Smell is one of our most powerful senses. It's strongly connected with memory and has been shown to have a great effect on psychological concerns as well as physical health issues. The practice of aromatherapy can harness these effects by targeting these concerns with specific scents.
How does that work, exactly? There are a few things that happen in your brain as it processes smell. For one, it activates the hypothalamus which relays messages throughout the body, including everything from triggering your immune system to aiding digestion.
Your emotional center of the brain also reacts to the smell, and some believe this affects the actual chemistry of the brain, releasing the hormones that are associated with the positive feelings you can experience with aromatherapy. Different scents are found to cause different changes.
Here are some of the most common scents used in aromatherapy:
Lavender – Lavender is one of the most well-known scents used for calming and relaxation. It helps to soothe nerves, relieve anxiety, and generally lift your spirits.
Jasmine – Similarly, jasmine is used to ease tension, but is seen as more of an antidepressant since it can make you feel more confident, optimistic, and revitalized.
Lemon – For even more of a boost, try a lemon scent. Like a shot of caffeine, it can kick start your energy, help you concentrate, bring clarity, and reduce stress.
Peppermint – Another stimulating scent is peppermint. It helps combat fatigue, keeps you alert, and can get you thinking clearly. For physical effects, it can help with headaches, digestion, or sore muscles.
Eucalyptus – One of the more medicinal scents is eucalyptus, which can improve congestion, relieve headaches, invigorate tired muscles, or clear your skin.
When combined with spa treatments, aromatherapy can be even more powerful. The steam of a sauna can open your body up to be more receptive to the healing properties of the scents and help you ingest them more easily.
Applying the essential oils of the scents directly to the skin during a massage can double the effects as you absorb them both through your sense of smell and through your skin. A spa day is already beneficial for both your physical and mental health, and seeking out services that incorporate aromatherapy can have even greater, longer-lasting effects.