A beginner’s guide to aromatherapy

Our sense of smell is one of the strongest of the five senses, and it is connected to one of the deepest parts of the brain, in which our basic instincts are governed. When we smell an aroma, it triggers both an emotional and physiological response and is capable of improving our general state of health and well-being.

Our sense of smell is also linked to our memory, which is why specific scents, perhaps ones we recognise from our childhood or another particular moment, will stimulate a wide range of emotions besides just making us feel more relaxed or awake.

How can I benefit from aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is believed to improve quality of life on emotional, physical and spiritual levels. The idea behind it is to find the scents that evoke positive feelings and emotions. 

The results of aromatherapy will differ to each individual. While there is a common belief that certain oils have certain effects, no two people are affected by the same essential oil in the same way. Sometimes the same individual will experience different effects depending on their environment or mood.

How does aromatherapy work?

Aromatherapy is both an art and a science. Aromatherapists can artfully blend and combine essential oils to produce new scents, tailored to the individual and their needs.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to promote relaxation, as well as helping to balance and rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit.

This video explores the basics of aromatherapy and essential oils:

Tips for choosing essential oils

Whether you’re planning on mixing your own oils or purchasing them from the shop, below are some top tips to make sure that you are in the know:

  1. When choosing aromatherapy products, steer clear of those that contain mineral or sulphonated oils as these can inhibit the performance of the essential oils.
  2. When concocting your own essential oils, you will need a carrier or base oil to dilute the essential oils that you plan to use. Undiluted oils are very potent and if used on the skin when too concentrated they could cause irritation. Grapeseed and sweet almond oil are two of the most popular base oils.
  3. If adding essential oils to a bath, no more than five drops will be needed – in shop-bought bath soaks the percentage of oils will only be around 30%.

How do I know which scent to choose?

If you want to incorporate aromatherapy into your daily routine or continue at-home practise in between sessions, it is a good idea to know what you are after and the effect of the oils. Our body requires different things at different times, so whether we are craving sleep or feeling lethargic, the oil you need will be dependent on the requirements of your body at that particular time.

Here are five popular essential oils to get you started:

  • Lavender – a balancing scent. It soothes and clarifies.
  • Eucalyptus – a purifying scent. It can be cooling, balancing and invigorating.
  • Peppermint – known to be refreshing and cooling.
  • Ylang-ylang – a sensual scent. Thought to be euphoric, romantic and exotic.
  • Bergamot – known to be uplifting. This scent can promote confidence.

Having a difficult day? Here are 3 essential oil blends to help you feel better.

Taking the time to experience each essential oil is the best way to learn about their effects and create a personal connection. Try to evaluate each aroma to the following:

As you inhale an essential oil, describe the aroma.

  • Is it subtle or sharp?
  • Is it balanced, light or heavy?
  • It is soothing, warming, cooling?

Next, describe how you feel about the aroma.

  • Do you like it?
  • Does it remind you of a memory or feeling?
  • What emotion does the aroma produce?
  • How has it affected you, is it relaxing or energising?

Certain scents can impact our mood and thus you may feel drawn towards specific smells. But, if you do some investigating and find that after that you are still confused, a great place to start is with pure frankincense oil, which can provide a grounding and supportive effect during stressful times.

An aromatherapist can create a combination of essential oils tailored to you. Together, you can introduce these scents into your daily routine, to enhance your well-being and promote relaxation.

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Written by Emma Hilton
Written by Emma Hilton
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