Essential oils for meditation: Using nature to improve your life
Using essential oils for meditation
I have recently started meditating, and although I am so new at this that I have not yet really felt the benefits I can say that I have felt a change in my mood, outlook and focus since starting. To speed up the process, or rather to make it more enjoyable and beneficial, I make use of essential oils when meditating. I have found that they tend to make my mind wander less, as well as help keep me calm and breathing rhythmically. This might be a coincidence, but since I believe in the power of essential oils I tend to think that I either have something that works or it is the placebo effect at play. Either way, using essential oils in my daily meditation practice is working for me. If you are keen to give it a try, then read on.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the practice of mental awareness as a way of clearing the clutter and opening the way to peace and self-knowledge. It has been practised for thousands of years across many cultures and has recently exploded as a “new” way of treating many ailments, from depression and anxiety to insomnia. People meditate for various reasons, including stress reduction, improved concentration, to calm their minds and bodies or merely to tap into their emotional capacity. People who regularly meditate report feeling calmer, more compassion and empathy, more focussed and overall in a better mental state. Recent studies have shown that meditation can also have a physical benefit, with these studies showing that regular meditating can decrease inflammation, increase immune function, slow the ageing process and increase happiness.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated aromatic extracts that are derived from various parts of plants, flowers, trees and seeds. The oils each contain concentrated amounts of active ingredients that offer a variety of therapeutic benefits. These benefits include being antimicrobial, improve sleep, help fight depression, being enlightening, help you heal faster, fight infection, promote cell regeneration and more. They also offer emotional benefits such as promoting relaxation and stress relief.
What is aromatherapy?
In complementary and alternative medicine, essential oils are often incorporated to help bring about the balance of the mind, body and spirit. This is usually done through aromatherapy - a practice of using essential oils to promote healing. Founded by a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé in 1928, aromatherapy has been widely studied and used with great results.
Our sense of smell is strongly connected to our emotions and memories as our scent receptors are located next to the emotional centres in our brain, the amygdala and hippocampus. That is one of the reasons why aromatherapy is so powerful – using oils can trigger the body’s healing process to begin, as well as soothe and calm your mind to allow the process to take place. Essential oils can also interact with certain hormones, neurotransmitters, or enzymes, resulting in a specific change to our bodies’ chemistry. Oils are powerful, and they have little or no side effects.
Benefits of using aromatherapy in meditation
When essential oils are used during for meditation, the oils can help to centre, ground, and focus the mind and are said to help eliminate or reduce negative energy and self-talk from the body and mind by encouraging insightful, elevating feelings of positivity, determination, optimism, gratitude, and self-respect. Furthermore, these oils are reputed to ease, calm, and soothe the body. For higher purposes, such as meditation, it is recommended that only the highest quality oils be used to derive the most beneficial therapeutic effects.
The best essential oils for meditation
Frankincense oil has a long history of being used for its health and mental benefits. With an earthy yet sweet fragrance, this oil is derived from the resin of the Boswellia Sacra Tree, and the effects of the oil are balancing, grounding and calming to the nervous system. Use this oil to uplift the spirit and purify your meditation space as well as reduce pain and inflammation, relieve stress and clear congestion in the nasal passages, which is great since a stuffy nose is a terrible distraction!
Frankincense mixes well with lavender, geranium, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, and clary sage.
Similar to Frankincense, Myrrh is derived from resin and has been used for thousands of years for its focusing, centring, and meditative effects. Myrrh oil is one of the oils with the highest concentration of sesquiterpene, a compound with sedative effects. Myrrh oil is used to reduce stress and bring about calm to the brain and nervous system. Ideal for meditation and prayer, it clears the mind of fears and worries leaving you feeling centred and tranquil.
Myrrh blends well with other ceremonial oils such as frankincense, sandalwood and neroli.
