The time has come: Winter, where we pick Netflix over dates, a girls night in over a girls night out, and the biggest blanket we can find over our favorite strappy, let’s-do-this-thing sandals. Practicing hygge, the all-encompassing Danish word for coziness, is an instant mood lifter. But scents are, too. They also make the best gift, especially if you are searching for the perfect last minute present.
The oil, smudge stick or candle you choose can have a big impact on your mood, and even your health. “I believe a lot in aromatherapy,” says Dr. Jean Michel Ete, a French-born osteopath and Chinese medicine specialist who works with aromatherapy at NYC wellness hotspot Modrn Sanctuary.
Candles should be scented naturally and made with a beeswax or soy base
According to consumer data group NPD, nearly 80 percent of Americans scent their homes, a notable rise from previous years. Many reported that the scents helped them relax, made the atmosphere cozier and lifted their spirits.
Ete suggests looking for a pure, additive-free oil, ethically sourced wood or candle made with natural fragrances, rather than synthetic. You are going to breathe in whatever you are spraying, diffusing or burning, so look for products made with natural ingredients and clear sourcing information.
“I worry about what I see around me, the oils people sell and use with no knowledge,” says Ete. He suggests checking for oils that are USDA-certified organic, and only using those for which the source of the oil or fragrance is identified. “You need to know where these plants come from, where the oils come from,” says Ete. “Be careful that the therapy quality is right.” Dried leaves and wood, such as sage and palo santo, should be free from any additives or coating. Candles, the most processed of the bunch, should be scented naturally and made with a beeswax or soy base.
Lucky for you, there are loads of new, natural options. Clothing boutiques are selling sticks of palo santo and sage alongside cashmere sweaters. Essential oil diffusers, once clunky machines relegated to your massage therapist’s studio, now come in chic, sleek design. (Check out this Vitruvi porcelain diffuser). There are even candles made for manifesting — light one, make an intention and let the melting wax works its magic.
How to pick the best scent for you?
Need a feel-good boost? Reach for a fruity, citrusy scent. “The fruits connect with the sense of happiness,” says Ete. Think of SoulCycle’s signature grapefruit candle, which burns in all of its studios — the zippy scent creates positive associations, and super-charges the endorphins you are already getting from the workout. Plus, Ete says citrus scents can open up your airways, helping you take fuller, deeper breaths.
When Ete’s patients are feeling drowsy, he often suggests peppermint oil to wake up the system and give a gentle immune boost. “Peppermint essential oil is really, really powerful,” he explains. Like chewing a piece of gum, breathing in that minty air can stimulate both the body and the brain. “Mint helps [fight] against bacteria, helps the digestive system and helps blood flow be stronger,” he says. Try adding a few drops of a pure peppermint oil, like Aura Cacia organic essential oil, to a diffuser.
“Stressful situations produce a lot of nervous system troubles,” says Ete. Especially around the holidays. Combat it with grounding, floral and woodsy oils, such as chamomile, cedarwood or sandalwood. The scents soothe both body and mind, helping you to breathe a little easier. Blend a mix of pure essential oils, or opt for a spray, such as Sandoval Interior Aromatic in Spirit.
For Fending Off a Cold
Feel a cold coming on? Diffuse a few drops of pure ravintsara, a relative of cinnamon that is known for its immune-boosting properties. “It’s completely antiviral,” says Ete. “It stimulates the immune system for winter, removes phlegm, and relieves congestion in the lungs.” He suggests the oil when someone’s feeling run down, or when it is dark and dreary outside.
For Better Sleep
“Lavender works so well,” says Ete. “It’s so calming.” Try it in essential oil form, in a candle, a spray such as This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, or even in a sachet by your bed and in your closet.
For a Reboot
Palo santo (“holy stick” in Spanish) has been burned for centuries in Mexico — it is believed that ancient Incans used the smoking wood to clear a person’s energy field. Now, energy practitioners around the world burn palo santo to help clear out bad energy and signal the start of something new. Just light the stick, let it burn for a few seconds, then gently blow out the flame. Let the smoke plume, or twirl it around whatever needs cleansing. Or, burn a candle scented with palo santo, such as Chillhouse’s new Palo Santo & Chill option.