Grandma’s cookies. Stale Beer. Dog Poop. Of all our senses, smell seems to trigger the most vivid memories.
But aside from the warm fuzzies and repulsion, how valid are the theories that certain smells, such as those used in aromatherapy, could actually have therapeutic value? We know certain smells make us feel good, but can they make us well?
Aromatherapists believe that inhaling certain essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, releasing chemicals which in turn make you calm, relieve pressure, cure aches and so much more. Since I have no clue what the olfactory system is, I’ll just take their word for it.
But curious as I am, I wanted to put this aromatherapy stuff to the test and spent a week replacing certain habits with essential oils. I kept the rules simple, wanting to reasonably incorporate oils into my daily routine to see if my quality of life improved.
No pain relievers, no energy drinks, just my morning cup of coffee (you’d have to pry that from my cold, dead hands) and if at any point during the day I felt I needed… something, I had an arsenal of essential oils at my disposal.
Can a whiff of peppermint pick me up from the post-lunch slump? Will getting hopped up on lemon oil make me as happy as Pharrell? Can the scent of lavender talk me down from the ledge?
To prepare for the week I ordered the Classic Starter Kit from Mountain Rose Herbs. I didn’t want to break the bank with pricey oils in case it was all baloney and have heard good things about the quality of their oils.
Plus, at $32 for 6 of the most commonly used oils, this was a worthwhile investment in the name of research. At the very least, I’ll smell good.
Monday: Bridezilla Defeated
I woke up Monday morning still pissed at my fiancé for being a total pain in the ass the night before. Wedding planning is the absolute worst and I’m surprised how many couples actually make it down the aisle.
After a heated text exchange during my commute, I arrived at work visibly upset. My usual solution would be to bum a cigarette off a co-worker (yeah, yeah, I know) but instead, I rubbed a lavender oil blend onto my neck, hoping to get my shit together before anyone noticed.
So did it calm my nerves? I did feel an immediate sense of calm and ended up approaching the situation with a clear head -- without lighting up. That being said, I’m not a complete lunatic and certainly could have carried on with my day without it. The lavender just made it more… pleasant.
Lavender for Temper Tantrums: Undecided
Tuesday: Hangry No More
I had been starving all morning and things can get ugly very quickly when I’m hungry -- I really shouldn’t leave home without a Snickers bar in my purse. Just as I was heading out for an early bite, my colleague mentioned she’d be taking the long walk to the Meatball Shop in a couple of hours. MEATBALLS.
During the battle of wills between me and my belly, I remembered that peppermint oil is an appetite suppressor and took a big inhale, much like you would sniff glue. Shockingly, I did not immediately crave mint chocolate chip ice cream. In fact, an hour passed before my stomach grumbled again!
Bonus: I was alert all afternoon and noticed that I didn’t even need an afternoon nap!
Peppermint Oil, the New Diet Secret: A++
Wednesday: Top of the Hump Day To Ya!
Nine in the morning is a bit early to be belting out show tunes, especially on a Wednesday -- just ask my officemates. Yet, here I am with a shit-eating grin on my face, so giddy in fact, my colleagues are wondering if I could be their ticket onto the TV show Intervention.
“So what’s the deal?” they ask in between snickers. Might it be the fresh, clean sent I’d been diffusing at home all week? Haters gonna hate, but I am convinced this magical aroma in the air has been releasing a steady stream of dopamine into my brain. What is this happiness in a bottle? Pause for guessing and anticipation build up. LEMON OIL. Mic drop.
Lemon Oil for Happiness: Glass Half Full
Thursday: Headstand Headache
August will be the month I finally master a headstand. I consider myself a pretty dedicated yogi, but inversions just aren’t my favorite. Aside from the health benefits, it’s the most common move requested by people who don’t practice yoga and I want to impress my friends.
After a few attempts and a close call for the dog, I held the pose for a full second. I sat up, proud as punch and was hit with a raging headache. My first instinct was to reach for the aspirin, but I could not, would not, wuss out now.
So I grabbed the rosemary oil instead, sure that it would be of no relief to such intense pain. I pampered myself with a rosemary temple massage and while the pressure eased, I went to bed early, head still throbbing.
Rosemary for Headaches: Further Investigation Required
Friday: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Stride
Always the procrastinator, I waited until after work Friday to do laundry, stock up on groceries and get everything prepared for the weekend’s "doggie and me" camping trip.
At midnight, I was still buzzing around but with a 5 am wakeup call, I needed to get to bed. I turned to good old reliable lavender, this time applying to a cotton ball which I placed under my pillow. Maybe I had finally just crashed but I choose to believe that lavender did its job because I was snoozing within minutes.
Lavender For La La Land: Two Thumbs Up
Saturday: One Way Ticket to Pukesville
At the crack of dawn, four gals and their dogs piled into a rental car for the four hour drive to upstate New York. Known to barf up my lunch on long car rides, I rarely take a trip without my Dramamine.
This time though, I relied on the essence of ginger, inhaling every 15-30 minutes starting half an hour before we hit the road. About an hour into the drive, I was feeling queasy and when we stopped for a pee break, I puked in the bushes.
Ginger for Motion Sickness: Just Say No
Sunday: Blood Suckers Beware
I had read of an oil blend that was a very effective as mosquito repellent and being the Girl Scout that I am, I prepared a spray bottle of Tea Tree, Rosemary, Witch Hazel and distilled water which I applied periodically (OK, twice) the day before. I fully expected to wake up the next morning covered in bug bites. But over breakfast, I found I didn’t have any more than my pals who used conventional bug spray.
Essential Oil Blend for Mosquitos: Just as good as the drugstore stuff, but all-natural and better smelling.
So overall, what’s the result? Will I continue using essential oils in my daily life? Definitely. Naysayers could have a field day knocking down my "experiments" and sure, much of it could be coincidence, all in my head, mind over matter, you name it. But who cares?
No harm done and the essential oils made me feel luxurious and fancy. Quite simply, the oils made me more present and aware of what I was feeling. As time goes on, I’ll find what works for me and experiment with new oils and blends. Plus, it’s fun to have a purse full of potions.
Aromatherapy for Everyday Ailments: Rockstar Results