"Affordable Scent-sations"

Aromatherapy is very popular now, both medicinally and cosmetically, but it is not new. According to Encarta Encyclopedia, the ancient Egyptians used aromatic plants and their essential oils in cosmetics and medicines. Aromatics were also used medicinally in ancient Greece, Rome, China, India, and throughout Europe. And don't forget that when the Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child, two of them were aromatic gum resins -- frankincense and myrrh. 1

Essential oils and aromatherapy cosmetics can be expensive. I want to state up front that true aromatherapy necessarily consists of expensively-produced essential oils. It can take tons of plant material to make one pound of essential oil concentrated enough for medicinal use. Perfume and essential oils are two different things and the suggestions I offer here are not replacements for true aromatherapy. However, I do believe that everyday aromas can be beneficial to our emotional well-being. Consider how many natural – and free – scents there are for your use.

Mint is soothing and relaxing. Mint and other scented herbs are easy to grow, either in your garden or on a sunny windowsill in winter. If you plant mint, or perhaps thyme, along your sidewalk or garden path, every time you brush against it walking by, you will be refreshed by the fragrance.

The scent of lavender is soothing and calming. I grow my own lavender which I dry for use in sachets and I've made a few lavender wands to place in lingerie drawers. I also purchase lavender soaps, lotions and bath products since I enjoy this scent so much.

Fresh lemons, or even bottled lemon juice, gives a clean fresh aroma and it is also antiseptic. Lemon in hot water is good for colds, too, in addition to its lovely scent. You can also get the tangy scent of lemon from lemon balm, a herb of the mint family, which makes a delicious and soothing tea. Other fruit scents you may want to try are peach, apple and strawberry.

You probably have many "aromatherapy" scents in your spice cabinet, such as cinnamon, cloves (said to improve memory), peppermint, sage, and rosemary. Rosemary "raises the spirit" and its essential oil is often prescribed for people who are stressed or for mild to moderate depression. I find that just the aroma itself is cheering and comforting. Other scents that I find refreshing and invigorating are sun-dried linens, soaps (bath soap, dish soap, or laundry soap), new-mown grass, cooking aromas, garden smells, and new books.

Particular smells bring back memories: the combined aroma of Crayolas, white paste, and Red Chief tablets recall September and shopping for new school supplies; my mother's Evening in Paris toilet water and Daddy's paste shoe polish bring back memories of them dressing to go out; puppy breath reminds me of childhood pets; and no mother ever forgets the smell of baby spit up!

My aunt once gave me almost empty bottles of perfume called "Straw Hat" and "Fire and Ice." The itchy smell of a straw hat was definitely captured in one, and I imagined that I could smell both fire and ice in the other. That particular scent is still sold and recently I asked for a sample at a beauty counter, but I couldn't recover that childhood memory of actually smelling fire and ice.

Try experimenting with different scents and discover for yourself which ones soothe, invigorate, or calm you. When you are aware of how aromas affect your emotions, you can use them as needed and will have trained your nose to appreciate a variety of smells.

(1) Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation.

© 2003 Marie DisBrow

[This article first appeared in the April 2003 issue of Simple Joy.]