As a working mother, I usually spend my rare moments of downtime daydreaming about what I'm going to do when I find myself blissfully alone. These fantasies often involve hopping on an airplane bound for tropical locales or the more realistic but equally enticing dream of taking a hot bath in a quiet room. The water is steaming hot, it's pin-drop silent and a soothing fragrance wraps itself around me. For 20 or 30 minutes -- 45 if I'm lucky -- I'm in a fancy spa without a care in the world. The secret to this transporting experience: a few drops of lavender essential oil, tipped strategically into my bathwater.
Essential oils, concentrated liquids that contain volatile aroma compounds of plants, are my instant escape hatch. Aromatherapy is the use of essential plant oils to enhance emotional and physical wellbeing. Whether added to a bath, placed in a diffuser or simply rubbed into my palms and inhaled, aromatherapy is a simple way to alleviate my stress, cheer me up after a particularly rough day or energize me when my second wind has yet to show up. Aromatherapy has also been used to treat depression, anxiety, anger and general moodiness and irritability.
There are hundreds of essential oils to choose from -- think of how many plants there are on Earth! -- and many different methods of transporting their healing properties. You can create a spa-worthy bath by placing a few drops of your favorite oil into warm water. Or make a batch of stimulating -- or relaxing -- massage oil by mixing essential oils into a “carrier oil,” such as sweet almond oil. You can also keep your bathroom or car fresh with an essential oil diffuser (car diffusers plug into any dashboard outlet).
To revive sagging spirits or reboot concentration, try using stimulating oils like bergamot, lemongrass, rosemary and peppermint. To calm and relax your mind and body, turn to soothing oils like lavender, chamomile and sandalwood. Whichever you choose, a fantasy experience awaits.
Marisa Belger's work has appeared in Travel + Leisure Family, Natural Health, Prevention and on the TODAYShow.com. She was a founding editor of Lime.com -- which specialized in wellness and sustainable living -- and she collaborated with author Josh Dorfman on his bestselling books, The Lazy Environmentalist and The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget.