Midweek Mental Greening

During my sophomore year of college, my roommate’s mother gave her a pretty big gift basket full of assorted lavender-scented items like body wash, lotion and room and pillow sprays. The gift was supposed to help promote sleep (something we both seriously lacked), but it pretty much just sat on a shelf until the night before midterms started.

For whatever reason, my roommate decided that was the night she wanted to try out every single product. And I agreed with her.

Apparently common sense was something we both lacked back then, too.

Have you ever tried to explain to a professor you missed his midterm because your roommate doused herself and your room in lavender? It’s…interesting, to say the least.

Obviously, I didn’t know much about aromatherapy at the time (so, maybe it wasn’t an issue of lacking common sense after all), but that incident taught me that lavender is a scent that works well for me – both for promoting sleep and for stress relief. I’ve also since learned that I like lemon for an energy boost and jasmine, well, just because I like the smell of jasmine.

But aromatherapy isn’t just about pleasant smells that make you feel good or help you sleep. Aromatherapy uses essential oils for an array of physical, mental and emotional health purposes. For example, ylang ylang, chamomile and clary sage might help you beat anxiety and insomnia, while rosemary and geranium might be useful when your mood needs uplifting.

As you can tell, there’s a lot of ground to cover regarding aromatherapy!

Two excellent places to begin learning about aromatherapy are the Web sites for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA). These sites provide information about aromatherapy practices, benefits, and safety issues as well as a list of approved schools and aromatherapists should you ever want to undergo aromatherapy training or meet with a specialist.

If aromatherapy sounds like something you might want to try, keep these points in mind:

  • The oils used in aromatherapy aren’t safe for everyone (or every species, for that matter). Essential oils may be pretty darn natural, but that doesn’t mean they’re always safe. They can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions and phototoxicity. Talk with your doctor and do your research to make sure engaging in aromatherapy isn’t going to have a negative impact on any illness you have or medication you’re currently taking.
  • Do some research before you shop for essential oils. When shopping for essential oils, look for bottles that are blue or brown. Clear bottles let light in, which tampers with the oil’s effectiveness. Too, don’t be duped by all the laundry detergents, fabric softeners and everyday room fresheners that boast aromatherapy benefits. All those perfumes and chemicals aren’t so green for your body or the planet. Your best bet for finding quality essential oils for aromatherapy is to shop at specialty stores.
  • Brush up on all the ways you can use aromatherapy. Inhalation is probably the most well-known method when it comes to using aromatherapy for mental and emotional health, but using essential oils in compresses, baths and massages are popular methods, too (and also used for other physical healing benefits).
  • Aromatherapy might not work for you. Just like traditional treatment options, aromatherapy seems to benefit some people while having no effect for others. Everyone from regular folk to science and medical professionals has met the practice and benefits of aromatherapy with both applause and skepticism, and you might just end up on the skeptical side. You may want to read up on some aromatherapy and essential oils research before you take the plunge.

Have you already tried aromatherapy for mental or emotional health purposes? Were you pleased or disappointed with the outcome? I’ve shared my story – now share yours!