Lately I’ve been intrigued by the way essential oils can affect our mind and emotions. This burgeoning field is called aroma-psychology and it’s not being confined to the aromatherapist’s massage couch. Hospitals and care facilities are using essential oils to reduce stress and anxiety, while canny offices use them to improve focus and concentration. Certain oils are being used in day-care centres to help older people remember their past while psychologists find they can help bring submerged memories into consciousness.
I recently stayed at Euphoria Retreat in Greece where I met a fascinating therapist called Katerina. She said that each essential oil is related to a specific area of life and that she can tell a great deal about a person by the oils they love and those they intensely dislike. For instance, she said, jasmine oil is all about pleasure and satisfaction.
‘What pleases you?’ asked Katerina. ‘Do you do things for your own satisfaction or for others?’ I find the scent of jasmine rather sickly and I had to admit that I’m not good at putting my own needs first. I’m also really not wild about the scent of cinnamon. ‘That’s all about fire, passion and vital energy,’ said Katerina with a smile. I’ve been pretty exhausted lately so that makes total sense.
One the positive side, I love blue chamomile. ‘That is all about truth, deep inner truth, and integrity,’ Katerina said. ‘You are probably quite honest with yourself.’ Apparently the oil works a treat as a truth serum for children – just a sniff will persuade them to come clean. I haven’t tested this out myself but would be intrigued to know if it works. Neroli (another favourite of mine) is about beauty in its highest sense. ‘Can you see beauty in things other people can’t?’ asked Katerina. I like to think so.
This was so fascinating that I pressed Katerina for more links. Lavender, it appears, is about how easy we find it to ask for help, while petigrain is about responsibility and how we handle it. Bright, uplifting orange concerns joy and our capacity to feel it while its citrus cousin, lemon, is a call to action: if you don’t like its sharp aroma, it suggests you’re not ready to take the next step.
Since returning home, I have become far more aware of which scents attract me and which repel – and how those preferences change almost day to day. I’ve also been experimenting with wonderful tailor-made blends, such as ilapothecary’s Beat the Blues Room Spray (£29; ilapothecary.com) with petitgrain and orange. Equally beguiling is Root & Flower’s Chakra Anointing Oil Set (£50 for seven blends; rootandflower.co.uk). Each organic oil blend balances and strengthens one of our seven chakras. I find that our intuition usually knows what we need, so I plunge my hand into the bag, trusting I will pull out what I need. Right now, it’s always the base chakra oil that sneaks into my hand with its comforting message: I am grounded, safe and secure.
If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my upcoming book, Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Living, which will be published by Kyle Books in August. You can pre-order it here.