One of eucalyptus oil’s biggest use is as a decongestant, chest opener and airway-clearer, making the use of this oil essential for meditating. By opening and clearing the airways, chest and nasal passages eucalyptus will enable and ensure that you can take deep, calming breaths to ease the body and clear the mind.
Eucalyptus blends well with the more floral and vibrant oils such as rose, palo santo, lavender, bergamot and jasmine.
Neroli has a Light, sweet-floral fragrance and is excellent for mindfulness meditation as it promotes clarity, self-love, self-acceptance and wellbeing. The oil is also said to reduce fears, inspire creativity and reduce pain and inflammation.
Mixes well with chamomile, clary sage, jasmine and rose.
If you suffer from “mental chatter”, sandalwood essential oil can be helpful for grounding. It has been used for centuries to boost the mood and soothe anxious thoughts, making it useful for raising consciousness and supporting visualisation during the meditation experience. It also has hypotensive abilities, meaning that it can help lower your blood pressure so you can also physically relax during your meditation.
Sandalwood blends well with helichrysum, jasmine and rose.
A rose is one of the universal symbols of love, making it the perfect essential oil to use for meditation when you intend to cultivate a love for yourself and/or others. This beautiful and fragrant oil helps to cultivate a deep sense of love and compassion for yourself and others while opening up a deeper connection to the spiritual world.
Rose oil is versatile and blends nicely with a wide variety of oils such as sandalwood.
Sage essential oil is used for cleaning and purifying and can assist in grounding and restoring both balance and energy.
Sage blends well with bergamot, lavender and vetiver.
Known as the “Oil of Tranquility”, vetiver essential oil can be used to balance the nervous system and soothe a restless mind and body. It has compounds that can treat insomnia, depression, fatigue, stress and anxiety. Vetiver can especially be beneficial if you tend to wander and lose focus during your meditation practice.
The oil works well with lavender and sandalwood.
Lauded for its spiritual applications, Palo Santo has been used by healers for centuries. This sacred oil is considered to be family with frankincense and loosely translated means “holy wood”. In meditation, it is used for its calming, grounding and powerful healing effects.
Palo santo blends well with frankincense, lavender and helichrysum.
Cedarwood essential oil is said to encourage introspection, which can help illuminate your need for meditation. The oil is anti-inflammatory, has sedative and calming effects, and has been reported to boost serotonin levels. Cedarwood’s antiseptic properties protect the lungs against respiratory infections, and it is a mucolytic, assisting in the deep and consistent breathing required for a successful meditation session.
Blends well with bergamot, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, rose, neroli.
Lavender is one of the world’s most versatile and widely used oils. It has antianxiety, antidepressant, and relaxant properties, making it a wonderful oil to use in your practice. With a deeply calming effect, it assists in stabilizing your energy and allows you to sit for longer, with greater focus.
Lavender is very versatile and blends with most oils, the best being with frankincense, cedarwood and vetiver.
Bergamot has a spicy and slightly sweet smell that reminds you of oranges. It has an underlying floral scent which has an emotionally uplifting effect and is great for helping alleviate depressive, sadness or grief. The oil has been found to assist in lowering cortisol levels as well as boosting confidence, fighting fatigue while promoting positivity and lifting a negative mood. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it useful in treating aching muscles and supporting sensitive joints.
The oil blends well with clary sage, jasmine and lavender.
Ylang Ylang is one of the most widely used essential oils for meditation as it’s an extremely calming and relaxing oil. It can help release feelings of anger and tension, and it’s beautiful, sweet fragrance can boost feelings of self-worth and optimism.
Mix with bergamot, sandalwood, jasmine and vetiver for a serene experience.
Like sage, clary sage has traditionally been used for its clarifying properties and ability to balance hormones. Clary sage is used to treat anxiety, fight depression and balance especially the female hormones, and the oil can invoke feelings of joy and encouragement.
The oil works well with jasmine, neroli and bergamot.
