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Scent Guide: Six Best Candle Fragrances for Relaxation

The ability to transform your home into a sanctuary is the beauty of a well-chosen candle fragrance. The therapeutic power of scent, as documented by aromatherapy practices, can influence our mood, stimulate memories, and even promote relaxation. Here, we delve into the science and contexts behind six of the most soothing candle fragrances and combinations to help you unwind.

relaxing reading and picnic

Lavender

Lavender is undeniably a frontrunner in the world of calming scents. Known for its sweet floral notes with a hint of herbaceous charm, lavender has been traditionally associated with tranquility and relaxation. But it's not just folklore that makes this purple flower a champion of peace; science supports this claim too. According to a study conducted and published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, inhalation of lavender oil resulted in significant decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature - all physiological markers of relaxation. The compound primarily responsible for this effect is linalool, which interacts with the neurotransmitter system to exert its calming effects.


Occasion: Lavender is particularly effective when used in a pre-sleep routine. As sleep is a crucial component of overall wellbeing, incorporating lavender into your bedtime regimen can greatly enhance the quality of your rest. Consider burning a lavender-scented candle in your bedroom about 30 minutes before you plan to sleep. This will fill the space with a soothing scent, creating a tranquil atmosphere that encourages a deep, restful slumber.


Vanilla

The scent of vanilla is another standout in the realm of relaxation-promoting fragrances. More than just a favorite ice cream flavor, vanilla's sweet, warm aroma is deeply comforting and creates a soothing ambiance that eases tension and anxiety. A study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology demonstrated that vanilla oil exerted anxiety-reducing effects similar to diazepam, a commonly used pharmaceutical sedative. The familiar and comforting scent of vanilla has a profound effect on the limbic system, the brain region responsible for emotions, which ultimately promotes relaxation and wellbeing.


Occasion: Vanilla is ideal for those cozy evenings spent at home, particularly during the colder seasons. The warm, creamy scent of a vanilla-scented candle can fill your living room, transforming it into a comforting haven. It pairs beautifully with a hot drink and a good book, creating an environment that invites you to unwind completely.


Jasmine

Jasmine, with its intoxicating, exotic floral aroma, is not just a sensory delight but also a potent stress-reliever. Researchers at the Ruhr University in Germany found that the scent of jasmine significantly increased GABA activity in the brain, an effect similar to the impact of some sedatives and sleep medications. This GABA increase results in calming nerves, promoting sleep, and easing anxiety, making jasmine a powerful scent for relaxation.


Occasion: Jasmine is particularly excellent for a restorative bath after a long, stressful day. By lighting a jasmine-scented candle in your bathroom, you can transform a simple evening soak into a spa-like experience. The sensual, calming scent of jasmine will infuse your bath time, helping you wash away the worries of the day and immerse yourself in a tranquil state.

jasmine bush

Sandalwood

Sandalwood, with its distinctive, woodsy, and rich aroma, has been celebrated in meditation and healing rituals across various cultures for centuries. Its scent, at once earthy and somewhat sweet, promotes a sense of grounding and tranquility. According to a study published in the journal Planta Medica, alpha-santalol, a compound found in sandalwood, has been found to decrease anxiety levels and improve sleep quality.


Occasion: Sandalwood is an ideal fragrance for mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation. The grounding scent of a sandalwood candle can bring a sense of balance and harmony to your space, facilitating a deeper connection to the present moment and your spiritual practice.


Citrus Blend (Lemon and Bergamot)

Citrus scents like lemon and bergamot offer an intriguing combination of stimulation and relaxation. The bright, zesty notes of citrus are invigorating, yet these scents also have calming properties. A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology demonstrated that bergamot essential oil can significantly reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase positive feelings. Similarly, lemon oil has been found to have mood-enhancing properties in a study published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, further solidifying citrus blends as an excellent choice for relaxation.


Occasion: A citrus blend candle is perfect for a relaxed but vibrant weekend brunch. The invigorating, sunny fragrance will keep the atmosphere lively and bright, while its underlying calming properties infuse a sense of relaxed joy into your gathering.

sliced lemons on sheets

Rose and Frankincense Combination

The floral elegance of rose blended with the earthy, resinous undertones of frankincense creates an invigorating yet soothing aroma. The scent of rose oil is known to have antidepressant and anxiety-reducing effects, as per a study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Frankincense, on the other hand, has been revered since ancient times for its calming properties, which have been corroborated by research in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.


Occasion: This rose and frankincense combination is particularly ideal for quiet evenings dedicated to self-care. The scent of a rose and frankincense candle can elevate your skincare routine or personal reflection time into a luxurious, restorative ritual. Its soothing aroma can promote feelings of self-love and inner peace, making every self-care session a truly therapeutic experience.


Understanding What Makes Candles Relaxing

The science behind the relaxing effects of candles involves various elements of psychology, neuroscience, and aromatherapy. The ambience created by a candle's flickering light alone can induce calmness, mimicking the warmth and comfort of a hearth, and invoking a sense of safety and wellbeing that dates back to our early ancestors. This soothing visual affects our psychological state, creating a sense of peace and tranquility.


However, when we add the dimension of scent, the impact is intensified significantly. Fragrances have a unique pathway in our nervous system: the olfactory nerve. When we inhale a scent, the olfactory nerve sends signals directly to our brain's limbic system, which is responsible for emotions, memories, and certain regulatory functions. This means that smells can have a powerful, immediate effect on our mood and stress levels.


The efficacy of various essential oils used in candles for promoting relaxation is supported by scientific research. For example, lavender oil's calming effects are attributed to linalool, a compound that interacts with the neurotransmitter system to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Studies show that vanilla oil demonstrates similar effects, acting on the limbic system to reduce anxiety and boost mood. The scent of jasmine increases GABA activity in the brain, an effect that echoes some common sedatives and sleep medications. Furthermore, sandalwood's grounding aroma, largely due to the compound alpha-santalol, has been found to decrease anxiety levels and improve sleep quality.


In citrus blends, the bright, zesty notes of lemon and bergamot oils are found to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase positive feelings, adding a stimulating yet calming character to the fragrance. Additionally, the combination of floral rose and earthy frankincense oils elicits antidepressant and anxiety-reducing effects, promoting a sense of peace and tranquility.


Moreover, the ritualistic aspect of lighting a candle adds another layer of relaxation. The routine of lighting a candle before a bath, before sleep, or during meditation can act as a signal to your brain that it's time to relax, helping to establish a calming routine.


In summary, the science behind the calming effects of candles is multifaceted and compelling, spanning the sensory spectrum from visual to olfactory stimuli, and underscored by behavioral routines that together create an experience of relaxation and tranquility.


Choosing the right fragrance can turn your home into a haven of relaxation. These scents and combinations not only smell delightful but, as backed by science, also encourage a peaceful and stress-free environment. Remember, the most significant factor in your candle selection should be personal preference. Always opt for a scent that you genuinely love and associate with relaxation. In doing so, you will enhance your relaxation experience significantly.

 

Sources

Chien, L. W., Cheng, S. L., & Liu, C. F. (2012). The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/740813


Dhakad, A. K., Pandey, V. V., Beg, S., Rawat, J. M., & Singh, A. (2018). Biological, medicinal and toxicological significance of Eucalyptus leaf essential oil: a review. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 98(3), 833–848. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.8600


Lehrner, J., Marwinski, G., Lehr, S., Johren, P., & Deecke, L. (2005). Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. Physiology & Behavior, 86(1–2), 92–95. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2005.06.031


Hongratanaworakit, T. (2010). Stimulating effect of aromatherapy massage with jasmine oil. Natural product communications, 5(1), 157-162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20184043


Seol, G. H., Lee, Y. H., Kang, P., You, J. H., Park, M., & Min, S. S. (2010). Randomized Controlled Trial for Salvia sclarea or Lavandula angustifolia: Differential Effects on Blood Pressure in Female Patients with Urinary Incontinence Undergoing Urodynamic Examination. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(7), 709–714. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0274


Karadag, E., Samancioglu, S., Ozden, D., & Bakir, E. (2017). Effects of aromatherapy on sleep quality and anxiety of patients. Nursing in Critical Care, 22(2), 105–112. https://doi.org/10.1111/nicc.12198


Han, X., Gibson, J., Eggett, D. L., & Parker, T. L. (2017). Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil Inhalation Improves Positive Feelings in the Waiting Room of a Mental Health Treatment Center: A Pilot Study. Phytotherapy Research, 31(5), 812–816. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5806


Hongratanaworakit T. (2004). Relaxing effect of rose oil on humans. Natural product communications, 5(2), 291–296. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19962296/


Suhartono, E. (2019). Aromatherapy for Sleep Quality. Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal, 12(2). https://biomedpharmajournal.org/vol12no2/aromatherapy-for-sleep-quality/