Scented candles are often used in aromatherapy, which is the practice of using natural, plant-based essential oils that promote mental and physical well-being. These beneficial molecules are inhaled through our noses and mouths, pass through our lungs, and then enter the rest of our bodies to produce wonderful health effects.
Our newest "Frederick" Luxury Candle, for example, doesn't just make your home smell elegant and fresh — it contains beneficial essential oils like bergamot and yuzu that can help elevate mood, reduce anxiety, and even relieve pain.
Here are 8 common benefits of essential oils that you might be getting as you burn your favorite candle.
1. Relaxing Your Body
There's nothing quite like a soothing fragrance to help you unwind after a long day.
Helping you relax is probably the most widely-known use of aromatherapy. Many essential oils act on your brain, nervous system, and muscles to promote feelings of comfort and relaxation.
Lavender, for example, affects the parasympathetic nervous system and helps regulate bodily processes such as heart rate, breathing, and hormones. Studies have shown that smelling lavender also increases certain patterns of alpha waves in the brain associated with relaxing.
Examples of essential oils for physical relaxation include:
- Ylang Ylang
2. Relieving Stress and Anxiety
The essential oils from your scented candle or diffuser can also help calm your mind as well, helping you relieve stress, anxiety, and even depression. Inhaling these scents can bring about psychological benefits, stimulating the brain to help ease your worries and achieve inner peace.
The effects of aromatherapy on depression have been particularly well documented in clinical settings. According to one such study, "aromatherapy showed potential to be used as an effective therapeutic option for the relief of depressive symptoms in a wide variety of subjects."
Examples of essential oils for relieving stress and anxiety include:
3. Promoting Restful Sleep
If you're having trouble sleeping at night, essential oil aromatherapy might help you get a better night's rest.
Similar to how they make you feel relaxed (which certainly helps when you're trying to sleep) certain essential oils can lower heart rate and blood pressure by acting on your parasympathetic nervous system.
Studies in the National Library of Medicine have also found that inhaling essential oils can have positive effects on your quality of sleep. In fact, one review concluded that essential oils may even be a "safe alternative to pharmaceutical interventions for mild to moderate sleep disturbances."
So light up your favorite scented candle in the evening and it'll gradually get your body into the optimal condition for rest. Just don't forget to blow it out before bedtime.
Examples of essential oils for restful sleep include:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
4. Boosting Mood
Candles make us feel happy, and if you're here on our website reading this, they probably make you feel happy too. But beyond that, did you know candles have been clinically shown to influence your mood?
The uplifting fragrance of certain essential oils can stimulate the limbic system of your brain, which controls memory and emotions. This releases neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, producing positive feelings of euphoria, bliss, and motivation.
Examples of essential oils for boosting mood include:
- Sweet orange
5. Improving Memory and Focus
Another benefit of essential oils — especially for people who work or study at home — is making you more productive by boosting focus and cognitive function.
Minty and citrusy aromas in particular are great for stimulating brain function. Research from Behavioral Neuroscience found that breathing in the smell of peppermint improved memory, reasoning, concept formation, attention span, and problem solving. It does this by strengthening neural signals in the hippocampus to increase long-term potentiation, the cellular mechanism responsible for leaning and memory.
So the next time you need to hunker down to meet a tight deadline, try using a scented candle to boost your brainpower and get stuff done.
Examples of essential oils for memory and focus include:
- Clary Sage
6. Clearing the Sinuses
Here's a quick and easy one. Certain essential oils used in candles can serve as a gentle home remedy for nasal congestion.
Eucalyptus, for example, is a common ingredient in over-the-counter decongestants. The menthol component of these essential oils makes breathing feel easier, providing fast relief for those times when your nose is stuffed up.
Other components of essential oils, such as chemicals in tea tree oil and oregano oil, have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects that can help clear the airways of mucus and tissue inflammation.
Examples of essential oils for clearing sinuses include:
- Tea Tree
7. Helping with Digestion
Some essential oils may also soothe the occasional upset stomach and support healthy digestion. If you're feeling a bit nauseous or queasy after a meal, a gentle fragrance might be just what you need to help bring balance back to your digestive system.
The smell of ginger, for example, stimulates the digestive system and increases gastric activity to provide relief from bloating and constipation.
Peppermint oil is another beneficial essential oil for your stomach, and probably the most well-researched in this area. It works by relaxing your digestive system and reducing smooth muscles spasms. It can even be a safe and effective therapy for irritable bowel syndrome.
Examples of essential oils for digestion include:
8. Soothing Headaches
In addition to the benefits listed above, essential oil aromatherapy can be useful for alleviating headaches and migraines.
The biological mechanisms by which essential oils act to relieve headaches isn't fully understood, but plenty of studies have shown that the effect is there.
In one such study, migraine patients who inhaled a lavender scent for 15 minutes showed an significant reduction in headache severity compared to a placebo group. In another double-blind and placebo-controlled study, lavender aromatherapy helped reduce the frequency and severity of migraine events over a three month period.
Examples of essential oils for headaches include: