Aromatherapy: An Essential Oils Cheat Sheet for Rest and Relaxation

by Lorelei Orfeo, Birchbox

Can't sleep or focus? Try aromatherapy to soothe away the stressCan't sleep or focus? Try aromatherapy to soothe away the stress

For most of us, our only encounters with aromatherapy are during infrequent spa trips or semi-confused explorations of the natural scents aisle. But the practice of using natural oils to address concerns like stress and insomnia is on the upswing, especially with frenetic city-dwellers looking for ways to zen their lifestyle. (Us included!) We got the low-down on aromatherapy from Trygve Harris, the owner and founder of Enfleurage, an essential oils and aromatherapy shop in Manhattan's West Village.

What Can it Help?
According to Harris, Enfleurage customers are looking for help with daily issues. "The most general desires are wanting to relax, to sleep, to focus, and to stimulate the brain," she says. While aromatherapy shops can create a custom mixes for your personal needs, modern aromatherapy lines like 21 drops offer targeted blends for everything from headaches to moodiness to indigestion.

How It Works
When you inhale deeply through your nose, fragrant oil molecules pass up your nose to the Limbic System. In layman's terms, that's the part of your brain that influences your emotions and moods. Breathing deeply helps activate the effects of aromatherapy.

Related: Fragrance 101: A Cheat Sheet to Perfume, Eau de Toilettes & More

What to Look For
The most common issues are relaxing and getting sleep. For those, Harris says, "the most popular oils would include lavender, jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, sandalwood, and frankincense." If you're looking for memory and mental stimulation, she says, "Try rosemary, peppermint, bergamot, and eucalyptus."

How To Use
There are a few different ways to incorporate aromatherapy into your everyday life. Harris recommends using oil diffusers at home or even while you're working to help you relax or focus. The quickest way to get an aromatherapy fix is to apply essential oils to pulse points like wrists, neck, or behind your neck.

Related: A Wine-Lover's Guide to Fragrance

The Verdict
It's no surprise that we're fans of 21 drops Aromatherapy Blends, which come in cute rollerballs that make it easy to apply throughout the day. Using a fragrant body lotion at the end of the day can also help you unwind. Sabon®'s Body Lotion is infused with aromatherapy oils like lavender, ginger, and vanilla. On days when you have a little extra time, try taking a long bath using aromatic bath salts. No matter what medium you choose, there is only one rule of aromatherapy: breathe deeply.

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