Aromatherapy is the byword these days. With the demands of the stressful world, it is hard for one to be relaxed or to allow one to sleep calmly. People have been popping sleep medications, but this will have greater side effects to the body. Aromatherapy is one of the natural ways to stimulate relaxation and sleep, minus the side effects. There are various scents that promote relaxation and sleep, but the following described below are the most popular.
History shows that lavender was used by ancient Egyptians when they mummify bodies. Lavender earned its name because it is used in baths to purify the body and spirit. This native plant, Lavandula angustifolia, from the mountains of the Mediterranean is considered the safest plants among those applied for aromatherapy that is why it is widely used in soaps, shampoos, lotions, potpourris, tinctures and teas.
In the past, lavender is being utilized as an antiseptic as well as for mental health purposes. These days, lavender is being used to relieve anxiety, to solve problems of insomnia and to ease depression. People who are restless find calming effect with the oil extracted from the small blue-violet flowers of lavender. According to a study, lavender used for aromatherapy slows down the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, the body system that responds to stress, which allows improved quality of sleep and relaxation. Massage using lavender oil also produces better sleep quality, mood stability and a more focused concentration.
To use lavender for inhalation, add 2-4 drops of its essential oil to 2-3 cups of boiling water and inhale the vapors for relaxation, headache and insomnia.
Chamomile belongs to the genus Matricaria, which is from a Latin word meaning “womb”. In the past, chamomile is used to treat any forms of gynecological complaints. Studies have shown that chamomile has antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effect. It also has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties as shown in various test tube studies. The tiny, daisy-like flowers of chamomile, when dried, can be used for tea. Chamomile tea has a calming effect for children who are irritable or for adults who have difficulty sleeping. Additionally, the flower heads, when crushed and steamed, will produce blue oil that when combined with water and allowed to steam, can calm those who are suffering from cough.
Matricaria recutita or chamomilla recutita has been known by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to produce hundreds of medicinal benefits. Although it produces allergic reactions to some people, chamomile is effective as a calming agent if used for inhalation or as tea. To make a tea, pour a cup of boiling water over 2-3 tablespoons of dried chamomile; soak for 10 minutes and drink 3 to 4 times a day. As inhalation to calm a cough, add a few drops to hot water and inhale the steam.
Bergamot, or citrus bergamia, is a native of Italy. The size of the fruit is similar to orange but its color is similar to lemon. Although popularly known to flavor Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas and to give a flavor to snus tobacco, bergamot is used in perfumeries, as introduced by Italian perfumers in Germany during the 17th century. The original Eau de Cologne has bergamot as its main ingredient.
The peel of the bergamot fruit, or sometimes known as bitter orange, is cold pressed and the oil is extracted. Sometimes, extraction of oil is also done by steam distilled. The fresh lemon, citrus or orange scent of the extracted oil, when blended with other scents, will not just aid in digestion or inflammation, but it has also shown to be useful in treating depression, as well as uplift and refresh the person during anxiety states.
Greeks have been calling it “food for the gods”. In China, temple gates and religious statues, such as the Buddha, are made from it. The tree of the genus Santalum, or Sandalwood, is one of the most distinctive fragrances that promote relaxation, induce calm and meditative states. The part of the tree which is used for making the scent takes 50 to 80 years to fully mature. To make the essential oil, the roots and heartwood are distilled through boiling, steaming, condensation and separation. According to research, sandalwood’s fragrance is closest to human pheromone, so it is traditionally considered as an aphrodisiac.
From the ancient time up to today, the most important use of sandalwood is its sedative effect on the nervous system. Researchers discovered that when a person is allowed to smell the scent, the brain waves relaxes. Although only a little bit distinct from the smell of other woods, sandalwood pacifies anxiety, anger and rage, and it induces sleep, which is good for those with insomnia. As sandalwood oil ages, it has a more lasting effect.
This is commonly known as Mandarin in Europe, and tangerine in America. This fragrance is extracted from the outer peel of the small orange-like fruits of the evergreen tree of the Rutaceae plant family. Through extraction by cold expression, the smell gives off a balancing, uplifting and calming effect. It is considered a favorite oil of children for it calms excitations. For adults, it rediscovers their inner child through its soft, delicate quality.
