Scent is an integral part of our memory. Consider the smell of chocolate chip cookies, your brain jumps to the people and places associated with the scent so quickly that the cookies almost become an afterthought. Conversely, thinking of a bad smell probably brings you to a specific place in your mind, like a garbage dump, or that time you opened a carton of expired milk. Whether good or bad, scent evokes nostalgia.
The scent of a home varies from room to room and comes from a number of factors, including cooking and cleaning habits, ventilation and changing weather conditions. It’s part of what gives a home its character.
We spend so much time decorating our homes to make them places of comfort for our families. Curating your home experience shouldn’t stop with what you can see. A scent identity is a powerful way to let your family know they’re home, and is easily created with essential oils and a diffuser.
What is an essential oil? According to master aromatherapist Jimm Harrison, in technical terms, they’re volatile lipid from plants that is extracted through distillation or pressed from a peel. In less technical terms, they smell good and are widely used to boost your mood and health.
If you’re just starting out with essential oils, focus on the basics.
Lavender: “Lavender is considered calming,” Harrison says. “If you look at it in a lab, you’ll see it has calming properties. But it can be used in many situations. It can really balance emotionally. For someone who is fatigued, it can energize. It helps heal the skin. It has some anti-inflammatory properties.”
Peppermint: “Peppermint is one of the more energizing of the oils,” Harrison says. “Mint has this uplifting, alive feeling. It’s good for digestion and pain. It also has antibacterial and antiviral properties.”
Citrus: “Most people have a positive association with citruses,” Harrison says. “They tend to be happy, uplifting and joyful.”
Frankincense: “It has an interesting property that’s hard to document,” Harrison says. “Historically, it helps to quiet the mind. If you’re religious or spiritual, it’s a good oil to ease up that mind chatter for a meditative or prayer state. It’s a great oil for diffusing because it can be energizing even though it’s quieting the mind.”
Copaiba: “It’s really good for pain relief—topical for massage and relaxing the body,” Harrison says. “It can have both calming and energizing properties. For skin care, it can promote regenerative wound healing.”
Once you’ve found some scents you like, start having fun! Play around with ratios – citrus with a drop of peppermint will smell different than peppermint with a drop of citrus. Consider the room in which you’ll be using your oils. Soothing scents, like lavender, are perfect for the bedroom, while you may want something more energetic for the living room or kitchen.
Whatever benefit you’re looking for, research the company and where its oils come from before buying. “Make sure you’re getting 100 percent real oil,” says Katie Stefani, manager for the sensory and home category at Homedics. “If there is even one added synthetic in there, it won’t give you the same benefit.” Beware of deeply discounted prices on essential oils. “A low price means they probably aren’t pure,” Stefani says.
Oils can be blended for specific benefits, and some companies may sell blends intended to boost immunity, improve mood or relieve allergy or cold symptoms.
Spread the Scents With a Diffuser
While many essential oils give off strong scents on their own, a diffuser, which heats a suspension of oil and water, magnifies the aroma and spreads the therapeutic benefits.
Stefani, who is certified in aromatherapy, recommends adding 5-7 drops of oil to the water in a diffuser. “Add a few more drops in the beginning to get a stronger scent,” she says.
Measure the amount of oil carefully so you don’t overpower the room. If you’re using different scents in different rooms, make sure the odors harmonize. “The odor does not have to be strong or overpowering to have an effect,” Harrison says. “It creates this soft, influential environment. When you use oils in the home, you can manipulate the feeling of your environment, the memory and emotion.”
Diffusers come in different sizes, though the scent’s reach depends on a few other factors, like how much oil is added and what type of oil you are using. “Citrus tends to evaporate faster,” Stefani says. “Right off the bat, they’ll be heavy and strong, but as time goes on they’ll go faster. Mints last longer than the citruses.”
Choose a diffuser that fits into your home décor. A quick online search will show you that the options are practically limitless. If you’re really looking to chill, some include features like colored lights and relaxing sounds. “When you come home from work, you can unwind and distress from the day,” Stefani says. “The sounds give you an added benefit. Instead of a speaker, a light and a diffuser, it’s one relaxation experience.”
What sort of experience do you want to create for your home? Calming? Energizing? Healing? Tell us about your favorite essential oils blends.