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For centuries, warriors around the world have used aromatherapy for courage and strength in battle. Soldiers from Greek and Aztec civilizations anointed themselves with oil before marching into the fray—and it seems that the ancients were on to something . . .
Modern research shows that scents really can give you a boost. Whether you’re facing fierce competitors in a 5k or recovering in post-race bubble bath, here’s how to sniff your way to victory.
Smell this to run faster.
In a study conducted by Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, researchers found that inhaling the candy cane aroma enabled participants to run faster, perform more pushups and increase grip strength. Treat yourself to The Body Shop Peppermint Cooling Leg Gel ($14, thebodyshop.com) for a pre-race boost, or ght chapped lips with Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm ($3, ulta.com), which invigorates with a minty tingle.
“Precision, focus, drive and alertness will ultimately result in speed,” says Jennifer Hochell Pressimone, a certified holistic aromatherapist. She recommends using rosemary to get your head in the game. Refresh muscles with Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Rosemary Leg & Arm Toner ($35, drhauschka.com). Or combine aroma-forces (and do your running buddies a solid) by swiping on Earth Science Rosemary Mint Deodorant ($7, earthsciencenaturals.com).
Smell this to soothe muscles.
“Essential oils can help reduce muscle fatigue, tightness and discomfort,” says Hochell Presimmone, who recommends this anti-in ammatory root. Research from the University of Georgia found that athletes who were given ginger experienced up to 25 percent less soreness than the control group. Slather on Pangea Organics Malagasy Ginger with Lemongrass Body Oil ($24, pangeaorganics.com) and let the healing begin.
Often used as an organic remedy for tooth pain, clove oil has a numbing effect thanks to a naturally occurring compound called eugenol. If its spicy smell reminds you of freshly baked pumpkin pie, all the better. Hochell Presimmone explains, “Scents can promote happy feelings, thus releasing endorphins which also counteract pain.” Try Trillium Organics Ogbody Body Polish Warming Cinnamon Clove ($20, trilliumorganics.com) to relieve aches while sloughing dry skin.
Smell this to recover post-race.
The purple ower may help you breathe the aches away. A study published in Journal of Advanced Nursing discovered that women who bathed in lavender oil reported lower levels of pain post-childbirth. “Soaking in a bath with Epsom salts can decongest lactic acid build-up,” says Hochell Pressimone. Drizzle L’Occitanne Lavender Foaming Bath ($10, loccitane.com) into warm water to relax the night following a tough workout or race.
Often used to improve circulation, geranium helps balance the body post-exercise, according to Hochell Pressimone. Studies have found that the pungent oil reduces aches in patients suffering from a cold. Cleanse and heal from head to toe with Malin + Goetz Geranium Body Wash ($18, malinandgoetz.com) and Avalon Organics Grapefruit & Geranium Conditioner ($10, drugstore.com).
Smell this to sleep better.
Not just for your teacup, the petals of this daisy-like ower will lull you into a peaceful slumber. Use Jurlique Chamomile Soothing Mist ($31, jurlique.com) to calm the mind and comfort stressed skin. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found chamomile to ease anxiety, while other studies have linked the bloom to insomnia relief.
This gorgeous Mediterranean blossom is “calming, and promotes feelings of safety and security, especially at night,” Hochell Pressimone says. Dissolve Bath Bubble and Beyond Orange & Petitgrain Bath Chunks ($15, ebay.com) into a warm bath and enjoy a luxurious bedtime ritual. Soy-based Le Labo Hand Poured Petitgrain 21 Candle ($60, cobigelow.com) burns for about 50 hours and will turn your room into a fragrant garden. Just don’t forget to blow it out before you hit the hay! ■