14 Calming Scents to Help You Unwind

calming scents help unwind

We could all use a little more calm in our lives right now, and aromatherapy can be a great way to relax–especially when coupled with other de-stressing techniques. Whether you’re a newcomer to aromatherapy or an expert looking to expand your fragrance collection, we’ve compiled a list of the 14 best calming scents below. Then, we delve into aromatherapy techniques that you can use to destress, including running a diffuser and lighting candles.

Calming Scents to Help You Relax

Whenever we need to relax, we turn to these 14 calming scents to help us unwind and destress.

Rosemary

You’ve probably cooked with rosemary before, but you should also consider including this fragrance as part of your aromatherapy routine. Rosemary has both energizing and relaxing effects, so if you need to improve your concentration and reduce stress while working on a major project, you should definitely try it out.

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most popular scents for relaxing and falling asleep, and with good reason. This fragrance oil has many calming properties, and it can help release tension, soothe racing thoughts and help you unwind. Whether you’re stressed from work or just want to supercharge a relaxing evening, lavender will help you calm down and unwind in no time.

lavender aromatherapy release tension graphic

Jasmine

This sweet, rich floral scent is known for its calming properties. If you’re tired and stressed, this fragrance oil will help soothe your tension and promote relaxation. Jasmine is not only available as an oil but can also be found in many candles, perfumes, soaps and even alcohol and desserts.

Vanilla

This sweet, mild scent doesn’t get enough credit for its calming properties. While many people dismiss vanilla as a pedestrian fragrance, it’s a fantastic base scent that will also help you relax—not to mention it makes your whole house smell like baked goods, minus the hassle and mess of getting in the kitchen. We call that a win-win.

Sea Breeze

If you prefer a fresh scent that transports you outside, sea breeze is an excellent choice that will also help you calm down after a stressful day. After all, we can’t think of anything more relaxing than sitting next to the ocean with a tropical drink in our hand. As an added bonus, you won’t have to clean sand out of every crevice at the end of the day.

Clary Sage

Clary sage is the more colorful, flowering cousin of the common cooking herb often found in grocery stores. While it does have a similar fragrance profile to regular sage, clary sage is a bit softer and sweeter and doesn’t hit your nose quite as hard. If you’re looking for a savory herbal scent to help you relax, try experimenting with clary sage.

ylang ylang flower and aroma oil

Ylang Ylang

While you might not be familiar with the name of this plant, you’ve probably smelled it before. It’s a fairly common ingredient in candles, perfumes, lotions and soaps. Ylang ylang has a heavy, sweet smell, sometimes with notes of fruits and rubber. Ylang ylang can help calm you down after a stressful day and soothe negative moods.

Lemon

While citrus is more well-known for increasing alertness and energy, it can also help you calm down after a hard day. Lemon has also been paired with other scents on this list to add a note of brightness and alleviate some fragrances that may be too rich or sweet on their own. If you’re skeptical of using lemon to relax, all we can say is don’t knock it until you try it.

lemon note of brightness graphic

Cinnamon

While this spicy fragrance is a staple of winter holiday fragrances, we think it should be used year round due to its many beneficial properties. Cinnamon’s effect is warming and invigorating, yet calming. Pair it with vanilla to make your house smell like sweet cookies, or use it to add a scent of spice to some of the other options on this list.

Sweet Marjoram

Not to be confused with margarine, this woody, spicy fragrance smells like a less pungent version of oregano. While better known as a cooking spice, in oil form, marjoram has calming properties that will help you to relax. Sweet marjoram creates a warm, woody scent that is soothing but not overpowering for gentle herbal aromatherapy

Peppermint

If you’re looking for an invigorating yet calming scent, but don’t want a citrus fragrance, then peppermint is a good alternative. The minty nature of this refreshing scent will gently invigorate you while soothing away tension. If you’ve never explored peppermint beyond the occasional cup of peppermint tea, you’re really missing out.

Rose and Geranium

While these two flowers look very different, they have similar scent profiles, which is why we’re listing them together. Unlike other floral scents, which can be heavy and cloying, rose and geranium have a sweet, refreshing scent that’s very distinct from other florals. They can help reduce stress and anxiety, helping you to relax and calm down.

blades of vetiver in basket

Vetiver

Grassy scents are also good for relaxing, and one of our favorite scents in this family is vetiver. Vetiver smells dry, earthy, woody, leathery and smoky, which is why it’s often used in candles that have a heavier, musky scent. The smell of vetiver will transport you to lying on the lawn during a warm summer day—and what’s not relaxing about that?

