When I was in college I had a daily ritual of dousing myself with so much patchouli oil that one of my psychology professors called out to me, without laying eyes on me, as I strolled by his office.
"How did you know I was out there?" I asked, innocently.
"I could smell you," he confirmed.
While I'm no longer torturing friends and colleagues with my 60s Haight-Ashbury way of presenting myself, or the layered total body vanilla phase that followed - shower gel, lotion, and perfume, I still love using essential oils.
Essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic essences of plants that are created through distillation or expression. According to the Aura Cacia website, "Essential oils contain hundreds of organic constituents, including hormones, vitamins and other natural elements that work on many levels. They are 75 to 100 times more concentrated than the oils in dried herbs."
To get the maximum claimed health or mood benefits you'll want to make sure that you're using pure essential oils rather than synthetic fragrance oils. Doing the research for this article led me to find out that one of my favorite room sprays that I use during meditation is actually made from "fragrance" oil rather than essential oil. Never again
If you're trying to decide what scents to use, take your emotional pulse. What are you struggling with right now? How do you want to feel today? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
To Feel More Calm: Lavender, Lemon, or Jasmine
To Focus: Lemon, Cinnamon, or Peppermint
To Kill That Killer Headache: Lavender or Rosemary
If you'd like to try blending several essential oils and load up your diffuser with your own scent, here's a good starter list of aromatherapy mood blends.
As far as how you can use essential oils in your home, there are plenty of ways. Here are a few of my favorites from some of our local bloggers and shop owners.
DIY Laundry Detergent from Liz Morrow at Delightfully Tacky
Homemade Bubble Bath and DIY Reed Diffusers from Marie LeBaron at Makes and Takes
Spring Cleaning with Essential Oils from Fleur d'Elise
A wealth of ideas and articles for using essential oils from Carol Wiley
Handmade bath and skincare products from Seattle Sundries
One of the best Seattle shops that I've been to that carries high quality essential oils is Tenzing Momo in Pike Place Market. According to the shop, they're the largest herbal apothecary and perfumery on the West Coast. They've been in business for 40 years and carry close to 300 herbs (Western, Chinese & Ayurvedic) and nearly 300 essential oils, compound, perfume and carrier oils. If you have any questions about essential oils or have a specific issue you want to address through aromatherapy, stop by and ask their friendly and knowledgable staff for help. I know I'll be going there for my next meditation room spray.