Last updated: Sep 23, 2010
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I dont know what Im complaining about. This isnt the hottest summer on record by a long stretch, at least in my neck of the woods. Compared to people who live in, say, Texas, Im practically enjoying an arctic chill. Still, its murky enough to suck the energy right out of my body.


Time for some aromatherapy!

Its the perfect solution on several fronts. Im working on a project thats had me at my computer for at least 10 hours a day for the last two months. I need something to keep me alert, upbeat, and firing on all cylinders.

Aromatherapy is a healing art that uses pure, essential oils distilled from plants. These oils are mini-chem labs that, depending on the plant, can contain scores of compounds with an infinite number of medicinal purposes. Whats more, they are pure, intense fragrance, concentrated from the specific part of the plant from which theyre distilled. You absorb these medicinal compounds through your skin and also through your olfactory system when you inhale them.

You use essential oils by diluting them, either in a neutral carrier oil (such as jojoba, avocado, almond, or olive oil), alcohol, witch hazel, or water, or in a diffuser, to fragrance the air.

Heres how I put aromatherapy against sticky summer situations:

Spritzes
Mix a couple of tablespoons of witch hazel with five drops each of lavender and peppermint essential oils. Funnel into a little spray bottle (find them here) and spritz yourself to your hearts content, avoiding your eyes, of course. Lavender and peppermint lift the spirits and feel cool on the skin.Experiment with various amounts of oil until you find the most pleasing intensity. You can also use these essential oils for different effects:
  • Bergamot: Mellows nervous anxiety, eases insomnia
  • Lemon or lime: Lifts mood (skin spritzed with citrus oils can become sun sensitive, so dont use these when youre outside)
  • Rosemary: Enhances concentration
  • Rose: Soothes the skin and is said to ease grief
  • Clary sage: May help chill out hot flashes

Soaps
Lemon Grass Zen is a shower gel I recently bought at a local flea market. Its all organic and made by a father-son team at Jonathan Lyle. Its intense fragrance is such an eye-opener that I actually look forward to hopping in the shower—especially right after a workout. Another option: Buy a neutral liquid soap, like Dr. Bronners, and add your choice of essential oils. Especially chill choices include eucalyptus, pine, and fir.

Skin care
When a PR person recently sent me two aromatherapy skin treatments, I was happy to try them out. My skin tends to get oily and act out in the summer, and though I didnt think these two rich-feeling products could fix that, I was wrong.

Decleors Aromessence Ylang Ylang and Ylang Ylang Night Balm are supposed to work together to decrease the production of sebum, the substance that makes skin feel oily, and to detoxify and purify. I cant attest to the detox or purification, but I can tell you that my face is clear and feels very soft.

Plus, I love using these products—they smell heavenly and they feel great going on. Ylang ylang, an essential oil from a rare plant indigenous to Madagascar, was shown in a recent study to enhance feelings of calmness. I also love that the company has an initiative that supports native growers and replants trees.

For insect bites
A dab of lavender oil directly on a bug bite will ease the sting and reduce swelling and inflammation.

Note: Find essential oils at good health-food stores. Make sure the label says “100% pure essential oil” so you know youre not getting a perfume or synthetic product. Another good source is erbaviva.com.