Aromatherapy is the use of specific fragrant substances in lotions and inhalants to affect mood and promote health.
Unless unable to detect scents, we all use aromatherapy every day: smelling an armload of freshly-washed towels which has dried in the sun, your boyfriend’s aftershave, newly-cut grass or fresh coffee: in all instances, aromatherapy is immediate pleasure derived from inhaling scent.
Aromatherapy is an age-old practice. In 3500 BC, Egyptians used incense made from herbs, aromatic woods and spices in religious tributes. They believed as the smoke rose, so did their prayers and praises, wishes and wants.
Egyptian women often wore waxy herbal cones on their heads, which, when melted, released fragrance.
Aromatherapy has also been used medicinally for centuries. In European monasteries during The Plague, monks worked overtime growing angelica, as it was believed the herb could ward off the sickness that was running rampant. During World War II, essential oils such as chamomile, clove, lemon and thyme were used to treat gangrene.
While certain essential oils are chosen for specific ailments, some are “adaptogenic” which means they will be of beneficial use to whatever the body needs at the time. Such oils are lemon and lavender.
The process of extracting oils from plants and herbs is very painstaking, and it is important to choose the best oils possible. Some manufacturers “standardize” their oils to comply with a specific profile , and oftentimes additives are used or product is diluted with vegetable oil.
However, it’s very easy to make your own aromatherapy oils. The healing benefits are many, including stimulating cell renewal and fighting bacteria, fungus and infections.
You will need a good amount of fresh plant material, as you will be adding new flowers/herbs to the mixture every day for four days. You will need a “base oil”, which can be olive, grape seed or sweet almond oil.
You’ll need glass jars with corks for storage, which will allow the oils to breathe (no plastic). Also have some ziplock bags handy.
Into a ziplock bag, place 2 cups of flower/herb petals. Seal and bruise petals slightly with mallet to release oils. Place petals in 1 cup of oil. Cover.
Next day, drain the oil, squeeze out/discard petals. Add 2 cups fresh plant material. Repeat this process for two more days.
If you would rather purchase ready-made oils, make sure you look for clinical, or therapeutic, oils produced by organic growers.
Then, simply combine essential oils with easy-to-find ingredients to produce your own massage oils, body sprays and gel fresheners. Some favorites:
Peppermint: makes you feel alert
Lavender: promotes sleep, relaxation
Clove/tarragon: soothes anxiety
Eucalyptus: relieves stuffy noses
Clove/orange: great in the kitchen
Jasmine with patchouli: lovely in a bedroom
Balsam fir: nice in closets
To make your own massage oil: Combine 2/3 c. organic olive oil with 1/3 c. sweet almond oil. Add a few drops essential oil. Cover, shake and store in a cool, dry place.
To make body spray: place 8 oz. distilled water in a mister. Add 1 tblsp. Witch hazel and 10 drops essential oil. Shake well.
To make gel air freshener: dissolve 2 envelopes (2 tblsp.) unflavored gelatin in ½ c. boiling water. Add ½ c. cold water, 10-15 drops essential oil, 3-5 drops food coloring (optional). Stir in 1 tblsp. salt OR 10-15 drops natural grain alcohol (prevents mold). Pour into 2 oz. containers (baby food jars work well). Cover and let cool overnight.
Aromatherapy is a healthy hobby that has withstood the test of time. Make a tarragon gel freshener and be blissfully reminded of that special spring day…every day!