by Julie Snyder
The holidays are fast approaching. Just ask your nose!
I'm sure you've already gotten a whiff of those amazing fragrances -- ginger, cinnamon, peppermint -- wafting up from the luscious desserts, cookies and breads. As you walked through a store, your nose may have been bombarded with the smell of bayberry, pine and Uncle Will's pipe tobacco.
We all experience the intense emotions that a smell can trigger. "Fragrance is processed in an area of the brain that also processes memory and emotion," says Mindy Green, co-author of "Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art."
Scents can invoke memories in an instant, whether good, bad or a mixed bag of emotions. A smell can take you back to building gingerbread houses with your cousins. Lavender and rosemary might make you miss a loved one while at the same embracing you in a virtual, loving hug.
Aromatherapy comforts and heals
These familiar scents associated with the holidays don't just trigger memories. Around the world, aromatherapy is used to sooth the pains of the day and promote relaxation. Its healing powers ease migraines, digestive issues, exhaustion and other ailments.
We listed a few of the common holiday essential oils. Diffuse your favorite or add a few drops in steaming water for a satisfying burst of fragrance along with its benefits.
Essential oils for the season
✓ Cinnamon: Not only wonderful memory maker for this time of year, but the scent of cinnamon also reduce exhaustion and helps ward off viral infections. The holidays are all about sharing and sometimes that includes the latest stomach bug making its rounds.
✓ Peppermint: Apply to your temples to help alleviate tension headaches. We all know how stressful holidays can be so this may come in handy. It's also good for digestive issues. If you're hoping to keep your pregnancy a secret for just a few more week, peppermint oil on a handkerchief may become your ally against morning sickness.
✓ Frankincense and myrrh: In the story of the birth of Christ, these two spices were among the "gifts" offered to the child. These ancient oils promote spiritual awareness and meditation. When combined, they help ease wrinkles and sooth other skin conditions like eczema.
✓ Citrus: Breathe it in. You already feel more refreshed! Citrus and especially bergamot is said to be the most effective antidepressant oil of all. Mix citrus oils with clove and you're rewarded with an awesomely, great aroma that's refreshing, snugly, inviting and just leave you feeling happy.
Holiday aromatherapy with a purpose
Ease the winter blues: Gray skies and short days can lead to the winter blues. A blend of citrus oils may help ease those symptoms and fill your whole household with a pleasant aroma. Try a single oil or various combinations of orange, grapefruit, bergamot, ginger, cypress and clary sage.
Set an inviting, comforting atmosphere: The aroma of vanilla, cinnamon, peppermint, pine and orange affect the limbic system and help your guests feel welcome and at ease.
Reduce tensions: Scents like lavender, marjoram, geranium, rose, verbena, clary sage and nutmeg are said to diffuse tensions, ease and calm frayed nerves.
Create stimulating conversations: Frankincense, rosemary, neroli, ylang ylang and black pepper are reputed to boost creativity and inspiration.
Sooth digestion: Did you overindulge? Combine orange and peppermint oils in hot water. Breathe in or soak a washcloth in the water, place it over your abdomen and lay back and relax.
Cleanse the air: Oils of tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, juniper and cedarwood are used to cleanse and detoxify. One or a blend of these essential oils in a diffuser can discourage airborne germs.
Pick your favorite aroma, one that's important to you. Sit back, kick off your shoes and savor the fragrance.
Are you seeking a particular blend or have questions? Post them in the comments.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.