Aromatic oils have been used for centuries.  If you haven't had the opportunity yet to dabble in aromatherapy, here are the basics to get you started.

Essential oils are readily available at most health stores or via the Internet at pharmaceutical grade quality.  They are extracted from flowers, fruits, leaves, resins and barks and are completely natural.  Essential oils are very potent and typically need to be placed in a "carrier" to dilute them before using.

This could be a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, grapeseed, olive or coconut.  Or an unscented shampoo or soap.  You can even use it straight in baking soda and other powders. You can mix with water and use in a spritzer if you have an emulsifier like alcohol. (Vodka works well because it doesn't have much of a scent). 3 drops of essential oil to 1 oz of carrier is a good rule of thumb.  Essential oils can also be mixed into Epsom salts to create scented bath salts.

The cost of essential oils is directly linked to how difficult they are to obtain.  For example, rose oil takes a lot of roses to produce and could be over $50 a bottle.  Lavender is much less expensive and is typically less than $10 a bottle.  Some oils are so expensive that if you find them in your healthfood store, they may already be in a carrier oil.  (Jasmine and neroli often come this way).

While the oils all have different properties, affinities for different scents is highly personal.  Consider selecting four or five to begin with to see how they make you feel.  To begin your collection, you might want to select a floral oil such as lavender, geranium, neroli, rose, or jasmine.  A "woody" oil like rosewood, cedar, sandalwood, cypress or fir.  Something herbal like bay, rosemary, thyme, basil, peppermint or oregano. Something citrus like lemon, lime, bergamot, grapefruit or tangerine. And something exotic like frankincense, patchouli, eucalyptus or myrrh.

In addition to using in oils, soaps and spritz bottles, you can also put oils straight into a diffuser to scent a room. Diffusers are typically easy to come by.  There are simple ones with a tea light that warms a glass dish where you put in water then a few drops of your oil.  You can also just fill a basin with hot water and put a few drops into steam or put a few drops into laundry, on your pillow, into a bath or on a cotton ball in a closet or drawer.

Essential oils can be used to lift mood, relieve stress, balance energy or simply because you like the way they smell. Best of all, they allow you to craft your own scents at a fraction of high end soaps, sachets, room sprays and perfumes...and they are 100% natural.

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Maira Gall