As the days get shorter and the sun becomes less intense, my overall mood seems to diminish. One way I combat the winter blues is through aromatherapy, which uses essential oils from plants to maintain and restore health.
I love the fresh, clean aroma of citrus oils and find that even a quick spritz of a citrus spray can improve my mood and refocus my attention. An added bonus is that the citrus oils can be used for green cleaning too.
Smell is one of our strongest senses. When we breathe in an aroma, scent molecules travel through the nose to the olfactory membrane. The receptors there recognize scent molecules and send messages to the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system holds involuntary emotional responses, and we assign emotions to the aromas we breathe in.
That is why when I smell citrus, I am reminded of words like clean, uplifting and fresh, and I am transported back to summer days sipping lemonade by the lake.
One of my favorite citrus blends includes the essential oils of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) and lemon (Citrus limon). I make the following citrus spray for a mood enhancer.
Citrus spray: Take a four-ounce spray bottle and fill it with 3.5 ounces of water. Add 12 drops of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), 12 drops of grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) and 12 drops of lemon (Citrus limon) essential oils. When ready to use the spray, shake the bottle and spritz into the air.
Although the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing clinics in Minneapolis and Fridley sell essential oils, they do not carry these particular ones. You can order citrus oils online from Plant Extracts International, which supplies Allina Health with essential oils.
But wait … it gets even better. The citrus oils not only have wonderful aromas that remind us of summer days, they also have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Essential oils are made up of many chemical components. In citrus oils, the main chemical component is d-limonene, which research has shown has disinfectant properties.
During winter months with bacteria and viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces, I use the citrus spray on my countertops and door knobs to fight germs.
When using citrus oils, it is important to note some safety concerns:
- Citrus oils should not be applied directly to the skin as they can be irritating.
- If applying to skin, citrus oils should be mixed in a carrier oil (like jojoba or grape seed) or unscented lotion at a 1 percent dilution, or 5-6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of oil or lotion.
- Most citrus oils are phototoxic, which means that if the oils are used on the skin and the skin is exposed to sunlight, the ultraviolet rays of the sun are enhanced and sunburn may occur. To be safe, cover up any exposed skin for 24 hours after applying citrus oils when going outside.
- It is best to use organic or unsprayed citrus oils because they are made from the rind of the fruit. Pesticides have been found in citrus essential oils that are not grown organically.
So, if you are feeling like the winter blues are setting in, try mixing up some citrus spray to improve your mood, and wipe down a few countertops while you are at it.
Julie Streeter, RN, NCTMB, is a Certified Aromatherapist and a learning and development specialist for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. The Penny George Institute sells essential oils for aromatherapy at its outpatient clinics at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Unity Hospital. The Penny George Institute also offers aromatherapy classes and services.