What is it about smelling scents that move us so much? That push us into strong memories and emotions? We can smell something and specifically remember a very distinct person, or place. We may remember Aunt Edna’s floral perfume from our childhood, or a loved one’s signature food dish. Scents can also trigger a strong emotional reaction, whether it be feelings of fond memories, or an awful, rancid smell from something we’d rather forget. There is science behind this: our sense of smell is the only sense that goes directly to the limbic system in the middle of the brain before going to other parts of the brain to be further processed. The limbic system is responsible for memories and emotions. Starting to make sense now?

As a therapist, I have been using essential oils in my sessions for several years now. The purpose that I use them for therapeutically is to affect emotionsmood and arousal.  Emotions and mood are fairly self explanatory, but the referral to arousal in our therapy language refers to states of alertness, more or less. Sleepiness, fatigue, and even a slumped posture can indicate low arousal, where difficulty focusing, fidgeting, and difficulty coming to a still posture for learning or working can indicate high arousal. 


Here is a list of oils that can help with the following moods:

Agitation: lavender, valerian, rose, melissa

Depression: lemon, lavender, ylang ylang, orange, peppermint, frankincense

Anxiety: bergamot, lavender, orange, roman chamomile


Here is a list of oils that can help with the following desired states of arousal

Alerting: orange, lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, peppermint eucalyptus, and a blend of lavandin, tangerine, elemi, lemon myrtle, melissa, ylang ylang, Hawaiian sandalwood

Focusing: rosemary and lavender, frankincense, and a blend of ho wood, spruce, frankincense and blue tansy

Calming: cedarwood, lavender, roman chamomile, lavender and rosemary blend, rose oil, orange, and lavender, cedarwood and vetiver blend. 

The use of quality oils is important when considering your options. Some oils are not as high quality, or have fillers in them. Here is a list of some reputable oil companies: 

*Multi Level Marketing companies. You need to sign up to purchase products. 

There are different methods that you can use the oils therapeutically. Common methods include:

  • Inhalation. This is the safest method, and you can use a diffuser, or a personal nasal inhaler. We use both in our practice. 
  • Topical Use. This method can be used with proper dilution of the oils with a carrier oil and a roller. Proper dilution includes considering the size of the person you are using the oil with.  There is a risk for skin sensitivity with oils, especially if they are not properly diluted. We occasionally use this method in our practice in conjunction with other therapeutic activities. 

When using the oils topically, dilution levels are very important. Typically, if you are using it for spot purposes on the body, 2% dilution is OK for both children and adults. The size of the container matters, however. If you are using it for your face or your whole body (rarely would you use this), 1% dilution is recommended. Here is a link to a chart that has clear guidelines for dilution.

Using oils is a fun, safe way to bring in a powerful sensory modality to your daily life. They do need to be handled with care, however. It is best practice to keep them in a cool place, and out of direct sunlight. Also, it is important to keep them out of reach of children. The oils are very concentrated, and can cause harm if too much gets onto skin directly or especially if swallowed. If oil ever gets into your eyes, use coconut oil or another oil to dilute it versus using water.