My mother didn’t know that certain scents are scientifically proven to improve mood. She just loved them. Growing up, our house was always strewn with fresh-cut flowers and plants, and our garden ripe with heady herbs and spices — until she used them in the kitchen.
Those scents were integral to my fondest childhood experiences. And the powerful connection between scent and memory means smelling those fragrances now takes me back to that time and place.
Since my daughter was born, I’ve started using plants, flowers, and aromatherapy to help create a calm and soothing environment for us. It turns out, beyond simply fostering a general sense of well-being, aromatherapy can be effective in treating maladies from anxiety and depression to PTSD.
Most people don’t know exactly what smells have what effects. We just know we like them. To help you choose the best scents for your space, here’s an aromatherapy primer on four of my favorites (and all the ways you can use them).
Lavender is wonderful for relaxation, and really easy to grow. You can grow it outside a window you open often, so the breeze is gently scented.
How to use it: Place essential oil on your bedside table and smell it when you’re getting ready for bed, or rub it on your temples. You can also sprinkle a few of the flowers on your comforter, or dry them and make sachets. Put these in your drawers to scent your clothes, and (bonus!) repel moths.
Rosemary is a deliciously edible way to introduce a calming scent influence into your evening routine.
How to use it: Roast a chicken with a handful of rosemary sprigs played on top. The smell is mouthwatering, but also known for its tension-taming abilities.
Wild orange is my newest discovery. It helps with digestion and has purifying properties.
How to use it: Use wild orange oil in a diffuser to create a warm, inviting home environment. You can use it as an organic household disinfectant. It’s antioxidant rich, and a drop in a glass of water is a great supplement for overall health.
Citrus oils like grapefruit, lemon, and lime (plus peppermint!) are great for perking up non-morning people like me.
How to use them: These make delicious additions to a household as essential oils, or to the breakfast table. Try eating a freshly cut grapefruit, or adding lemon or lime to a cup of hot water. Peppermint tea is a fantastic alternative to caffeinated beverages.
Whatever our current stressors — work deadlines, school projects, relationship difficulties — creating an in-home oasis makes a huge difference. Combining fresh flowers, plants, and essential oils helps enormously in providing that calm, safe space to escape from it all.
I know that my daughter will remember the wonderful scents from her childhood, and find them even more soothing as an adult because of the peace she associates with them. The tradition of making scent a fundamental part of the home is a beautiful one I highly recommend, and which I hope will live on in my family for generations to come.
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