Psychological studies have shown that mandarin creates hypnotic effect that turns off the minds of those who are anxious and nervous. Moreover, it has a strengthening effect for those who are depressed and grieving. Just remember that in using mandarin oils, especially for children and the elderly, always remember that it is photosensitive, therefore, care should be observed when used under direct sunlight for lasting effect.
“King of the Garden”, “Mistress of the Night”, “Moonlight of the Grove”, these are some of the titles used to describe jasmine. The small white flowers of this shrub are the ones that produce the fragrance that has captured poets’ imagination and perfumers’ fancy since ancient times. Producing the essential oil of Jasminum grandiflorum takes an exotic process. Since its seductive scent, as it produces most oil, is most distinguished at night, the flowers are gathered at this time. The flowers are then placed in a layer of fat for extraction.
In spite of the many attempts to imitate the smell through synthetic production, chemists still have not produced one which does not make use of the real essential oil. Studies made in Tokyo have revealed that the scent of jasmine enhances mental alertness as well as stimulates the brain waves. Its rich floral fragrance with an undertone of fruity smell is used as an antidepressant, allowing those who are sad to be uplifted as it induces warm calming emotions. Jasmine also provokes sensuous qualities in people and is oftentimes used to bring out one’s charismatic personality.
Vanilla planifolia is often associated with food, ice creams, cakes, pastries, chocolates. This plant which according to mythology is the blood of Princess Xanat and her lover who were beheaded when they were captured as they tried to escape her father’s wrath, gives off a sweet enticing aroma that makes one reminisce happy memories of home and childhood. It has a calming, relaxing and comforting effect, especially when it is not paired with scents that stimulate the nervous system.
The essential oil of vanilla is processed through distillation of the vanilla seed pods. In some studies, vanilla when ingested increases the levels of adrenaline, thereby stimulating and invigorating the person. The Book of Spices described vanilla as having an aroma of peculiar bouquet, that is why, it is the most loved and most popular among essential oils.
The rose flower and petal by itself earned it the title “Queen of the Garden”. For poets and lovers, rose symbolize love and perfection. Bulgaria is one of the major producers of rose essential oil. The complication of production yields two products: the attar of roses and the rose water, as a by-product. The pure oil works like magic because it is only liquefied when warmed by the hand.
The wonderfully intense, sweet and floral scent of the rose is useful in calming nervous tensions. It is considered as a cell rejuvenator as it rebalances the psychic especially when a woman had a miscarriage or has been rejected by a lover. It gives one a positive feeling about oneself, the reason why this blood of Aphrodite, as legend says, is one of the most valued scent ever produced.
Lilac, or syringa, is a genus of a flowering woody plant in the olive family. Despite its popularity as one of the plants that produces scents for relaxations, lilac is hard to ensnare in the bottle. There have been several ways to extract the scent of lilac, but patience is one of the ingredients in order to capture its pure scent. In a small bottle full of morning-picked lilac flowers, add pure 95% alcohol. Cover it and season at cool temperature. If the flower’s color is lost, remove the flower and add more fresh flowers. Do it over and over until the color of the alcohol becomes deep violet and the scent is similar to the flowers. Use it in perfumes and warm water as a tonic and healing spritz.
In spite of its color symbolizing sadness and mourning, lilac is a flower of love. The scent produced brings serenity, pleasurable memories and peaceful slumber. Lilac induces calming effect for those who are insomniacs.
“Flower of flowers”, or “fragrances of all fragrances”, that is the Philippine meaning of the word ylang-ylang. In Indonesia, marriage beds are spread with these flowers to sharpen the senses and alleviate fear, anger and jealousy. The intensely sweet, heady, floral and spicy scent of ylang-ylang has both stimulating and calming effect. For some, ylang-ylang induces sleep. However, according to research, it stimulates mental alertness, which is widely in contrast with the psychological effect.
For many, sniffing the extract of this flower lowers the blood pressure and relieves palpitations. For those who are anxious and in rage, ylang-ylang is known for its ability to slow down the sympathetic nervous system. Cananga odorata, when used with a diffuser, can blow a pleasant aroma that puts one to peaceful slumber.
Credits go to Frank Mangano. Source: Natural Health