3 Ways to Use Aromatherapy to Heal

Aromatherapy is not just a tool to make your home smell fresh before company arrives. The relationship between your nose and certain fragrances is a powerful bond that can directly impact your overall well-being. This ancient healing exercise can be used as a therapeutic practice with great healing benefits.

Ayurveda teaches that everything that enters your body is woven into your cells and becomes a vital part of your overall well-being. Holistic healers have been using the powers of specific aromas from nature’s flowers and herbs for centuries in order to enhance health and well-being.

How Aromatherapy Works

When you inhale a scent, that aroma travels directly to the hypothalamus, which is an organ in the brain responsible for regulating a variety of bodily functions such as growth, sleep, emotional responses, and more. This message flows through the body’s limbic system and into an area of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that’s responsible for memory. This process is called neuro-associative conditioning, which is your body’s ability to link a healing response to a particular smell. It also explains why smells often have the power to trigger a specific memory.

Try this: Sit comfortably and recall the smell of freshly baked cookies. Take a moment and then recall the smell of the first rainfall in the spring. Take another moment and finally recall the smell of a newborn baby. Did you notice a feeling evoked by recollecting those scents?

Here are three easy ways to use aromatherapy to heal …

Use Aroma to Balance Your Dosha

Just as the body is made from the food you eat, the mind is created by the input you receive from your five senses. By choosing nourishing smells, you can awaken the mind’s innate healing powers and experience a natural vitality and wholeness.

According to Ayurveda, aromas send specific signals that have balancing effects on the current mind state of all three doshas. There are particular types of aromas that can contribute to helping the body find that dynamic state of balance in the mind. Generally speaking, the following aromas have pacifying qualities for each corresponding dosha. Use your dominant dosha to distinguish which dosha’s aromas to use.

If you don’t know your dosha, take our Dosha Quiz to discover your unique mind-body dosha type.

VATA: Vata is typically pacified with floral, fruity, warm, sweet, and sour smells. These characteristics are found in the following aromas:

  • Basil
  • Orange
  • Geranium
  • Clove
  • Vanilla
  • Patchouli

Relaxing aromas can help those with a Vata mind imbalance by relieving restlessness, anxiety, cramps, backache, heart palpitations, and insomnia. 

Relaxing aromas can be found in these products:

Read more about how to balance your Vata with aromatherapy

PITTA: Pitta is typically pacified with cooling and sweet smells. These characteristics are found in the following aromas:

  • Sandalwood
  • Mint
  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Ylang-Ylang
  • Lavender

Soothing aromas can help those with a Pitta mind imbalance by relieving anger, impatience, jealousy, ulcers, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Soothing aromas can be found in these products:

Read more about how to balance your Pitta with aromatherapy

KAPHA: Kapha is typically pacified with stimulating and spicy smells. These characteristics are found in the following aromas:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Camphor
  • Juniper
  • Clove
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary

Invigorating aromas can help those with a Kapha mind imbalance by relieving retention of food, fluid, fat, and relationships.

Invigorating aromas can be found in these products:

 Read more about how to balance your Kapha with aromatherapy

Use Aromas to Evoke States of Well-being

Your sense of smell connects you directly with your emotions, memories, and instincts. Because of the neuro-associative conditioning process, aromas have the power to evoke states of well-being. By using aromas in your daily routine, you can enjoy the benefits of invoking a heightened state of health.

Find an aroma that you enjoy and inhale its essence at times when you’re feeling relaxed and at peace. Perhaps it’s incense that you light during meditation, a candle that you light during a relaxing bath, or an essential oil spray that you put on your pillow before bedtime. Over time your body will associate these relaxed feelings with the use of that specific aroma. When you come across a moment of stress, you can inhale the aroma that you associate with a state of calm and that will trigger a relaxation response throughout your entire body.

Use Aromatherapy for Its Medicinal* Properties

Aromatherapy can also have healing properties and may be used as supportive care for some of the symptoms of specific health-related conditions. Studies have shown symptoms that have resisted other treatments over long periods of time—such as headaches, pain, and insomnia—have a positive response to the use of aroma.

Studies performed by NYU Langone Medical Center concluded that when specific aromas were inhaled through the nose, the symptoms of the following health-related conditions subsided:

  • Headaches subsided with the use of peppermint
  • Menstrual pain subsided with abdominal massage using lavender, rose, and clary sage
  • Respiratory infection subsided using a vapor run containing camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oils

Studies performed by the University of Maryland Medical Center concluded that when specific aromas were inhaled through the nose, the symptoms of the following health-related conditions subsided:

  • Anxiety, stress, and depression subsided with the use of lavender, rose, and frankincense
  • Nausea subsided with the use of peppermint
  • Pain subsided with the use of chamomile

The Chopra Center has developed many Ayurvedic aromas to help you achieve balance through the seasons including Ayurnas, which is a cold and allergy remedy. Ayurnas can help relieve symptoms such as congestion, dryness, and post-nasal drip as well as stress-related symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension. It contains the organic ingredients safflower oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, vitamin E, and is infused with the natural aromas of eucalyptus, rose, sandalwood, peppermint, lavender, and basil, all of which uniquely contribute to one of the most potent treatments in Ayurveda. 

Try this: Place a few drops of the oil on the pinkie finger to apply the oil inside the nostril. The oils in the Ayurnas blend help coat and moisturize the inside of the nostrils allowing for efficient absorption of the healing aromas.

Who knew that aromas had such healing qualities for both the mind and body? Your sense of smell can help you stay connected to your fondest memories and your most relaxing moments, and it can become the key to living a healthy, balanced lifestyle full of vitality and wellness. Try not to turn your nose up at the fact that your sense of smell may be one of your biggest healing tools. Now take a deep breath and stop to smell the essential oils.

*Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any aromatherapy practices.

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About the Author

Jenna Saunders

Certified Instructor: Yoga; Meditation
Jenna found yoga as a student at Virginia Tech where she attended yoga classes at the on-campus gym. She moved to San Diego from the east coast after her graduation in 2008 and has grown to love the practice of yoga. Through her practice she discovered the healing benefits of yoga both on and off of the mat and hopes to help students learn about yoga beyond the physical asana practice. She completed a 200 hour teacher training with YogaWorks in April 2012 and the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga 200 hour teacher training with The Chopra Center in November 2014. Jenna is passionate about living a healthy...Read more