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Smell is one of our most powerful senses. It has a remarkable ability to transport us back in time to places, memories, sensations, people, and meals that left an imprint on our bodies and minds—a kind of food in and of itself. In Ayurveda, smell is associated with the earth element, which has its own unique properties of density, stability, and grossness, but also includes all the elements (and their properties) that come before it in the hierarchy of matter—space, air, fire, and water; all of this is why earth, and smell, contain such an abundance of information and energy when we encounter them.
Earth comes to our attention with great urgency during the spring season, including through the sense of smell. As the water-saturated ground starts to thaw and melt away, the air is suffused with a loamy, fertile aroma; audacious flowers and blooming trees tickle our noses with their light, welcoming gesture to come close, pause for a moment, and bend our faces to the splendor of nature, even as the insects and birds flit hungrily among the life-giving plants. We may also be reminded of the power of our nose with the arrival of uncomfortable seasonal allergies or congestion, which invites us to spend a little more time caring for our senses to ensure our ability to breathe, communicate, and enjoy our surroundings fully.
Sense care is the anchor of our Ayurvedic daily routine, which offers us gentle but potent ways to cleanse and nourish our organs of sensory perception all year long. In addition to those hygienic rituals, however, scent itself can become a powerful form of sense care—not only benefitting our sense of smell but also that of touch and taste, and our overall ability to stay grounded and present in keeping with the energy of the earth element.
I grew up with strong memories of watching my mother anoint herself with perfume on special occasions. There was a small table in the corner of her bedroom covered with fancy bottles and amber liquids, a place that my sister and I were drawn to play near precisely because of its precarious, off-limits nature. If I felt really brave, I would offer my small wrist to my mom so she could dab on a few drops of her favorite, White Diamonds, close my eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine myself being as beautiful as her.
Over the years, it’s been interesting to watch my own relationship with scent evolve and clarify. From scented body products to laundry detergent, I noticed with intrigue how averse my reactions could be to scents that others found appealing, while I hunted the glass display cases of department stores like a bumblebee in a garden to find perfumes that were just right for me. Eventually, I gave up on most mainstream, pre-mixed perfumes, which never seemed to hit all the right notes for my nose to be happy. Instead, I landed on essential oils, which allowed me to mix up my own blends in a variety of ways and amounts.
Customizing my scent-care this way has also made essential oils an important part of my self-healing practices. A mix of ginger, peppermint, and clove on the temples is now my go-to for migraines that sneak up in the late afternoon; rose, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang are my trifecta for creating a feeling of grace and femininity when my negative internal dialogue raises her voice; and my amber vial of cedarwood, geranium, lavender, and clove has become as essential to my yoga practice as my mat, infusing that ritual of movement and breath with warm, groundedness, and a release of tension. Whether I use these scents in a carrier oil (I like coconut or jojoba oil) on my skin, or drop them in a diffuser, they can change the way I feel inside and out within moments, creating a whole world of sattvic scent-sation.
When experimenting with essential oils, it’s important to source them from high-quality vendors to ensure that the fragrances you are ingesting have met safety standards. While we don’t normally use essential oils internally, application to the skin still requires digestion (the transdermal kind), so you don’t want to expose your body to potential toxins or other chemicals that will counteract your wellness goals. My favorite source for all things herbal is Mountain Rose Herbs, which has some of the highest standards for fairness and quality in the industry. They also have a team of herbalists making beautiful healing blends of essential oils, which even my picky nose can linger on.
Mountain Rose’s new Essential Blends Kit fits many different needs in my scent-care routine. I normally stock my scent apothecary with single oils, so I can play mixologist with blends for whatever physical, mental, or spiritual need at the time, but receiving these expertly arranged blends let me sit back and enjoy the symphony, rather than trying to play all the instruments myself. Two appealed to me right from the start: Pick Me Up and Calming, both of which have intricate layers of scent that make them more impactful than the typical energizing/relaxing oils out there. Pick Me Up is both refreshing and spicy, making it great for personal use as well as atmosphere while I’m trying to work at home (and not be distracted by the bright spring day outside). Calming similarly amplifies the traditional lavender scent with bright tangerine, and woody clary sage and vetiver, which together support the grounding and rootedness that will quell anxiety—including the spring-fever type of restlessness I get this time of year—without sedating you completely.
When I smelled Shield and Breathe, I knew immediately they’d be great tools for specific situations where a health imbalance was at hand. As support for respiration and overall immunity, they both contain oils with potent cleansing properties to open the airways and clarify the space around us. After a year of living in a pandemic, this kind of comfort couldn’t be more important to gather from all places.
The most surprising blend of all is Sleep, and it deserves a full ingredient list because it’s just so beautifully mixed: clary sage, bergamot, lavender, sweet marjoram, and Roman chamomile. Bitter, sweet, and spicy all at once, Sleep is going to serve more purposes than just supporting rest at night. Marjoram stands out to me as an herbal superstar in this blend; equally supportive to digestion as it is to sleep and antimicrobial, this herb was used by the Greeks to bless newlyweds and give rest to the deceased, a beautiful representation of the spiritual depth of these plants.
In the same way that I love to experiment with combinations of spices in my teas and recipes, playing around with the ratios of essential oils in blends like these can produce infinite possibilities of scent-care for you and your home. The simple act of placing attention on the anointing of your body or a space with fragrance is enough to infuse it with love and ease, which is also why it’s hard to go wrong with essential oils. But remember: a few drops go a long way, and the process of extracting these fragrances requires a good deal of plant matter. By using your oils with intention and integrity, they’ll serve you for a long while and in just the ways you need.
Essential oils are a precious part of plants, which is why a small bottle can sometimes carry a big price tag. I’m pleased to offer a special discount for all the essential oil kits on Mountain Rose Herbs through the spring season.
Use code EOKit15 (case sensitive) at checkout for 15% off all essential oil kits. (Excludes any already discounted products or further discounts on wholesale accounts. Valid for online purchases only). Offer valid through May 31, 2021, at 11:59 PM, PST.