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Spa at home: planting an aromatherapy garden

Grantley Hall gardens

With the time at home recently, we have all been inspired to think about how we can make our homes into more relaxing sanctuaries. Aromatherapy might be at the heart of the spa experience, but much of it starts with the power of plants, and it’s the perfect time of year to tend to the garden. Here are a few you might want to include to create your own aromatherapy garden…

The power of smell

To recap, smell is extremely evocative, which is one of the reasons aromatherapy is such a powerful part of wellbeing. Our sense of smell is the most primitive one of our instincts and is key to survival. 

Aromatherapy essential oils are volatile.  So when they’re inhaled they’re picked up by our olfactory system via the hairs in your nose.  It’s almost like a lock and key process. When those molecules connect, it produces a nerve impulse which travels to the brain.  The molecule breaks down and the hair that detected it is free to pick up a new molecule.

Then it reaches the limbic system, the most primitive part of the brain, concerned with instincts and survival and emotions.  It is linked to hypothalamus, the control centre between the endocrine and nervous system. This can activate pathways and impact a hormonal response.  The change in hormonal response is what changes your mood. Eventually, this travels to the back of the brain where aroma is finally recognised.

What to include in your aromatherapy garden

For an aromatherapy garden, think about the scents that you’re drawn to - that’s always a good place to start. You will notice that many therapists begin a treatment with a smell test, drawing on the idea that you are attracted to the aromas that you need. 

Lemon Verbena: Citrus scents are among the most popular in aromatherapy and there are a number of wonderful lemon scented garden plants. Lemon Verbena offers a classic citrus scent and is known for its calming effect, as well as helping with tight muscles, and minor aches and pains. Alternatives are lemon thyme, lemon basil or lemon balm.

Lavender: It is a classic garden plant as well as aromatherapy favourite. It’s known for relaxation, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory and is really good for helping to heal the skin or for a headache.

Rosemary: Rosemary is often used in massages as it’s brilliant for stimulating the circulation.  It goes into your bloodstream and stimulates blood flow, clearing out toxins from the muscles. Use it in a massage oil or body lotion.

Geranium: For anything from your period to post pregnancy (after breastfeeding), geranium is often used to help balance hormones and to energise.

Chamomile: Pollinators love this easy to grow herb, which forms a carpet on the ground. With its relaxing and beautiful scent, chamomile pairs well with many other aromatherapy garden plants and is excellent as a calming tea before bed with a teaspoon of honey.

Mint: Mint is an abundant herb so it’s best to keep it in pots than plant it in the ground otherwise it has a tendency to take over. Easy to serve as an infusion with hot water, it is good for digestion and can help ease headaches and nausea.

Roses: The seasonal blooms of these romantic favourites can be used in all sorts of ways around the house, as well as bringing joy. Confidence building, skin toning and spiritually nurturing it’s anxiety reducing and has even been known as an aphrodisiac. Create your own rosewater to put in the iron for sweet smelling linens, or to spray around the house.

The range of herbs and flowers that you can include in an aromatherapy garden are abundant, so use it as an opportunity to really have fun and explore. That said, before ingesting or using any herbs or plants topically on yourself or anyone else, please seek advice from a healthcare professional.


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