn't it funny how certain scents have the power to take us back to another place or time? The smell of lilacs in bloom always reminds me of my grandmother's garden. The sweet fragrance of ripe peaches takes me back to my mother's kitchen and jam making.

The influence of scents is real and in many cases scents can alter your mood or emotion — it's a science called aromatherapy. Scientists have been able to connect specific scents to particular emotions. Want to fall asleep? Take a whiff of lavender. Need energy? Look for citrus scents. Want to feel amorous? Bring out the roses!

If you don't have the real thing you can still reap the benefits of aromatherapy through essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated oils extracted from plants and flowers. It takes about 250 pounds of rose petals to produce just one ounce of oil. Essential oils can be found at most natural food stores and co-ops, and cost anywhere from $4 to $10 a bottle. The price is high, but the drops are so concentrated you only need a few to get the effect.

To be sure you're getting what you pay for; avoid oils stored in clear glass. Heat and sun exposure can ruin the oils. Also, make sure to read the label. Some aromatherapy oils have been mixed with carrier oils, which reduce the concentration of the essential oil. Look for pure essential oils; that way you control any blending.

Common essential oils

Essential oils should not be used directly on the skin as they are too potent at full strength and tend to evaporate quickly. Essential oils should be mixed with a “carrier oil” such as sweet almond, grape seed, jojoba, olive, or sunflower. All these oils condition the skin and assist in absorption of the essential oil. (If you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, or diabetes check with your doctor before using essential oils.) Typically you should use a ratio of one-drop essential oil to 10 drops carrier oil.

Relaxing: Bergamot, chamomile, citronella, clary sage, eucalyptus, jasmine, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, marjoram, neroli, orange, rose, and tangerine.

When used sparingly frankincense and myrrh (both can irritate when used on the skin or in the bath), and ylang-ylang (over-inhalation may cause headaches) have relaxing properties.

Revitalizing: Cinnamon, geranium, grapefruit, juniper (also has antiseptic properties), rosemary, and vanilla. Lemon essential oil also can revitalize but use sparingly as it may irritate the skin, especially when exposed to the sun.

Stimulating: Cinnamon, clove, oregano, and thyme. Peppermint and eucalyptus, both stimulating essential oils, act as a decongestant when inhaled, but can be irritating when used directly on the skin.

Using essential oils —

— in the bath (add essential oils directly to the bath water in the following combinations)

Stress-Relieving Bath: Combine four drops lavender and three drops clary sage with a teaspoon of milk or cream, and add to bath.

Sleepy Soak: Three drops lavender, two drops citrus, and one to two drops frankincense.

Invigorating Bath: Three drops bergamot oil, three drops petit grain oil, and two drops lemon or other citrus oil.

— around the house

Linen/Home Spray: Mix 2 parts essential oil to 10 parts water. Combine in a spray bottle, and enjoy the scent wherever you choose.

Laundry: Shake 10 drops of a clear essential oil (clear oils will not stain), such as lavender or peppermint, on wet linens or towels. Dry as usual.

— to improve health

Clearing Congestion: Boil a pot of water and remove from the stove. While still steaming, add two drops eucalyptus, two drops lavender, and two drops tea tree oil. Create a steam tent by covering your head with a towel and lean over the pot. Keep your eyes closed and be careful not to get your face too close to the steaming water. Inhale for at least three minutes.

Headaches: Massage two drops of lavender oil into your temples and at the base of your skull.

Combating Colds and Flu: Add two drops lavender and two drops tea tree oil to a steaming bowl of water — let stand so that the steam diffuses into the room.

Making Your Own

Massage Oils

Create a 1-ounce bottle of your own massage oil by mixing ½ teaspoon of an essential oil with five teaspoons of your preferred carrier oil. Use a funnel to fill a small bottle with the carrier oil. Add the essential oil and shake vigorously. Keep adding essential oils until you achieve the desired aroma. Keep the bottle capped when not in use.

Stress-Reducing Mixture: Mix together four tablespoons of a carrier oil such as jojoba, eight drops of lavender, four drops of ylang ylang, and eight drops of petit grain oil. Gently stir or shake together. (Makes approximately 2 ounces.)

Spirit-Boosting Mixture: Add two drops of geranium oil, two drops of rosewood oil, and two drops of bergamot oil to six teaspoons of a carrier oil. Massage into the skin or inhale from a bottle. (Makes approximately 1 ounce.)

Bath Salts

5cups salt (sea, table, Epsom or kosher)
10-20 drops essential oil of choice
Decorative jars or containers, or sealable plastic bags

Place salt in a glass or metal bowl. Shake on about 10 drops of essential oil. Toss. Add additional drops until you achieve the desired aroma. Fill jars or bags with salt.

Add approximately 1 cup of salts to running bath water. Enjoy!

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