Essential oils admittedly sound a little wacky. It seems like something those palm-reading fortune tellers would sell you.
However, if you’ve ever smelled or used essential oils you know that they are very effective.
Essential oils are the liquid portion of a plant that contains the different molecules of the plant. Aromatherapy is the term for using essential oils and natural plant extracts to promote healthy living. These oils can be used topically, orally, or via smell.
Essential oils, or aromatherapy, have been around for thousands of years. Many ancient cultures used aromatherapy, like the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, etc.
The Egyptians had their own distillation method. They’ve even found frankincense on King Tut’s tomb.
Scents and smells affect our brain and our mood. The oils have different characteristics and properties which affect you differently. You can use essential oils in the sauna for different effects.
Lavender is commonly used for relaxation and sleep, for example. On the contrary, something like peppermint is very energizing.
A brief overview of how smelling works
There are neurons in the mucus of your nasal passageway which respond to the different odor compounds.
The olfactory system lays down memory early and creates powerful associations. Olfaction is the action of smelling or your sense of smell. It’s very primitive. This was probably developed before hearing and vision.
Sniffing and inhaling can affect how the brain functions and how you learn. As we inhale, the level of arousal increases and decreases with an exhale.
Specific smells are cues for the brain to pay attention to what is happening. There are certain smells that evoke a memory of a certain place, person, or context.
You’ll see fighters, hockey players, and other athletes use smelling salts. It triggers the fear and arousal part of the brain. This gives them a serious jolt right away and releases adrenaline throughout the body.
The olfactory neurons send signals deeper into the brain in one of three paths.
These pathways and neurons react, for example, when you smell smoke. You immediately know there is danger and it triggers fear or a reactive state.
The smell of smoke automatically heightens your awareness. If you are asleep, the smell of smoke wakes you up. It’s a good alarm system letting you know there is danger.
Then there are smells that lead to desire, where you want to take action. If you smell bacon cooking, you immediately start thinking about the taste of that crispy, salty bacon on your tongue and you get hungry.
Some pathways are involved in a learned association. They can remember the smell of their grandma’s home, or maybe a type of dish “takes you back” in time.
I had this hand lotion that my friend’s mother gave me. Every time I smelled it, it immediately took me back to their living room and feeling the love with all of our friends and family together. Every single time I used it.
The 5 best essential oils for sauna aromatherapy
Most sauna cultures use some sort of aroma because of the various effects aromatherapy has on our mind, body, and spirit.
Below are the 5 best essential oils you can use in the sauna.
- Eucalyptus is the best essential oil for aromatherapy in the sauna. The soothing scent is so good that I created an additional post for it here. Eucalyptus is great for killing germs and bacteria, and acts as a deodorizer. It aids in many respiratory issues by helping clear sinuses and relivies congestion.
- Birch is one of the most common scents in traditional Finnish saunas. Birch is common sauna wood. People also use birch trees end leaves for their whisks. Birch also has bacterial and fungal protection, plus is good for circulating bloodflow, reducing pain, skin toning, and body detoxification.
- Lavender is great option for relaxation. It is a restorative aroma, known for promoting relaxation and sleep. Use lavender to wind-down in the evening. Lavendar also includes other healing properties like anti-aging antioxidants, diabetes protection, and improved brain function.
- Cinnamon is another great scent for your sauna. It is warm and soothing for muscles, plus acts as a natural decongestant if suffering from a cold. This oil also reduces inflammation, promotes blood circulation, boosts mood, and improves metabolism.
- Peppermint is a stimulating and energy-boosting oil, which is perfect for morning or midday saunas. The cooling properties of this oil can reinvigorate you during your sauna experience.
How to use essential oils in the sauna
The smell of essential oils in water is more potent than dried herbs. One drop of peppermint oil may be worth the equivalent of 20 cups of tea for potency.
Dilute the oil before using in a sauna. Essential oils are not meant to be directly poured onto the rocks.
Pour your essential oils into a water bucket. This dilutes the essential oil and spreads it throughout the water. Then you pour the water over the rocks.
The steam will envelop the entire room with the aroma.
How to use Essential Oils in an infrared sauna
You can still use essential oils in an infrared sauna, even though infrared saunas do not have a heater like traditional ones do.
The best way to get aromatherapy in an infrared sauna is to use an oil diffuser. These oil diffusers are easy to use and inexpensive.
Just put oil into the water in the diffuser. The diffuser disperses the scent into the air.
Infrared saunas are smaller than traditional saunas, so the essential oils can envelop the room pretty quickly.
There are a couple of brands you can get.
I own this brand from Amazon. It’s simple to use, small, and does the job without costing too much.
This one is a slight step up and looks nicer than what I have.