Aromatherapy has long been a craze in America. But do you know what products really work and where to find them?
Sharleen Andrews-Miller, a botanical medicine teacher at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, says aromatherapy products can be used to help against everything from stressful days to sleepless nights. But you must find the right product.
Andrews-Miller says the key is to use pure essential oils, Most companies dilute essential oils with carrier oils, such as almond oil, she says. If these carrier oils are of poor quality, they will diminish the shelf life of the essential oil. Andrews-Miller admits that pure essential oils are expensive and hard to find. “But you need a true essential oil if you want to do therapy and not a perfume,” she says.
Odors from essential oils can modify your brain reactions by affecting the release of certain neurotransmitters (a.k.a. “brain chemicals”) or hormones.
Oils that raise endorphin levels — like rosemary, peppermint, and bergamot — can help you get your energy back. “Oils in the citrus family — like orange, lemon, and grapefruit are also good,” Andrews-Miller adds. These oils tend to give people a feeling similar to a runner’s high. But oils affect different people in different ways. “I have a friend who will smell peppermint and fall asleep,” she says .
The oils that can help you rest include lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, ylang ylang, and neroli (orange blossom). These oils raise serotonin levels, which tend to induce sleep, Andrews-Miller says. The same thing happens after drinking milk (This is why mom gave you a cup of warm milk before bed).
If you’re looking for an oil that will help you deal with stress, Andrews-Miler recommends the same relaxing oils — especially lavender. “It’s relaxing but not sedating,” she says. So you can use this oil to de-stress at work without worrying about falling asleep at your desk.
Lavender is Andrews-Miller’s favorite oil. “If I only had one essential oil, that would be the one,” she says. Aside from being able to help with stress and insomnia, lavender is also affordable and easy to ?find, unlike most essential oils. Rose oil, for example, which is also a good stress reliever, can cost up to $1 per drop.
Andrews-Miller says the cost of essential oils varies depending on the quality and the source of the plant material. Most citrus oils are relatively inexpensive. Sweet orange, for example, has a retail price of about $4 per ounce.
Lavender runs about $12 per ounce. Neroli (orange blossom), which is considered one of the “gourmet” essential oils, can cost up to $600 per ounce!
“Organic essential oils will be about three times more expensive but are worth it,” she says. Essential oils can be purchased at cheaper, wholesale prices. Andews-Miller recommends The Essential Oil company
After you purchase essential oils, you should know how to use them properly. Andrews-Miller says never use an essential oil directly on your skin without diluting it first. The safest oils to use on the skin are lavender and tea tree. Some oils, like lemon, cedar, and thyme, can cause a burning sensation when applied.
Here are a few guidelines from Andrews-Miller on how to use essential oils:
* If you want to use the oil topically, add about 15 drops for every ounce of oil, lotion, or salve (or whatever you use to dilute the oil). Add less when using more irritating oils.
* If you want to use the oil in your bath, add about 5-10 drops. Add less when using more irritating oils.
* If using a diffuser, add 4 to 6 drops.
* For inhalation, add 3 to 5 drops to a bowl of hot water.