Essential oils, the life force of plants, have aromas that are so transformative that they can draw you in, arousing your emotional and mental states. Aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils for healing, is thought to work by communicating with the amygdala and hippocampus, the parts of the brain that serve as “storehouses for emotions and memories,” according to the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide of the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Ultimately, the essential oils you choose for your home are personal. Aromatherapist John Steele, founder of Lifetree Aromatix, explains that some oils are indeed better suited for different environments, but the reason why you choose them is completely subjective: because you love the fragrance; to enhance the activity you’re engaged in; or to help purify your space.

That said, here are helpful suggestions for choosing complementary essential oils for different rooms in your home:

7 Ways to Purify Your Home

1. Essential Oils in the Kitchen

The room that fosters nourishment already abounds with the scents of food, but when cooking isn’t taking place, many people gravitate to something fresh, bright and clean, such as lime or other citrus, says Steele. Paula Ferraro, founder of Scents of Awe, a company that makes hand-formulated personal and home-care products using wild, organic essential oils, recommends blood orange and bergamot citrus oils as well as cleansing scents, such as may chang, lavender and fir.

Clinical aromatherapy expert Dorene Petersen, founder and president of the American College of Healthcare Sciences in New Zealand, prefers sweet fennel, which has a sweet, peppery and fresh aroma, reminiscent of licorice or anise. “While it might be a less obvious choice for the kitchen than something like lemon or cinnamon essential oil, I like diffusing fennel because it piques my senses but doesn’t trigger a food craving,” she says, adding that fennel also has traditionally been used as a support for healthy appetite and digestion.

2. Setting the Living Room Mood

The central point of the home warrants an uplifting scent. “In the living room, I like to use citrus oils to enliven and refresh the space,” Peterson says. “Grapefruit is a good example. The characteristic aroma is fresh yet tangy, which can create a pleasant, mood-boosting atmosphere. Also, citrus oils like grapefruit have antibacterial properties, which can help cleanse and purify the air in high-traffic areas of the house.” Steele adds that if you want to invite nature into your living room, try scents like juniper or fir.

3. Scent-ualizing the Bedroom

Because the bedroom is typically reserved for sleep and intimacy, “you want it to be calm, warm and nurturing,” says Steele, who suggests lavender to combat stress and promote relaxation. Studies have shown that lavender helps reduce anxiety and insomnia, possibly by stimulating the amygdala in the brain, like how some sedative drugs work. “You also want it to be an invitation to some degree of sensuality,” adds Steele, whose favorite sensual scent is jasmine, but also suggests rose is a good option because it helps people express their true emotions. (If you want to mute a rose scent so its sensuality is not quite so blatant, try blending a bit of sandalwood with it, he advises.)

Petersen recommends diffusing clary sage essential oil before going to bed. “Clary is from the Latin sclarea, from clarus, meaning ‘clear.’ In addition to its warming, sweet aroma, clary sage fosters a cozy, relaxing environment, perfect before bed,” she says.

4. What’s Right in the Bathroom

“Essential oils can serve a functional purpose,” Steele says, as many possess antimicrobial properties that counter bacterial, viral and fungal situations, making them excellent additions to areas like the bathroom. Plants have long been used in hospitals across the globe to provide cleanliness and calming. Petersen favors lime, especially because it has a disinfectant-like aroma. “A cleansing and refreshing citrus oil, lime has the active constituent limonene, which has antiseptic and bactericidal properties,” she explains.

A bathroom can also be a place to unwind. Whether you’re getting ready for work or decompressing in the bath after a long day, you want to be stress-free. For a bright and clean smell, Steele recommends a scent from China called litsea cubeba, which emits a lemony aroma. Or you can try vanilla, a warm, soft scent that studies have shown to be a buffer against stress. For men, Steele suggests cedar and bay, which emit earthy, spicy notes.

5. A Productive Home Office

The home office is where you want to be focused and concentrated, with increased mental acuity and memory, says Steele. He recommends lemon, which has been shown in studies to reduce computer errors by 50%. “Citruses in general inspire creative play. My favorite citruses for creativity are blood orange and mandarin,” says Steele, who adds that floral scents are also known to be conducive for creative thought. If you prefer something woodsy, Petersen recommends bay, which has a sweet and slightly spicy aroma that can be very uplifting and invigorating—also good for focus. In addition, she suggests coriander, which helps stimulate and awaken your senses but won’t distract.

6. A Contemplation and Meditation Room

“In a place of retreat, you want to get away from the scattered, ever-changing nature of the outside world. You want something that’s calming, grounding, centering and slows breathing,” says Steele, who suggests frankincense for its capacity to clarify and calm the mind, and even connect one to the divine. “It slows down breathing and has the capacity to clear the psychic windshield.” He also recommends sandalwood, which has been used since ancient times for its grounding and centering effects.

7. Palate Cleansing the Dining Room

The dining room is where you want to whet your appetite, but Steele cautions that any scent in the dining room “should be suggestive rather than overpowering because you don’t want to overpower the actual smells of the food.” Instead, the aromas should help stimulate the digestive apparatus, like tarragon. Peterson prefers nutmeg because its warming aroma can help stimulate the appetite. “This is an especially good oil to diffuse in the dining room before a dinner party or a holiday meal, when you want to create a warm and inviting atmosphere,” she says.

Looking for more ways to find peace and ease in your life—inside and out? Check out our remastered recordings of Bodhi Talks given by authors, healers, philosophers, teachers and scientists at the original Bodhi Tree Bookstore. Explore now here!

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About the author

Sarah Ban is a lifestyle writer and reporter who loves digging deep into the worlds of health, wellness, beauty, mental health, spirituality and happiness studies. She believes a fulfilled life rests on three pillars: meditation, balance and self-love.