Aromatherapy for Calm and Focus

Our sense of smell is truly amazing. It is said that the human nose can identify more than 1 trillion scents! And these aromas can have powerful effects on our mood, our thoughts, and even our behavior.

Have you ever smelled a certain food cooking and been transported to a memory in childhood? Or gotten a whiff of someone’s cologne/perfume that reminded you of a past significant relationship?

Our sense of smell is coordinated with receptors in the nose that link up through the first cranial nerve to the limbic system in our brain – the ancient part that’s involved in behavioral and emotional responses, especially when it comes to behaviors we need for survival. But although the survival importance of smell has largely disappeared, its effects on the brain and body are still powerful.

Recent research has validated these effects and I teach my clients how to use the power of aroma and breathwork to shift from stress to calm, from scattered to focused, from sluggish to energized. Here are a few of my favorites:

For Calming:
  • Roman Chamomile – Calming. Safe to use, well diluted, with children.
  • Lavender – Calming and relaxing. Also safe to use diluted with children
  • Bergamot – lifts mood, helps with anxiety and fatigue
  • Ylang Ylang – supports mood, reduces anxiety
  • Clary Sage – Also has anti-depressant effects
  • Jasmine – lifts mood
For Focus:
  • Lemon – is calming, lifts the mood, and helps with mental focus
  • Vetiver – calms and focuses the mind
  • Spearmint – a 2016 study found that mixed with rosemary essential oil had beneficial effects on learning and memory, energizing
  • Peppermint – enhance memory, increase alertness
  • Rosemary – improves concentration and recall
How to Safely use aromatherapy:

I recommend using REAL essential oils and not synthetically produced fragrances.

As always, remember that natural does not always mean safe. There are some essential oils that can be toxic if not used correctly. And some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and by those with asthma, epilepsy, or with other health conditions. Caution should be used for children as well as elderly. And remember that some essential oils that are ok for humans, may not be ok for your pets.

Many options for accessing these wonderful aromas: various types of diffusers and even jewelry, apply to pulse points in carrier oils, and natural scented candles (look for paraffin-free soy-based or beeswax candles).

I have found this to be a great resource:

Selected references:


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