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March 18, 2022
By: Rose Davis & Vivian Nuñez

Have you ever noticed how a certain smell brings back a memory from the past, a perfume or cologne can change your mood, or how the scent of food can boost your appetite? Unlike any of our other senses, our sense of smell is connected directly to the part of the brain linked to emotion and memory. As a result, aroma can spark thoughts, moods, and desires. 

What Is Aromatherapy?

“[Aromatherapy is] a complementary and alternative care modality that’s centered on the holistic, olfactory, and therapeutic application of essential oils to support and balance the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of the individual,” explains Amy Galper, Certified Aromatherapist, and founder of NYC’s first aromatherapy school. 

It’s a practice that originated thousands of years ago in the ancient Chinese, Indian and Egyptian cultures, where they used aromatic plants for treatment of illness and disease. 

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Galper explains that, “when essential oils travel into the body through our skin in a blended lotion, cream, gel, oil or cleanser,  a small percentage of its molecules get absorbed, connect to our bloodstream and can have a therapeutic physiological benefit.” 

Same goes with any essential oils that we process through our olfactory nerve cells, or nose. 

“When we smell the aroma of essential oils, our noses trigger signals that get sent instantly to the part of our brain that controls our emotions, memory, and all of our unconscious actions,” she explains. “That’s why a smell can make us feel a certain way, like calmer, more relaxed, happier or refreshed, or even remind us of a particular memory. And what is really amazing, is that the emotional response we have to the aroma has been shown to have a profound impact on the chemicals our brain produces and releases in order to maintain our body’s balance.” 

Aromatherapy is thought to have benefits ranging from easing anxiety, boosting relaxation, improving sleep, promoting calmness, improving focus, boosting immunity, soothing sore joints, and easing pain, nausea, or low appetite.

Application Is Important

While you can choose to either apply essential oils to the skin or diffuse it into the air, Galper warns that the manner in which you do so is important. 

Being cognizant of diffusing scents can include checking in on others who will inadvertently also be able to smell it or using a personal roll on bottle to do so. If you choose to apply essential oils to the skin, it’s important to use a carrier oil.

“Applications [can be] gels, salves, balms, creams, lotions, cleansers, scrubs, and toners,” shares Galper. “Direct application should be avoided, and make sure to always blend them into a carrier oil, or an unscented cream or lotion before applying them to the skin.”

Galper adds: “Once on the skin, essential oils may support cellular rejuvenation, relieve itchiness, reduce inflammation and irritation from an insect bite, and much more.” 

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The Type of Essential Oil Matters

Lavender

For stimulating rest and relaxation and also alleviating anxiety, PMS, and insomnia. Lavender’s soothing properties can also help with headaches and migraines.

“Lavender essential oil is anti-inflammatory, sedative to the central nervous system, soothes anxiety, and quiets overactive and distracting thoughts,” explains Galper. “Also a powerful anti-inflammatory and skin soother.” 

Grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi)

“Cold expressed from the peel of the grapefruit, this essential oil exhibits antibacterial, antiseptic, mood lifting, and energizing properties,” shares Galper. “It’s cleansing, disperses stagnancy, and supports ‘flow.’” 

Adding a grapefruit essential oil to your routine is also great for digestion and cleansing your skin, according to Galper. 

Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris)

Scots pine essential oil is, you guessed it, derived from an evergreen tree. 

“This essential oil…demonstrates a powerful affinity to our respiratory system, offering the experience of clear breathing and thinking,” explains Galper. “It’s refreshing, uplifting, mood lifting, and helps us concentrate.” 

Peppermint (Mentha Piperita)

Peppermint essential oil can be your go-to for stimulation and enhancing memory. 

Galper adds: “It’s aroma awakens and refreshes, and demonstrates cleansing, clearing and uplifting properties. [Great for] cooling, pain relieving, and anti-inflammatory.” 

Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) 

“Steam distilled from the leaves of the herb plant that we also use for cooking, this essential oil has some compelling research that shows its powerful effect on our mind,” explains Galper. “[It supports] our memory and improves focus and concentration.” 

Certain fragrances may work better for some than others. However, universally, it is important to use the highest quality and purest essential oils. When you find the right scents for you, you may find that just a quick whiff can help you find your grounding, focus, and overall balance.