Essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes for thousands of years. Yet research on the effectiveness of aromatherapy — the therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants — is limited. Even so, plenty of people find that it works. Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in your nose, which then communicate with the part of your brain that controls emotions. The bottom line is that aromatherapy tends to be more subjective than objective – what works for one person may not work for another (and even simply believing that aromatherapy will work can do the trick!). Use trial and error to find a few scents that work for you.
Keep in mind that while many essential oils have been shown to be safe when used as directed, essential oils used in aromatherapy aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. When oils are applied to the skin, side effects may include allergic reactions, skin irritation and sun sensitivity. Never take essential oils by mouth unless you are under the supervision of a trained medical professional.
A few scents to try:
Aromatherapy for relaxation: Lavender may be the scent for you. Use a diffuser or place two drops of essential oil in a bowl of water, add a washcloth, then wring out the excess water and breathe in.
Aromatherapy for sleep: For occasional insomnia, following good sleep hygiene is key to getting back on track. Adding a little lavender essential oil to your nightly routine may help, too. Keep in mind, however, that lavender is most likely to work as part of an overall calming bedtime routine.
Aromatherapy for energy: Grapefruit or lemon essential oils can help lift your mood and give you energy when you’re feeling depleted. You can even make your own spirit-lifting “aromatherapy” by placing oranges studded with cloves in a bowl in your living room. The cloves help release some of the aromatic oils of the peel.