The power that floral essential oils can exert over mind and body has been known for centuries. For example, before Cleopatra sailed out to meet Marc Antony, she drenched the sails of her barge with the scent of jasmine—an aphrodisiac. He could not resist her.
The faintest hint of a floral perfume can transport you back to a place in your memories, and evoke all the emotions that go with it.
Why should something as ordinary as a scent have such a powerful effect upon you? It is because your sense of smell is governed by the limbic system—the most primitive part of your brain. The limbic system also governs your most intense emotions—joy, fear, desire, or rage. So an evocative scent has the power to reach into the deepest parts of your mind and body.
When you smell any odor, you are reacting to volatile molecules that are wafting their way to odor receptors behind the bridge of your nose. From there, nerve impulses are carried to your limbic system. The chemical messages from the fragrance are then interpreted, and a response is sent by the hypothalamus to the rest of your body.
It was not until the 1920s that the extraordinary physical healing powers of essential oils began to be explored in depth. It was at this time that the birth of modern aromatherapy took place in the laboratory of a French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who became interested in the healing qualities of the natural essential oils that he used in his family’s perfume business. Then, one day Gattefosse burned his hand in a laboratory explosion and he immediately plunged his hand into a bowl of pure lavender oil. He was amazed to find how quickly the wound healed without even leaving a scar. It was Gattefosse who coined the word “aromatherapy,” in a 1928 scientific paper.
Floral essential oils work from outside in. They impact your body and senses through your sense of smell and by absorption through your skin. When essential oils meet your human body, their molecules not only produce psychological responses like euphoria and increased alertness as well as relaxation but also induce direct and measurable pharmacological changes through your blood stream. They affect your hormones and glandular system, your metabolic processes, and your nervous system, and subtly induce healing on many levels.
There are over 1000 aromatherapy oils on the market—about 30% of them derived from flowers. Each floral essential oil has its own distinct personality, which is sometimes quite different from its ‘soul energy,’ which comes through in flower essence healing. Each can be used singularly or in combination. If you have not yet experienced the blessings of floral essential oils in your life, you are in for a treat. Here are some of my favorite flowers, from which teas can be made and whose essential oils or absolutes can be used for a multitude of other purposes. Get to know their healing effects and their uses, then experiment with them in your own life.
SACRED ESSENTIAL OILS
- To open to the abundance of the universe
Rose Otto, Neroli, Lavender
- To clear unhelpful habits and thought patterns
Carnation, Tuberose, Hyssop
- For increased confidence and self-worth
Geranium, Rose Maroc, Ylang Ylang
- To release guilt
Clary Sage, Jasmine, Linden Blossom
- To enhance the connection with your higher self
Rose Maroc, Jasmine, Neroli
Immerse yourself in a bath laced with essential oils. Breathe in the mind-altering aroma while you absorb the life-enhancing molecules through your skin. Don't disrupt the experience with perfumed soaps, shampoos, or body washes. If you need to get clean, shower first, then bask in the full aromatherapy experience. Once you emerge from your bath, let yourself enjoy the floral aura that you will carry with you for hours.
The simplest method for taking an aromatherapy bath is to sprinkle a few drops of essential oil into your bath, swish it around so that the oil is well dispersed, then immerse yourself. Begin with only 2 drops of essential oil in a tub of water then gradually build up over a period of weeks to 4-7 drops. This may seem like a very small amount, but undiluted essences are extremely potent. More than this could irritate your skin.
Also be aware that some florals stimulate while others sedate. For example, if you want a relaxing bath, choose an essential oil like lavender, which has a sedating effect, and use it in warm rather than hot water (somewhere between 28-35 degrees C). If you need invigoration, use a stimulating essential oil like neroli and take a shorter, hotter bath (around 35-39 degrees C).
If you prefer a moisturizing bath, make your own bath oil blend by combining the following ingredients:
- To each 1-2 teaspoons of avocado oil or sweet almond oil, add
- 1 drop of a mild shampoo
- 2-5 drops of essential oil
Shake the mixture in a small glass jar or bottle and add the blend to your bath.
Experiment with your essential oils singly or in combination. Don’t use more than 3-5 drops of essential oil in total. Each has its own personality, and you will quickly learn which ones help you most and in which situations. Above all, have fun experimenting. Rediscover the ancient art of bathing that the Romans knew so well. Take time out to indulge your senses with a prolonged floral soak. It will benefit you in so many ways that it would be hard to list them all.