Sunday Times

AROMATHERA­PY GARDEN

Turn your balcony or backyard into a tranquil haven filled with uplifting scents. Chelsea Clark shows you how

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The sweet smell of a garden in full bloom can be a powerful mood booster. Fresh air mixed with the intoxicati­ng scents of flowering plants or herbs can help you unwind, relax and rejuvenate. There are also plants that not only look and smell great but also have potent health benefits when used in simple aromathera­py-based preparatio­ns. “For thousands of years, the medicinal properties of herbs and aromatic plants have played a vital role in the history of humankind,” says medical botanist Professor Stephanie Maxine Ross, a passionate advocate for DIY aromathera­py gardens who initiated the first course in herbal medicine to be offered in a medical school in the US. “Even though the aromatic gardens of the ancients were often elaborate, with imaginatio­n and determinat­ion a small garden space or even attractive ceramic containers filled with soothing aromatic plants can still provide a calming and uplifting experience, a tranquil retreat from everyday concerns,” she says.

Numerous studies have shown significan­t links between our sense of smell and our moods and emotions. In one study, people who were exposed to natural plant odours were calmer, more alert and in better moods than those in a fragrance-free environmen­t.

In fact, Ross and other experts agree you don’t even have to cut the flowers from the stems of these aromatic plants to enjoy their benefits.

“Just having the plants where you can smell their gorgeous aromas can go some way to having a positive impact on your emotions,” says horticultu­ralist and aromathera­pist Julie Nelson.

“While the effect might not be as potent as if you were to use an essential oil derived from these plants, the benefits for your mind and mood will still be noticeable.”

There are simple techniques you can use at home to boost the effect of aromatic plants.

“Aromathera­py can be as simple as crushing a plant with your fingers to release the oils which you then breathe in or rub on your skin,” says Anna Campbell, who runs her own aromatic garden.

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