Emotion in a Bottle

Capturing the power and essence of botanicals

By Tracy Duhs

Whether experiencing the cool breeze of American peppermint, a warm hug from Sri Lankan ginger, or the heart-opening nature of Bulgarian rose, aromatics found in plants have the power to transport you to a heightened emotional state. With so many demands being thrown our way on a daily basis, it helps to have some comfort on hand that is immediately capable of redirecting our emotions. And that is the “essence” of essential oils.

Aromatic compounds are found in the seeds, barks, stems, roots and flowers of plants. It is from these living sources that we derive our coveted essential oils.

When you inhale essential oils, memories and emotions are triggered by the limbic system that is responsible for emotional and psychological responses. This scent is then compared to a known fragrance from your past. We have memories associated with scents and react physically by way of the autonomic nervous system. We also react emotionally.

For example, walking by a star jasmine shrub on a warm summer night always evokes an uplifted emotion inside of me. I can’t place what memory this feeling is attached to, but my limbic system knows and it makes my body respond with a heightened mood.

Essential oils can be powerful because they have the ability to bring us back to a time and a place where we felt loved, safe, connected, joyful or at peace.

The adverse is true as well. That is why picking the right essential oil is key.

For instance, lavender is not a universal de-stressor. I have a few clients that cannot stand the smell of lavender because their autonomic nervous system tells them it’s attached to an unpleasant memory.

There are general guidelines on how to use essential oils, but I encourage you to customize your essential oil experience for your specific needs. I suggest taking a trip to the local Co-op in Ocean Beach, People’s Organic Food Market. They carry a pure essential oil line that I love: Veriditas Botanicals. Stand in front of their display and experience the great variety of essential oils offered. Let the fragrances resonate with your body. Be aware of your physical and emotional responses, and then choose one or two that you feel the most connected to. Place one drop of your chosen essential oil on the sole of each foot every morning before showering. Keep a journal of your mood and how you feel. This is your chance to be present in your body and live in the conscious mind … where our greatest potential for growth is.

It’s amazing how experiences can be captured in a little bottle of essential oil. No wonder Hippocrates enthused that “the key to good health rests on having a daily aromatic bath and scented massage.” Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

Here’s to a blissful and “scentsational” new year!