Flowers & Herbs Make "Scents" to Use in Daily Life
The very scent of essential oils soothes, calms, awakens or otherwise affects individuals in very positive ways, regardless of whether or not they are even aware of aromatherapy as a practice.
The use of fragrance goes back thousands of years. Originally, people used herbs, and the oils derived from them, directly as a part of their spiritual or religious practice, and often, more indirectly as medicines.
Even today, herbal incenses continue to play an important role in various meditative practices, especially among Japanese and Tibetan Buddhists. The use of aloeswood, cassia, cloves, sandalwood and other precious herbs in incense relies on a heat source to gently free up the essential oils of the herbs.
Native Americans use herbs such as sweet grass, white sage, sagebrush and tobacco as "smudges." A smudge acts as a kind of big incense stick, releasing fragrant smoke to cleanse and purify sacred space and the people entering such space. Many religions use resins such as frankincense and myrrh to cleanse temples or churches, especially during holidays.
While it is relatively simple to burn the actual herbs themselves, when using the herbs as incense. Or to release the scent of the herbs, by pouring boiling water over them, to produce a tea, infusion or tissane. If a plant grows in your locality, you can probably prepare it for these types of use.
In most instances, the ancient world's use of botanicals did not include the use of actual essential oils. Rather, instead, many of the ancients used fats and oils infused with plant materials.
However, the use of essential oils is more complicated because one doesn’t just use the raw herb itself.
Today we have access to oils derived directly from plants, whether from their flowers, seeds, stems, leaves or bark. Because these oils are highly concentrated, a few drops goes a long way.
Peppermint, Mentha piperita, essential oil is derived from the flowering herb by steam distillation. Inhaled in steam, peppermint oil can provide relief from head colds and bronchitis. Its antispasmodic action also makes it useful in situations where someone has asthma. This is a refreshing scent, which seems to increase concentration, and helps relieve mental fatigue, lack of concentration and unclear thinking.
Catherine Novak is a Certified Medicinal Herbalist, who teaches about aromatherapy, and using herbs to create better health and balance in our lives. She is also the owner of Beads N Botanicals, a local shop in downtown Urbana, IL.