Sensual essentials

Emily Thiessen (graphic)

Emily Thiessen (graphic)

Smell is the sense most intimately connected with both memory and emotion. Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to learn how to use scent to create a sensual environment, but essential oils can be used any time to help you bond with your partner or create a healthier and happier you.

Many essential oils have aphrodisiac properties and the power of scent as an aphrodisiac goes back thousands of years to ancient Egypt. Aphrodisiacs come in a variety of forms including visual, olfactory, tactile, and aural cues which stimulate sexual desire. However, aphrodisiacs don’t come with any guarantees. For example, eating a plate of raw oysters will not provide you with an overpowering sexual urge, or make you irresistible to others. Rather, they work in different ways to help prepare you—physically, mentally and emotionally—for sex.

Scent is incredibly powerful, mainly because the human olfactory system is a gateway to parts of the brain associated with memory and adaptive learning. Human olfactory organs are located behind the bridge of the nose on either side of the nasal septum. Nerves from these organs extend to the inside of the nose where they are able to detect scent molecules.

There are reportedly anywhere from five to 20 million receptors found on these tiny organs whose combined area adds up to less than 5 centimetres squared, making the human nose even more sensitive than a gas chromatograph for detecting scent.

The olfactory system has direct connections to the limbic system and hypothalamus. Both of these areas of the brain (located in the cerebrum and diencephalon) are responsible for unconscious regulation of visceral functions, emotion, memory, and behavioural drives, as well as neural and endocrine functions. Because of this, smell is known to trigger a variety of different responses, including ones that affect sexual behaviour.

The way an aphrodisiac works to ‘put you in the mood’ is by helping you feel just right in order to be intimate with someone. Essential oils with aphrodisiac properties are those that promote attraction, relaxation, excitation, well-being, self-confidence, vibrancy, and harmony.

Not all essential oils are used for regulating sex hormones; most are used to improve health and happiness, which inevitably leads to a better sex life.  Some essential oil aphrodisiacs include jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, and patchouli. It is thought that these types of ‘heavier’ scents are more suited to the bedroom because their odor is on a level closer to that of natural human body scent.

Additionally, essential oils are known to contain a variety of chemical compounds, the most common of which are terpenes, terpene-related compounds and phenylpropane derivatives.  As it turns out, terpenes are found in many kinds of chemical messengers, including sex attractants.

There are many ways to use essential oils, but if your goal is to move things into the bedroom, massage is an excellent option.  Massage is ancient and dates back to the beginnings of aromatherapy when it was the most common way to administer essential oils.  A cursory search reveals a plethora of scholarly articles about the importance of touch on many aspects of life including birth and child development, caregiving, stress and anxiety relief, pain management, communication, and self-esteem.

It may be even more helpful to talk about the effects of a lack of touch as this can lead to a variety of issues ranging from reduced immunity and physical growth, to emotional problems including a disinterest in sex. Touch is an important form of communication and has many positive physical effects on the body, including increased blood circulation, stimulated nerves and muscles, and balanced nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems.

Try incorporating massage into your weekly routine and creating your own massage oils. Jojoba is a good option for a base oil because it is actually a liquid wax and does not go rancid like other vegetable oils (although the alternatives are fine too as long as they are used up quickly). Some examples of common vegetable oils are avocado, almond, and apricot kernel (be aware of any nut sensitivities when choosing your base).

You can use just one essential oil or a combination of your favourites, but use no more than 15 drops per 30 millilitres of carrier or it will be too harsh for the skin. Other possibilities for creating a sensual atmosphere in the bedroom are room/linen sprays, steam bowls, diffusers, and scented lingerie or other clothing. For a room/linen spray, put a few drops of essential oil with some water in a small spray bottle (it is a good idea to do a patch test first if concerned about bedding fabric, etc).

Candle diffusers can be purchased, but a few drops of essential oil in a bowl of hot water will do the trick as well. Lingerie can be scented using your room/linen spray or you can scent an entire drawer full of clothing using essential oils on a tissue inside of a plastic baggie (make sure to poke a few small holes in the bag to release the scent).

Although some aphrodisiac oils have been listed above, this is all about what makes you feel good. If a certain smell makes you feel relaxed, happy, and sexy, or is associated with good memories, then use it!

Whatever you choose to do with your oils, do it safely. Essential oils are highly concentrated and should always be diluted with a carrier before being applied to the skin. While they are great for massage, they should not be used on sensitive body parts—you know the ones I’m talking about. As with anything else, it is important to do your research as many essential oils have contraindications for pregnancy, medications (prescription, over-the-counter and homeopathic), and certain health conditions.

Essential oils also fall into the category of ‘you get what you pay for.’ Certain extracts like rose and jasmine are inherently expensive because of the amount of raw material required to produce a small amount of oil. Oils can also be adulterated or created by chemical facsimile, indicating that they may have little to no therapeutic value.

Always research retailers and compare prices—if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Any questions or concerns about the use of essential oils, in any situation, should be directed to a qualified medical professional or registered/certified aromatherapist.

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