If you've ever taken a casual stroll through your favorite home goods store, you've likely come across a myriad of products that proudly flaunt the aromatherapy label. From essential oils to calming candles, this vast assortment of products can be dizzying. But how well do these products actually work for those looking to tap into the medicinal and holistic benefits of aromatherapy? How is aromatherapy even defined?
Aromatherapy isn't nearly as complex as one might be led to believe given the encyclopedic information found across the internet paired with the hundreds of books on the subject. Atlanta-based aromatherapy expert and Purely Bias owner, Whitney Barnard, defines aromatherapy as simply "the essence of plants being used for medicinal and holistic purposes."
Meet the Expert
Whitney Barnard is an aromatherapy expert based in Atlanta, Georgia, and the founder of Purely Bias, an organic hair and skincare brand available online.
Aromatherapy involves essential oils (made from flowers, herbs, bark, roots, peels, etc.) that are either inhaled or placed directly on the skin. Given that aromatherapy is reliant upon the use of essential oils—it's even sometimes referred to as "essential oil therapy"—using an essential oil that is authentic is vital. And with the plethora of marketplaces both online and offline offering these oils, spotting a fake can prove tricky.
For Barnard—who was made aware of the benefits of aromatherapy while pursuing her own wellness journey—there are a handful of things to look for when spotting the difference between an authentic essential oil and a phony or adulterated one.
"Look for 100 percent essential oils," Barnard explains. "A lot of those blends [can be] synthetic. Look for reputable brands. Once you kind of get used to it, your nose will tell you what's [good]. I can spot fake lavender from a mile away. It'll smell like a chemical."
Once you've nabbed your essential oil of choice, one of the best ways to use the essential oil is through a diffuser. Like its name suggests, a diffuser is a tool that spreads essential oils throughout a space, typically through the use of water vapor. There are several kinds, including nebulizing diffusers, ultrasonic diffusers, evaporative diffusers, and heat diffusers. Barnard explains that compared to candles and plug-ins, diffusers are a less toxic option.
"Start off with a diffuser, and make sure you use it with distilled water. Use it instead of using candles, and instead of using plug-ins, which can be very toxic to your environment," she advises. "Get a diffuser and start with the essential oils you like, whether that be bergamot or cinnamon."
With a variety of essential oils available, what oils work best in what space? In addition to being a matter of personal preference, there are certain essential oils that are more beneficial depending on your particular needs. Need to sleep better? Lavender is said to promote calmness and also reduce stress and anxiety, making it the ideal essential oil for use in your bedroom.
"I put [my diffuser] by my bed and I put lavender and peppermint oil in and let that run. And that helps my headaches and it helps me sleep," Bernard explains.
I put [my diffuser] by my bed and I put lavender and peppermint oil in and let that run. And that helps my headaches and it helps me sleep.
Lemon essential oil with its citrus-forward scent and purifying properties is a great pick for a kitchen. Looking for something to keep you focused while you work out of your home office? Bergamot is known to be a mood booster. A 2015 study found that bergamot essential oil, when "inhaled together with water vapor exerts psychological and physiological effects in a relatively short time."
If you are ready to delve into the world of aromatherapy, the products ahead are great for beginning your journey. They include a trio of some of the most effective essential oils, a diffuser that will fit in with just about any home decor, and options for taking your aromatherapy on the go. Read on to learn more.
A great start for those curious about the world of aromatherapy, this pack of essential oils from NOW includes tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils. The essential oils are 100% pure and boast calming, antiseptic and germicidal properties. With a variety of essential oils available, the NOW trio pack can be mixed and matched with orange, lemon, peppermint and other essential oils.
One of the more aesthetically pleasing options for a diffuser, the Hathaspace Marble Essential Oil Aroma Diffuser can also be used as a humidifer. Using essential oils, it naturally purifies the air. In addition to its sleek marble appearance, the Hathaspace diffuser includes seven different ambient light settings.
For a more instant aromatherapy option, consider picking up a spray. The TreeActiv Aromatherapy Room Spray gives you an immediate dose of energy, comfort, focus, and relief thanks to its peppermint and lemongrass aromatherapy oil blends. The spray's travel size bottle allows you to take it on the go with you or just easily transport it from room to room in your home.
Aromatherapy bracelets serve as another great way to take your favorite essential oils to go. This lava rock bracelet from the Aura Store comes with a calming lavender essential oil. Simply add a few drops onto the porous lava stone to diffuse the scent.
If you're ready for the next best thing in aromatherapy, a professional grade diffuser is worth the splurge. At a little under $100, this Minidiva Store's professional grade diffuser uses a high-frequency vibratory atomization technology to atomize all essential oils. There's no water needed and the system is ultra-quiet.
Malcolm, B. J., & Tallian, K. (2018). Essential Oil of Lavender in Anxiety Disorders: Ready for Prime Time?. The Mental Health Clinician, 7(4), 147–155. doi:10.9740/mhc.2017.07.147
Watanabe E, Kuchta K, Kimura M, Rauwald HW, Kamei T, Imanishi J. Effects of Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) Essential Oil Aromatherapy on Mood States, Parasympathetic Nervous System Activity, and Salivary Cortisol Levels in 41 Healthy Females. CMR. 2015;22(1):43-49. doi:10.1159/000380989