Nourishing aromatic scents for soothing sleep and relaxation

Four worldly fragrances to help you unwind the senses and hit the reset button.

With all the rage about essential oils, incense, fragrant wood, and aromatic resins have resurfaced to captivate our senses once more.

Aromatic compounds have multifunctional actions that can nourish the senses, calm the emotions, relax the body, and refresh the mind. Research indicates, “When we breathe in an aroma, the scent molecules reach the brain and affect the limbic system.” The limbic system contains centres in the brain (the hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala) that are linked to our mood, anxiety, emotions, and the formation of our memories. This explains why scent has a strong link to memory, and can arouse feelings, or influence moods. Plus, the hypothalamus regulates the autonomic nervous system which controls our pulse, blood pressure, breathing and the ability to rest.

There are many ways to invite a bit of aroma into your sleep zone. Scents may be applied topically, diffused into the air, or infused in a warm bath, before bed. Choosing the right scent is often a personal preference, but there are specific aromas that contain restorative properties to help ease the mind, balance the nervous system and promote relaxation. The result is less stress and anxiety, a better mood, and quality sleep.

Here are some scents of antiquity that are still renowned for their potent healing qualities; once gifted to the ancient kings, and now accessible to the modern likes of all.

Frankincense

Deeply rejuvenating and healing, this powerful anti-inflammatory resin originates in Africa, the Middle East, and India. Frankincense resin has been used to boost the immune system, lower levels of anxiety, alleviate pain, moderate stress and conjure feelings of contentment and relaxation. Studies show that the resin could also produce antidepressive properties and uplift the emotions. Earthy pine undertones, blended with a spicy, sweet cedar fragrance, evokes serenity, and encourages a naturally pleasant slumber.

When purchasing Frankincense oil or incense, look for a high-quality product that has not been blended or infused with unnatural scents. For a more traditional and potent experience, pure Frankincense resin can be burned directly on a charcoal puck. Place the charcoal puck in a fireproof (clay, metal or glass) bowl. Ignite the charcoal puck until it begins to smolder and turns ash in colour; then drop one or two pieces of resin onto the hot puck. The resin will begin to produce fragrant smoke. Use extreme caution when burning resin directly on a charcoal puck, and always ensure that the charcoal is extinguished fully after use.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood has been used to awaken profound tranquility, mental clarity and meditative states for thousands of years. The ancient science of Ayurveda touts Sandalwood as the supreme essence for cooling the mind and calming the nervous system. Its rich, earthy, musk is a finely distilled aroma with sweet, grounding tones that clear mental stagnation and promote deep relaxation, concentration and sedation of the nervous system.

Sandalwood essential oils are very potent, so just add 1 or 2 drops into an essential oil diffuser to vaporize an instant aroma throughout your space. For topical use, add 1 drop of Sandalwood into a natural carrier oil. Anoint the temples, back of the neck and between the eyebrows with a tiny dab of the scented oil. Always test the oil on a small part of the wrist to ensure that there are no allergic reactions to the oil first. Also, remember to check the label of the essential oil to ensure that there are no synthetic perfumes, preservatives or additives.

Palo Santo

This beautifully aromatic sweet wood is lightly fragrant, cleansing and warming. Palo Santo, translated as, “holy wood” is a celebrated scent, indigenous to South America. The cleansing, soft smoke of this wood bestows mental and emotional clarity, diminishes negative feelings, relieves anxiety and reduces insomnia.

Although there are Palo Santo incense sticks and oils, nothing compares to the fragrant soft smoke of the wood.  Use a match or lighter to ignite your Palo Santo stick.  Allow it to burn at the tip for about 30 seconds and then blow out the flame.  You will see the wood ember begin to glow, and then release a tiny trail of smoke. As it produces the fragrant smoke, you can move about the room with it, to carry the scent throughout.  When finished, extinguish the stick with a bit of running water or place it in a fireproof vessel, until the ember diminishes and cools. Ensure that the wood is no longer burning or hot before you turn the lights out.

Vetiver

This exotic, earthy sweet grass is a refreshing and compelling combination of aromas that revitalize the mind and stabilize the emotions.  A complex fragrance, this unique scent promotes  grounding to improve concentration, support sleep and strengthen the nervous system.

Vetiver essential oils can be added to a warm foot bath before sleep, or rubbed onto the soles of the feet, the palms of the hand, and anointed onto the temples. Essential oils should always be added to a carrier oil before applied to the skin. For a fuller scent, add a few drops of  Vetiver essential oil into a diffuser, and allow the distinct aroma to permeate the room.

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