For some, the winter months bring with them times of cheer, heart-filled merriment, and spirited connection. But for many, the season delivers just the opposite: stress, alienation, and even illness.
One way to address what ails us, emotionally and physically, is through aromatherapy. This time-honored practice uses essential oils from plants to support overall health and wellbeing. Aromatherapy can help address an array of health challenges, from fatigue and anxiety to colds, flu, and more.
“These oils can be used in many ways, depending on the type of oil and its level of concentration,” says Callie Whitwell, chief operating officer, and founding partner of Lifetime Wellness. “They can be inhaled directly, put in a diffuser, added to baths, misted through a spray, mixed in massage lotion, or applied directly to the skin.”
Fending Off the Winter Blues
Winter months – with the colder weather and dreary skies – can leave us feeling blue. This is even more-so true given the events of 2020. Shorter days, darker skies, and plunging temperatures often cloud perspective and sink the “fa la la” feeling. As many as 20 percent of us suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
“Reduced sunlight and lack of natural vitamin D may lead to an overall sense of withdrawal,” Whitwell says. “In the year’s darkest season, serotonin – often called ‘the happy hormone’ – decreases, and melatonin – ‘the sleep hormone’ – increases.
“This imbalance can drain energy and trigger depression. Essential oils, especially citrus blends, have been found to ease SAD and reduce feelings of lethargy.”
Fighting Colds and the Flu
Winter is also prime time for catching colds and suffering from the flu. Essential oils can protect against “whatever’s going around.”
“So much illness is spread through airborne germs,” says Whitwell. “Essential oils in a diffuser can clear the air to create a healthier environment. When you inhale the mist, you ingest the essential oil through your nose, which then kills off germs in your respiratory system.”
Essential oils can also be added to a spray bottle filled with water and misted in your home or office, she explains – especially around doorknobs, over electronic devices, and on other frequently touched surfaces. Or, they can be added to water and sprayed onto a cloth to wipe down surfaces.
For colds or flu that have advanced to chills and fever, lemon or peppermint works well. “Apply these oils by cool compress to the head or add a few drops to a warm bath,” Whitwell says. “For sore joints and muscles, try eucalyptus, ginger, lavender, or rosemary. Apply by massage, through a few drops in a carrier oil. Rub the blend into whatever aches, and cover with warm towels or a heating pad.”
For congestion, she suggests mixing cedarwood, eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, or sandalwood with hot water. “Lean over the bowl and breathe in the vapors deeply as a quick remedy for discomfort.”
Essential oils can also make social gatherings more festive by adding energizing aromas to the mix. Such oils as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, peppermint, and pine, for example, may awaken happy memories from this season and ignite lively interaction.
“These feel-good oils can brighten one’s mood and spark more social energy,” Whitwell says. “When diffused, their pleasant scents help us relax, enjoy, and feel more connected with our family and friends.”
Feeling Good in the New Year
With the closeout of another year, we may find we’ve overspent, overtaxed, and overindulged ourselves during the holidays. These excesses can yield more than a smaller wallet and a larger waistline – it can also cause a toxic system.
“Aromatherapy helps our bodies and minds recover, detoxifying and restoring the immune system,” Whitwell says. “Regular use also sets the stage for the kind of new year we all hope to have: truly happy and well.”