Aromatherapy is one of my favorite adjunct therapies to use in the treatment room and to recommend to patients who struggle with imbalances in mood, sleep disturbances, and challenges with focus, cognition and memory.
When essential oils are inhaled, scent molecules travel through the nose; this signal is picked up by the olfactory nerve and sent straight to the brain, specifically the limbic system, where many neurological processes affect emotions, memory formation and storage, and learning. Using oils can work quickly to elevate mood and calm the mind. In Chinese medicine, this type of therapy is addressing the shen aspect, essentially the health of the spirit.
Oils are made from plant extracts, and like Chinese herbs, plant extracts have unique medicinal qualities, attributes and uses:
Lavender, clary sage, geranium, rose and other floral oils can be uplifting and impart relaxation, helping patients to ease into sleep. Oils that can help with cognitive function/learning/focus are oils derived from conifers and eucalyptus, lavender and melissa, rosemary and peppermint. Sandalwood, francincense, palo santo, rose, lotus and exotic floral notes are known to affect the mood and may ease anxiety and depression.
To enjoy the scent of essential oils throughout the day, I put a few drops on a cotton ball and have it nearby (in the car, at work), inhaling periodically to bring awareness, clarity and calm to my mind.