Sweet Basil

Basil isn’t just good for making pesto. In oil form, sweet basil can also help you relax and destress. If you find regular basil too aromatic for your tastes, seek out the sweet basil version, which has a bit of a lighter scent. Basil goes especially well with lemon for a clarifying yet relaxing combo fragrance.

How to Use Calming Scents to Relax

If you’re new to aromatherapy, you may be wondering how to incorporate it into your daily routine. Try these eight ideas to use calming scents to help you relax.

Diffuse the fragrance.

There are many different methods of diffusing essential oils into the air. These devices use heat or sonic waves to atomize the fragrance models and disperse them into the air. We especially love ultrasonic diffusers because the sonic waves don’t cause the fragrance to degrade, which can sometimes happen when you use heat instead. Electric diffusers provide a strong fragrance, but they do need to be plugged into an outlet and can’t be left to run continuously. Reed diffusers absorb the fragrance oil into the reeds and passively release it into the air, providing 24/7 fragrance. They can be placed anywhere in the home since they don’t require power, but their scent tends to not be as strong as electric diffusers.

Spray it around.

Room sprays are another low effort way to use aromatherapy around your home. Room sprays mix fragrance oils with either carrier oils or water to dilute them and then disperse the droplets into the air. Because no heat is involved, the scent from room sprays tends to be less strong than some of the other methods listed here. However, room sprays are very affordable and they do get to work fast, so they’re a good way to quickly make a room smell nice. You also don’t have to worry about room sprays overheating or getting tipped over, so they can be good for houses with small kids and rambunctious pets.

spray fragrance onto pillow

Light a candle.

Not only do candles provide pleasing, relaxing scents, they also create atmospheric lighting that can’t be matched by electricity. If you need to relax in a hurry, dim the lights, light some candles and enjoy the cozy atmosphere you’ve just created. To prolong the life of your candle, make sure to place the candles in a stable area away from drafts, pets and children. Candles shouldn’t be burned for more than four hours at a time to keep the wax from overheating. As with anything involving an open flame, you should always follow proper safety precautions and never let it burn unattended.

Inhale it directly.

For the most potent smell, you can inhale the fragrance directly. Some people like to rub a couple of drops of fragrance oils on their hands and then bring their palms up to their face and breathe the aroma in. Others apply a few drops to a terracotta disk that they wear around their neck for a gentle aroma all day. People who suffer from colds, allergies and other sicknesses that stop up their sinuses enjoy steam inhalation. They add the fragrance oil to a bowl of steaming water and then lean over, close their eyes and inhale. If you’re experimenting with inhaling a fragrance directly for the first time, use only a few drops and don’t breathe too deeply so you don’t accidentally overpower yourself.

try these scents to relax graphic

Put some on your pillow.

If you’re using aromatherapy to help you fall and stay asleep, adding a few drops to your pillow before climbing into bed can help you drift off more easily. Make sure to use a pillow case that you don’t mind getting stained, and use a pillow protector or other barrier to protect the pillow itself from the oils. Many people like to do this with lavender fragrance oils before going to sleep, but you can also experiment with many other scents on this list. This method is an especially good choice if you want the benefits of aromatherapy during the night but you don’t want to leave a diffuser plugged in while you’re asleep.

Add it to your bath.

Taking a hot bath or shower is already calming, and adding some fragrance oils will take the experience up to 11 on the relaxation scale. You can add the fragrance oil to the hot water itself, or you can use scented products such as bath bombs and body wash that smell like the fragrances on this list. Make sure to choose high quality products with natural scents for the most effective aromatherapy. For a little aromatherapy throughout the day, you can also get scented hand soaps so you get a nice fragrance every time you wash your hands.

drawn bath and accessories

Apply it to your skin.

Adding a few pumps of scented lotion or massage oil will enhance the experience and allow you to get the benefits of aromatherapy. Before you apply the scent all over your body, you should do a patch test on your skin. Apply a small amount to the inside of your wrist or elbow, cover it with a Band-aid and observe it for 24 hours. If you don’t have any signs of a reaction, then you can proceed with slathering yourself with as much as you want.

Create a compress.

If you’re suffering from a headache, adding a few drops of fragrance oil to a compress made of a washcloth or towel can help soothe your stress and pain. The aroma will be strongest if you add it to a hot compress, but you can add to a cold one as well. You can also make your own reusable hot/cold pack by putting dried rice in a sock or other fabric bag. Mix some fragrance oils or dried plants with the rice so that you get a nice whiff of fragrance every time you use it. You can also buy hot/cold packs and wraps that are already scented with lavender, chamomile and other calming scents.

Calming scents can help you relax and unwind after a long day. Look out for these 14 scents as you shop for scented candles, reed diffusers and other aromatherapy products.