I want you to take a second and think of your favorite scent. Now close your eyes and take a deep breath into the belly – really feel it expand. Imagine smelling your favorite scent. How did you feel taking that inhale? What emotions could you feel? Could you smell your scent?
Our sense of smell is incredibly important. We often take our sense of smell for granted. In fact, we only really tend to notice scents if we consider them to be strong (like when you know you need to take out the trash) or if they evoke a memory (like if you smell vanilla and lavender and that was the smell of your mom’s house growing up). Our ancestors used their noses way more than we do in modern society, and we tend to rely on our sight and hearing more than any other senses. But smell has been an integral part of evolution and survival, as it enables us to track food and water, find a mate, and even communicate. And smell is the only sense that affects the parts of the brain in charge of emotions and memory.
According to Ayurveda, aromas can balance or throw off our doshas, which will directly affect our health and wellbeing. Aromatherapy is one of the most ancient and effective natural remedies for balancing the doshas. It is thought of as both an art and a science. Each essential oil used in aromatherapy has its own array of unique healing properties, uses, and effects that can help us relax, concentrate, reduce stress, balance our emotional state, and help manage various health issues.
Ok, so first let’s answer the question: what the *%$# are essential oils?
Essential oils aren’t just any oils, they’re highly concentrated extracts of plant material. In real people terms, they are the “essence” of a plant, distilled, and prepared for you to bring the power of nature into your home. They’re made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, stems, leaves or fruit) to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. Each plant has its own unique combination of the 5 elements — space, air, fire, water, earth — created by that plant over thousands of years, and gives rise to its distinctive structure and fragrance.
When practicing aromatherapy you want to take your constitution, your dosha, into account and tailor which essential oils you use to your individual needs. By doing this you can quickly restore the balance of your doshas, and feel strong, healthy, and happy with life once again.
Balancing the three doshas
In Ayurveda, essential oils are classified according to their effect on body temperature and how this affects the doshas. Hot and warm essential oils are more suitable for cold constitutions, Vata and Kapha doshas, while cold ones are more suitable for Pitta doshas.
FOR THE VATA DOSHA
If you are a Vata type, your leading elements are air and space. Vatas often suffer from insomnia, constipation, headaches, dry skin, and have nutrition problems and/or anxiety. To restore balance to the Vata dosha, warm, energizing oils such as camphor, cinnamon, bergamot, and cypress, combined with the stabilizing, calming oils such as sandalwood, jasmine or rose will help rebalance a Vata mind and/or body. To facilitate fast and effective body detox, cleanse the blood, and normalize digestion, use vanilla, lavender, lemongrass, lemon, ginger, and ylang-ylang.
FOR THE PITTA DOSHA
If you are a Pitta dosha, you are made up of the elements of fire and water. Because of your fiery intensity, you often suffer from ulcers and inflammation of the skin. To balance the Pitta dosha, it is best to apply oils that are cooling, sweet, soothing, or hydrating like sandalwood, gardenia, jasmine, violet, mint, chamomile, or lotus combined with base oils such as sunflower, coconut oil or olive oil. Dry oils like saffron, St. John’s Wort, and white yarrow can help to strengthen the tissues, improve the condition of the skin, treat small wounds, and prevent the loss of liquids. To help normalize your digestion and energy levels, use essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, or balm.
FOR THE KAPHA DOSHA
If you are a Kapha dosha, you consist of the elements of earth and water. You are prone to cold and respiratory diseases, lymph stagnation, accumulation of mucus and other body fluids, and delayed metabolic processes. To balance the Kapha dosha, use warming, light, stimulating, expectorant aromas such as sage, cedar, pine, or eucalyptus in very light carrier oils. Essential oils like parsley, dill, cinnamon, coriander, and lemongrass will also help to strengthen the body, and cardamom, coriander, chamomile, juniper, sage, and eucalyptus will help to combat pathogens and speed up the process of removing excess fluids and toxins.
So now you know what oils to use, but how do you use them?
You can completely transform the feeling of a room in just a few minutes just by changing its smell. Use a few drops of your favorite essential oil or blend in an aromatherapy diffuser. Diffusers disperse essential oils into the air either with a cool-air stream or gentle warmth. They are ideal for cleansing and purifying the air and for creating a mood-boosting, fragrant atmosphere. This is also great for creating an environment perfect for meditation.
Massage, or “Abhyanga,” is one of the best ways to experience aromatherapy because you get the combined benefits of touch and the therapeutic effect of the essential oils. The combined action of massage and essential oils improves lymph and blood circulation. And the scents of the oils affect the emotional centers of the brain that control our mood. Make sure your essential oils are always diluted in a good-quality carrier oil, like sesame oil, jojoba, olive oil, etc., before they are applied to your skin. The standard dilution is about 20-30 drops of essential oil to 2 ounces of vegetable oil or fragrance-free lotion.
Saunas are great by themselves, but essential oils can help to clean the bronchi and skin and have an antibacterial effect on the body. Simply put one drop of an essential oil directly onto the hot rocks or mix five drops of in one cup of water and pour over the rocks.
Inhalation is a great treatment for colds and respiratory problems and also for cleansing the face. Inhale the fragrance through your nose directly from the bottle or from a tissue sprinkled with four drops of essential oil three or four times.
I love a good bath, and adding essential oils combines the restorative effects of both water and the oils to relieve muscle strain, soothe skin conditions, and promote emotional balance. You’ll want to add five to 15 drops of your choice of oil to a full tub of water or three to five drops for a sitz bath. You’ll want to make sure you mix the essential oils with some carrier oil, a little cream, pure organic raw honey, or with bath salts to help them disperse in the water.
Compresses help with headaches, bruises, sprains. A compress is a clean, damp, folded cloth that has been infused with essential oils and is then applied to the problem area.
Now go on, give it a try! Explore for yourself and see which aromatherapy techniques work best for you.