Driving can be very stressful and if you’re stuck in traffic, a pleasant trip might into a real test both for your nerves and your body. Is it possible to turn your time in your car into a therapeutic experience?
At the very least, essential oils can brighten up this time and minimize stress. They affect the mind as well as the body, reducing stress levels and improving mental alertness and concentration. So how does this work exactly?
How aromas affect our mood and efficiency
According to some experts, scents affect us according to our previous experience with them. In other words, a scent is firmly connected to our emotional experience the moment we first come into contact with it. This is due to the way we smell: our olfactory organs are directly connected with the emotional center in our brain. There are studies proving the subjective nature of a fragrance, which triggers a particular emotional response. The good news is that it has nothing to do with essential oils.
Essential oils are capable of eliciting a certain predictable emotional response without any previous experience of interaction. This feature is due to certain volatile bioactive substances that have specific physiological properties.
Being present in the inhaled air, they penetrate the bloodstream and not only provide some emotional reactions but also cause a physiological response. Of course, the reactions can be quite individual but they don’t go beyond certain limits. In other words, if an essential oil causes relaxation, the effect might vary only in its degree: at one point, you fall asleep, and at another, you gain calm confidence.
How to choose the right essential oils for your car
Of course, you can always choose your favorite scents. But not every fragrance is suitable for use in your car. You should avoid smells that cause excessive relaxation or drowsiness. For example, lavender might be calming and soothing but it can also be overly relaxing and promote drowsiness. It’s unlikely to be good for you as a driver. Clary sage, nard, fragonia, chamomile, frankincense, rose and jasmine have the same effect.
Some essential oils can cause excessive excitement and hyperactivity, and thus lead to the loss of caution and discretion while driving. Such is the case with eucalyptus: it purifies the air and masks unpleasant odors but it can also make you lose your temper by provoking aggression or anxiety. The right aroma can intensify attention, help you focus on driving, maintain control of the situation and anticipate potential dangers. And, of course, it will relieve irritability, fatigue, and anxiety.
The list of essential oils to use in your car
This fragrance excites and invigorates while relieving anxiety and frustration. A good choice if you have to spend a lot of time in traffic jams. Studies show that the aroma of lemon reduces errors in work by 54%. Thanks to lemon essential oil, you’ll gain vigor, calmness, and attentiveness.
2. Silver fir
This fragrance helps purify the air in your car and gives strength during long trips.
Peppermint essential oil boosts mental activity but it can also cause hyperactivity in children present in the car. So you need to limit the area of its spreading in the air: this aroma is for the driver, not the passengers. The easiest way is to put a few drops on a handkerchief and breathe through it.
This oil boosts your energy, reduces fatigue, and allows you to quickly cope with stress.
This one’s effect is similar to that of lemon but it’s also able to get rid of headaches and fatigue. Want to get rid of the numbness of a long stay in the car? Grapefruit essential oil may be just the thing for you.
This essential oil will keep you awake and aware and help you improve your reactions, especially mental ones. Just like peppermint, rosemary is recommended to be used locally, without spraying it all over the car interior. It’s enough to put a couple of drops on the collar of your shirt or even on the breast pocket. It’s worth remembering that rosemary isn’t a good choice if you suffer from hypertension.
Invigorating and mood-enhancing, citronella is a milder alternative to peppermint. It will keep you concentrated and alert without making you overexcited. In addition, the aroma of citronella will help you get rid of the mustiness in the car interior, masking the smell of sweat.
8. Litsea Cubeba
This very cheerful fragrance is great for boosting your mood and giving you strength. According to some studies, Litsea cubeba fragrance helps improve vision, which can be especially important when driving long hours at dusk or night.
Good for stimulating mental alertness, relieving fatigue, calming, and focusing. Want to cope with a stressful situation? Basil essential oil will be your most effective weapon.
Do you or your passengers get motion sickness while driving? Ginger can come to the rescue: this scent is good for dealing with nausea, motion sickness, and impaired attention. Just keep in mind that the scent of ginger oil is an acquired taste and it’s better to combine it with any citrus essential oil.
How to use essential oils in your car
- Aroma stone. Applying a few drops of essential oil on a special aroma stone is the quickest and easiest way to fragrance a car interior. Applied on an aroma stone, the halo of aroma is usually limited to the personal space of a driver and doesn’t spread around the car. This method is convenient if there are passengers in your car who might not like the fragrances you use.
- Fabric scenting. The easiest way to use a fragrance in the car is to simply place a piece of cloth (a handkerchief, for example) with a couple of essential oil drops on it, on the dashboard. The heat of the engine will speed up the process of spreading the aroma through the car’s interior. As an alternative option, place a scented piece of cloth over the air vent.
- Felt scenting. You can use felt fresheners: dense, stiff, and thick felt holds scents well. Place a piece of scented felt in your car and enjoy the benefits of the fragrance of your choice. NB: Don’t hang air fresheners on the rearview mirror, it can be a security threat.
- Fragrance spray. If you are in for a long drive, use a spray bottle filled with scented water. Every time you feel the need, spray the car. To make the solution, you’ll need 50 ml of water, 2-3 g of polysorbate 80, and one or more essential oils. Add 10 drops of oil to the polysorbate, and then add water and mix properly. Shake the bottle thoroughly before each spraying.
- Aroma pendant. If you don’t have confidence that your aromatherapy practices will appeal to your passengers, use a special aromatherapy pendant. Add 3-4 drops of essential oil to the pendant and hang it around your neck. The same is a good option if there are children or pregnant women among your passengers.
- Gel diffuser. You can buy a specialized diffuser for cars but what if you want to use natural essential oils? You can make an air freshener for your car with your own hands! For this, you’ll need a jar with a lid, regular food gelatin, glycerin, and essential oils to your liking. Dissolve gelatin according to package directions, wait for it to cool down to room temperature, then add the glycerin and essential oils. Stir thoroughly and pour into a jar. Leave in a cool place for a few hours to cure. Recommended proportions: a tablespoon of glycerin and 30 drops of essential oils (or blends) per 100 ml of gelatin water.
This gel fragrance holds both the fragrance and its shape well. It doesn’t drip. When you don’t need it, you can simply close the jar with the lid.
Less is more
Remember that essential oils are very concentrated substances. They have enormous healing potential but excessive amounts can have negative consequences. There just isn’t enough air in a car, and the ventilation system doesn’t provide enough oxygen. So don’t go overboard: a couple of drops of essential oil is perfectly enough. Excess may cause headaches, migraine, nausea, and even vomiting.
And one final thing: the essential oils you use must be natural and of good quality. Not only the aroma itself is important but also the chemical composition of the essential oil, which only good raw material and a proven manufacturer can guarantee.