If the first waft of spring evokes a lost love, or a whiff of a Christmas tree makes you feel like a kid, you know about the link between the sense of smell and the psyche. Aromatherapy–the healing use of fragrant oils from plants, a practice dating back thousands of years–takes this premise further, using specific scents to enhance mood and treat ailments ranging from dry skin to depression.
In present-day aromatherapy, essential oils (such as lavender, sandalwood, or chamomile) are heated in aroma lamps, inhaled by steaming, used in compresses, added to massage oils, or used in diluted form for skin and hair care. Here are some recipes for using essential oils to make aromatic baths, from Erich Keller, aromatherapist and author of The Complete Home Guide to Aromatherapy.
To begin your aromatherapy bath, fill the bathtub with water and get in. Wait a few minutes and then pour the essential oils into the water; by then, your skin is more receptive. To blend the water and the essential oil, move the water gently with your hand. You should never put the oil in an empty tub or under the running water because it will evaporate before you enter the tub.
Recipes for using essential oils to make aromatherapy bath
Stimulating and refreshing morning bath: 4 drops rosemary, 2 petitgrain; or 3 drops rosemary, 3 bergamot.
Cleansing and refreshing bath: 3 drops lemon, 3 geranium, juice of one lemon (optional); or 4 drops juniper, 2 rosemary, 2 fennel; or 3 drops thyme, 2 rosemary, 1 lavender, 1 peppermint.
Relaxing muscles: 4 drops rosemary, 2 marjoram, 3 lavender or Roman chamomile.
Colds, flu, and other infections: 3 drops lavender, 2 rosemary, 2 thyme (stimulating, use in the morning); or 4 drops rosemary, 2 verbena.
Depression, fear: 4 drops clary sage, 2 bergamot; or 6 drops Melissa, 4 basil.
Nervousness, overexcitement: 6 drops geranium, 4 basil; or 4 drops lavender, 4 clary sage; or 5 drops orange, 1 jasmine.
Mental confusion: 6 drops Melissa, 4 bergamot; or 6 drops lemon, 2 lemongrass, 2 lavender; or 4 drops rosewood, 4 patchouli.
Shock: 4 drops clary sage, 2 marjoram, 2 rose, 2 ylang- ylang; or 4 drops cypress, 2 cedarwood, 2 sandalwood.
Relaxation, meditation, inner silence: 6 drops frankincense, 4 patchouli, 2 bergamot, 3 lavender, 3 bergamot (relaxing, use at night).