Scenting your home

You might regularly use air-freshening and -scenting sprays, plug-ins, diffusers, oils, incense and candles, but did you know some may negatively affect you and your family’s health? Most conventional air-freshening products contain synthetic fragrances and nerve-deadening ingredients (so you can’t smell properly); or they coat your nasal passage with a thin, oily film to “block” the smell; or they might overpower the original scent but don’t “clean” and “erase” bad odours.

A 1999 survey by Bristol University (UK) involving 14,000 pregnant women showed regular use of air fresheners and household aerosol sprays made women and babies sick. Women who used those products most days had a 19 per cent increase in depression and 25 per cent more headaches than women who used them less than once a week.

Babies aged under six months who were regularly exposed had 30 per cent more ear infections and were 20 per cent more likely to experience diarrhoea (although they weren’t sure which came first — the stinky-nappy smell or trying to mask it).

Unsafe chemical levels

In 2005, European consumer group Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs measured the harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and aldehydes in the air after using 74 types of home scent products, including incense, scented candles, aerosols, gels and liquid and electric diffusers. VOCs and aldehydes attack the peripheral nervous system (which transports sensory messages to the brain and helps control the stomach, heart and intestines) and central nervous system (affecting the brain and spinal cord).

The results showed that many of the Home scent products tested released toxins into the air and exceeded the considered “safe” VOC emission levels. Some were even 25 times higher.

Synthetic fragrances

Our body’s systems interact with and support each other. The organs interconnect their functions to provide a smooth and elegant rhythm of life, says aromatherapist Christine Platten.

“We now know that synthetic materials we use on a regular basis compromise this natural rhythm. Synthetic fragrances [which are man-made or altered scents], in particular, negatively affect our endocrine system, which Deals with delicately fine-tuning our many hormonal secretions for optimal health and balance.”

What is “fragrance”

Fragranced products (eg conventional candles, incense, gels, melt-waxes, air fresheners, oils etc) may smell nice but are synthetic and have no direct biochemical therapeutic benefits, unlike pure essential oils. Plus, you never know what’s in them, says aromatherapist, Jen Gallagher.

“When the word ‘fragrance’ is listed as an ingredient, it enables the manufacturer to make a mix of potentially hundreds of chemical compounds. There’s no requirement to separately list each of the chemicals used to make the fragrance. So you won’t know what or how many chemicals you’re exposing yourself and your family to when you use a synthetic scent,” she says.

Holistic home scent options

Products scented with essential oils

Pure essential oils are extracts from flowers, roots, leaves, fruits, grasses or woods and are so therapeutic they can affect your mood within three seconds and can improve a physical condition within 24 to 28 hours. “When we breathe in the aromas of a pure essential oil, the nerve receptors in our nose, which are the only ones that are exposed directly to the outside world, are able to access the limbic system of the brain and bypass conscious thought. The limbic system is where emotions, memories and trauma are stored,” says Jen.

“Essential oils may stimulate areas of the brain associated with memory and learning. They may influence hormonal responses and they can also alter moods and feelings.”

Use candles, incense, oils and other home-scenting products that contain only pure essential oils and other natural ingredients such as plant oils, waxes and butters etc (and nothing else!). Always check the back of the pack/product.

Use non-toxic candles

Most regular, scented candles are made from paraffin wax, which pollutes the air with carcinogens and other petrochemicals and fragrances. Opt for beeswax candles — they’re carbon-neutral, non-toxic, smoke-free, non-allergenic and give off a sweet honey scent. Soy wax candles are also great — just make sure they’re scented with pure essential oils.

Plants & flowers

Use in-season flowers to scent your home. They look gorgeous and many have scents strong enough to fill a room or two. According to florist Brooke Russell, the best, most room-filling flowers in season in winter are roses, Oriental lilies, hyacinths, jonquils, freesias, sweet pea and jasmine.

In spring, she recommends roses, Oriental lilies, freesias, hyacinths and lily of the valley (October only); for summer bouvardias, dahlias, peony roses, lavender, roses, field roses and Oriental lilies; while autumn’s best include gardenias, hyacinths, sweet pea, roses and Oriental lilies.

NASA did a two-year study and found that some plants absorb toxic chemicals from indoor air. The most effective are English ivy, spider plant, Boston fern and madonna lily.

DIY home aromatherapy mood blends

Here are aromatherapist Jen Gallagher’s blends for creating perfect moods in your home. (Please note: Jen recommends using cold-air diffusers instead of traditional aromatherapy oil burners for optimal results.)


  • 4 drops ylang ylang
  • 2 drops sandalwood

  • 1 drop patchouli

Entertaining friends

  • 4 drops orange
  • 3 drops geranium
  • 2 drops cinnamon

Relaxing after work

  • 3 drops petitgrain
  • 3 drops orange
  • 2 drops jasmine

Calming anger/jealousy/rage

  • 3 drops frankincense
  • 2 drops cedarwood
  • 2 drops Roman chamomile

Sleep time (Diffuse 30 minutes before bed)

  • 2 drops lavender
  • 2 drops marjoram
  • 2 drops Roman chamomile

Morning pep-up

  • 2 drops peppermint
  • 4 drops lemon
  • 2 drops lemongrass


  • 3 drops bergamot
  • 2 drops geranium
  • 1 drop rose

Settling children

  • 2 drops vetiver
  • 2 drops cedarwood
  • 2 drops lavender

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

You May Also Like


Say no to the scroll

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 24t110216.057

What to eat for balanced emotions

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 17t143950.232

Inside the spirituality database

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 26t150353.669

The Positive Power of Pets