How to Use Aromatherapy to Boost Your Health

© Katherine Hanlon/Unsplash
© Katherine Hanlon/Unsplash
Photo of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor2 August 2017

If you’re experimenting with natural health treatments, essential oils—the concentrated fragrance and aroma compounds of plants—make a great addition to the medicine cabinet. Studies confirm they’re effective at treating all sorts of aliments, from insomnia and acne to headaches, without the need for conventional drugs.

“Essential oils are a wonderful alternative, to bring balance to the mind, body, and spirit in a noninvasive way,” explains Naomi Edwards, aromatherapist and co-founder of Ayurvedic skincare line Aroma Veda. “Our bodies immediately recognize the plant’s life force on a cellular level, and the aromatic experience can align our mental health as well as physical.”

Edwards—who smells permanently like a bouquet of wildflowers—recommends investing in lavender, peppermint, clary sage, chamomile, vetiver, rose geranium, bergamot and ylang ylang for a well-rounded aromatherapeutic pharmacy, plus a big bottle of “carrier oil” like almond, coconut or olive for dilution (the essential oils can be too intense on their own).

While they definitely smell good enough to eat, ingesting the oils is not recommended without the guidance of a trained aromatherapist. Instead, try splashing a couple of drops into your palms and inhaling deeply, mixing with a carrier oil and slathering onto specific areas of the body, or adding to a diffuser to thoroughly scent your space.

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Stress and anxiety

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
One of the most common essential oils, lavender is a natural sedative that helps with sleep, restlessness, irritability, nervous tension and panic attacks.

Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile)
Also a natural sedative that’s great for calming the nervous system.

Vetiver (Vetiveria Zizanoides)
One of the strongest oils for grounding and centering. Reduces anxiety, slows down the heart rate and evens the breath.

How to apply: Diffuser, palm inhalation, or mix with a carrier oil and rub across your chest and feet.


Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
Bergamot is very stimulating and by its ability to improve circulation, it produces feelings of joy and energy.

Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
Inhaling ylang ylang can immediately lift your mood and reduce negative emotions.

How to apply: Diffuse this oil in your space or use simple palm inhalation.

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Menstrual Pain

Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
Both of these oils naturally balance hormones, which can help reduce symptoms.

How to apply: Place 2–3 drops in your palm, with carrier oil, then rub on abdomen or bottom of the feet.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Reduces pain and discomfort from cramping, headaches and nausea.

How to apply: Place a drop in your palm, with carrier oil and apply to the back of neck and lower abdomen.

Wounds and Bruises

Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum)
Fights bacteria and fungus that can cause various skin irritations, including infections, rashes, and delayed wound healing.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Helps heal burns, wounds, and bruises; improves eczema and psoriasis; and alleviates headaches.

How to apply: Place around perimeter of the wound with a carrier oil.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Relieves headaches, nausea and motion sickness.

How to apply: Palm inhalation, or place a drop with carrier oil on the back of your neck or lower abdomen.

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