Aromatherapy is a scientifically proven way to calm the mind and body by evoking peaceful thoughts that naturally relieve strain and stress. To choose the most relaxing fragrance, pay attention to those that have the best reputations, such as jasmine, chamomile, sage, sandalwood and lavender. This is just a partial list of natural herbs and oils renowned for aiding in relaxation. Many other scents — from patchouli and bergamot to clary sage and marjoram — are also reputed to have a balming effect on the psyche.
Aside from those already mentioned, some of the most ubiquitous oils and extracts used for relaxation are rosewood, camphor, pine needles, tea tree, melissa, frankincense, cypress, eucalyptus and cardamom. Some popular ingredients typically used in food also come highly recommended for a relaxing fragrance: cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass, cardamom, fennel seed, basil, pepper and thyme. The citrus peels from lemons, grapefruits or oranges also are renowned relaxers when inhaled.
Others use more obscure natural ingredients for a relaxing fragrance. This might be oak moss, rosewood, cedarwood, neroli, myrrh, geranium, hyssop or palmarosa. Some use a single ingredient for targeted aromatherapy, while others prefer a diverse medley to improve the chances for calm.
Many employ a relaxing fragrance by using an essential oil made from any number of calming herbs, flowers, roots or barks. Others burn incense or place potpourri throughout their home or office. Another way to enjoy the benefits of these natural mood enhancers is by using a lotion or perfume with calming ingredients. This way, the aromatherapy follows the wearer wherever he or she may go.
Scientists have long pored over reputed aromatherapy agents to gauge their effectiveness, not just as a relaxing fragrance but for other benefits. Fragrances like peppermint or lily of the valley have been proven to enhance cognition and performance at work. Some of the sweeter smelling herbs or flowers are thought to trigger pain relief. Still, other smells like frankincense, myrrh, lavender, jasmine and rose oil are believed to have aphrodisiac effects, but this is largely attributed to their relaxing properties.
A 1991 Duke University study for the Fragrance Foundation's Sense of Smell Institute found that women have four distinct phases of life in which certain smells will evoke different feelings and are worn for different purposes. In the first stage, when a girl reaches puberty, she is likely to choose scents that define her territory, improve social status, or react to the perceived shame of the body's changing looks and smells. The other phases in a woman's life lead to different kinds of scents that will attract a mate, improve the mood, and keep from repulsing others in social situations.