They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but the nose may be the key to emotional well-being. You likely know through experience that there's a link between scent and mood and how the connection can affect everything from your work performance to stress levels. So it's no surprise that aromatherapy (the practice of using natural oils to enhance a person's health or mood) is having a mainstream moment.
Essential oils, along with their ubiquitous diffusers, have grown increasingly popular in the past few years, regardless of where people stand on the homeopathic barometer. But are amateur aromatherapists using their in-home oils to the best of their ability? We tapped three experts to find out which scents work best for each room in the house.
Walking into your home should feel like a warm hug. You want — and you want your guests — to feel relaxed, welcomed and as stress-free as possible. Just as you took the time to choose the right welcome mat/shelf/key-and-loose-change bowl, you should do the same for your entryway aroma.
"Warming scents like vanilla work nicely in an entryway," says Lora Cantele, author of The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness. "However, real vanilla essential oil, or vanilla absolute, can be incredibly expensive for everyday use."
For the holidays, Cantele uses spruce, grapefruit or cinnamon and clove for welcoming guests, but in the warmer months, she reaches for a lighter blend. "I'm partial to holy basil and lemon in the summer," she says. "But a blend of mandarin and lavender can be just as inviting." Cantele also recommends using blends of oils when scenting rooms, as to avoid a lifelong correlation between a particular smell and a particular room.
2. Living Room
Second to the kitchen, the living room is the place in the house where people congregate and hang out most, so welcoming scents that also evoke a sense of calm are ideal. Amy Anthony, a clinical aromatherapist in NYC, likes frankincense, Scots pine and black pepper for the living room, as they're "welcoming, stimulating, expansive and serene but lively."
Kac Young, author of The Healing Art of Essential Oils, notes that, at the same time, such high-traffic spaces need clearing now and again. "The living room is a place where families often get together and share time," she says. "A room like this may need to be purified from time to time, so using a diffuser with eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lemon and lavender essential oils would be excellent company."
Across the board, experts agree that lemon or citrus oils work best in the kitchen, and the reason is simple: They smell clean. "I love to use a blend of citrus and herbs in my kitchen to freshen the room," says Cantele. "Consider lemon and thyme or basil essential oils or sweet orange and Scots pine."
Young also notes that, in addition to bright, fresh scents, warm and cozy aromas can work in a kitchen, as well. "Lemon is always a welcome smell in a kitchen as are citruses like orange, grapefruit, mandarin, mint and cinnamon or clove," she says. "The former keeps the kitchen smelling fresh and bright and the latter suggests home-made cookies and cinnamon rolls."
4. Laundry Room
Another room where fresh, clean scents go a long way is the laundry room. "You cannot go wrong using lavender or lavandin (a variety of lavender) in the laundry room," Anthony says. "Typically, I recommend the latter, as it yields more oil than traditional lavender without the sedative qualities."
But Anthony strongly advises against putting essential oils directly in the wash. "Using essential oils in the wash is wasteful," she says. "If you're looking to infuse aromas into clothing and linens, try creating a sachet with a single or multiple oils or use a clay diffuser in the linen closet and put a few drops into it once or twice a week."
Depending on what you're using your bedroom for — sleep or sex — there are a variety of oils and oil blends that will complement the room. "Lavender is an obvious choice for the bedroom, given how calming it is," says Cantele. "But combining lavender with Roman chamomile and sweet marjoram can really enhance your ability to gain restful sleep. If you're looking for a little romance, consider sandalwood and rose or ylang ylang, which will give you a euphoric feeling."
Young also notes that if you share a bedroom with someone, there are two people's senses to take into account. "Males and females react differently to scents, so if this is a male-female room, it should be a scent that both enjoy," she says. "Lavender is always a neutral choice, as is frankincense, bergamot and patchouli." For male-male rooms, Young suggests using scents that are spicy, earthy or citrusy, and for female-female rooms, she advises floral scents, such as bergamot, jasmine, rose and geranium.
Basements, while great playrooms, laundry rooms and makeshift offices, unfortunately tend to always come with one issue: Mold. Thankfully, certain essential oils help combat the growth of this ever-popular household fungus (or stop it altogether) and smell great while doing so.
In a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, oregano essential oil, along with thyme, cinnamon and cumin oils, slowed down the production of a highly toxic form of mold often found on food, and another 2015 study found that tea tree oil can be a powerful anti-fungal treatment for treating mold. Whether you use the oils in diffuser form or as part of a refreshing or cleaning spray, they're a good choice.
When it comes to the bathroom, you want to find scents — or scent combinations — that work double-duty. On the one hand, you want the aroma — and the bathroom itself — to be clean, and on the other, it's a great space to have uplifting smells that will help invigorate and wake you up in the morning.
"Bathrooms need constant attention," Young says. "The moisture in the air from baths and showers can create mold and scum, so a good way to keep the room clean is by using lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils." (Note: The oils can either be used in a diffuser or in homemade cleaning products.) For an uplifting, energizing vibe, Anthony suggests a blend of grapefruit, rosemary and a touch of peppermint. "The combination is cleansing and brightening," she says. "It's a great way to start the day."