In the world of essential oils, helichrysum is a superstar. With active elements, it reduces muscle spasm and decreases swelling, protecting joints from lengthy sitting sessions. It helps to increase compassion, ease depression, fear, and panic.
Helichrysum is restorative, grounding, calming and mixes well lavender, frankincense and myrrh.
One of the oldest and most widely used plants in the world, chamomile is known for its calming and sedative qualities. It’s a great choice if you’re feeling anxious or restless, as it helps increase inner peace and harmony while decreasing overthinking and worry.
Roman chamomile blends well with bergamot, jasmine, lavender, rose, vetiver, and ylang-ylang.
Another resin-based oil, agarwood is a mystical oil that has been used by Buddhists and Monks to bring clarity while centring and calming the mind and spirit. When used in meditation agarwood helps to unlock the subconscious and balance the energy body. Use it on your spiritual journey to support enlightenment, clarity and grounding. Agarwood is relaxing and euphoric yet enhances mental clarity and purpose. It has an affinity for meditation, ceremony and intimacy.
This special oil blends well with sandalwood, rose, palo santo and ylang-ylang.
Also known as rockrose essential oil, cistus has a rich, warm and spicy aroma, with a history of being used in meditation. Comforting and calming it can be used to clear negative emotions and heal past traumas or comfort those experiencing a dramatic loss.
Use in your practice with frankincense, myrrh and sandalwood to centre and focus the mind.
Sweet and intoxicating, this oil is derived from the petals of the jasmine flower. It has a warm, romantic floral fragrance with natural sedative properties that can increase GABA activity in your brain and regulate the feelings of stress and anxiety. When used in meditation Jasmine offers a strong sense of awareness while helping you to be completely relaxed without feeling drowsy. Perfect for connection, awareness and the presence needed to stay focused during your session.
Mixed well with clary sage, bergamot and sandalwood.
How to use essential oils for meditation
You can use essential oils in a few different ways to enhance and support your meditation practice. The most popular is to apply topically or diffuse. Many people find a combination of methods works well for them so try experimenting with different techniques, then stick to the ones you like best.
1. Essential oil steam diffuser
Using an aromatherapy steam diffuser is an excellent way to utilise the essential oils to help you relax and focus. Add 5-10 drops (DIY recipe blends below) to your diffuser a few minutes before starting your practice, to deepen connection, and feel more centred and relaxed.
2. Candle diffuser
Similar to a steam diffuser, a candle diffuser can help to set the tone for a deeply relaxing meditative experience. It’s important to note that candle diffusers can run dry fairly quickly, so look for one that has a deep well for the water and make sure it is full before you start your practice.
3. Topical application
Apply your chosen oil that has been diluted in a carrier oil on your pulse points – wrists, temples, behind the ears or knees or the soles of your feet. Mix with a carrier oil and rub on joints, ankles or anywhere that feels tender or sore.
4. Essential oil spray/mist
Make an easy room spray or mist by mixing your chosen oil with water in a small spray bottle. Spray this blend in the room or even on your body.
DIY – essential oil blend recipes for your meditation practice
3 drops Sandalwood
3 drops Frankincense
3 drops Neroli
Find your bliss blend
3 drops Ylang Ylang
3 drops Frankincense
2 drops Patchouli
5 drops Lavender
3 drops Cedarwood
2 drops Bergamot
Balance for the better blend
10 drops Frankincense
10 drops Bergamot
20 drops Cedarwood
5 drops Rose
2 drops Jasmine
2 drops Roman Chamomile
10 drops Cedarwood
5 drops Lavender
5 drops Frankincense
Making essential oils part of your meditation practice is a quick, easy and effective way of reaping even more benefits from your time spent relaxing, focussing and energising. Use essential oils to help clear your mind, focus your energy, centre your thoughts and connect to the life around you.
Essential oil book suggestions:
Wilson, R. 2002. Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty. This book covers the extraction of Essential oils.
Lawless, J. 2013. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health and Well Being. San Francisco: Conari Press.