A mother and daughter smell an orange. The best no-oil aromatherapy substitutes are inexpensive and effective.

Aromatherapy uses the sense of smell to promote relaxation. There are many businesses that produce and sell essential oils claiming they can prevent, cure, or treat disease. These claims have yet to be proven through rigorous research and essential oils are not regulated by the FDA. If you are interested in trying aromatherapy with your kids, here are the best no-oil aromatherapy substitutes you can use at home!

Benefits of Aromatherapy

Looking into the benefits of aromatherapy—using plant-derived essential oils for therapeutic purposes—hasn’t been extensively researched. However, some studies suggest that it might actually have some health perks, like:

Aromatherapy Benefits:

Anxiety and Depression Relief:

  • Demonstrated potential for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Enhanced Quality of Life:

  • Particularly valuable for individuals dealing with chronic health conditions.

Lavender Aromatherapy:

Pain and Discomfort:

  • Eases needle-related discomfort in dialysis patients.
  • Reduces pain for children undergoing tonsillectomy.

Improved Sleep:

  • Promotes better sleep quality for hospitalized patients.

Aromatherapy in hospitals

The primary way essential oils are utilized in a clinical setting is as a complementary therapy. Aromatherapy has been particularly successful in helping to decrease patients’ levels of anxiety and promoting a sense of wellness. When deciding if this is something you would like to try with your child, there are some safety issues that should be considered.

Reasons why parents should use caution with essential oils

  • Toxicity and ingestion risk with children
  • Possible chemical burns from undiluted oils
  • Allergic reaction to oils
  • Accidental eye splashes

The Best No-oil Aromatherapy Substitutes

 The good news is, you don’t have to go out to the store and spend a lot of money to try aromatherapy at home with your child. If you are nervous about the risks involved with oils, there are some alternative ways to get some of the same benefits using everyday scents. You probably have several items in your cupboard right now that could be useful! 

Children using play dough.

Make some scented play dough for your child to play with. 

This can be done by adding a few drops of cooking extracts such as lemon, vanilla, or peppermint to your batch of homemade play dough. Kids will enjoy the tactile engagement with their hand as the work the dough, and the sense of relaxation that the pleasant smells create. Just make sure you supervise your child so that they don’t attempt to eat it!

Scented Play dough Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1.5 to 2 cups boiling water (adjust as needed)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Your choice of flavor extracts for scent (e.g., lavender, vanilla, lemon, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cream of tartar.
  2. If you’re using food coloring, add a few drops to the boiling water and stir until the desired color is achieved.
  3. Gradually add the vegetable oil to the dry mixture and then slowly pour in the boiling water. Start with 1.5 cups of water and add more if needed to achieve the right consistency.
  4. Mix the ingredients thoroughly until a dough forms. Be careful, as the mixture might be hot initially.
  5. Allow the dough to cool down slightly before kneading it on a clean surface. If the dough is sticky, you can add a bit more flour and knead it in.
  6. Once the dough is smooth and pliable, add a few drops of your chosen flavor extract. Knead the dough again to distribute the scent evenly. Start with a small amount and add more if you prefer a stronger scent.
  7. Store the scented play dough in an airtight container or resealable bags to keep it fresh.

Prepare food that is aromatic in the kitchen.

There are certain smells that individuals find comforting. It can be based on individual taste and tied to pleasant memories. For some people, the scent of baking bread brings a sense of peace. For another, it could be warm cookies in the oven. 

A fresh bundle of mint.

Pull out whole foods that are known their pleasant smell

There are so many whole foods that smell amazing with very little preparation. They are naturally fragrant and all you have to do is open your food or pantry to find them. Try using some of these ideas:

-A fragrant orange

-A lemon

-A vanilla bean

-A sprig of mint

Let your child smell each item and decide which they like best. My children love the aroma of fresh clementines!

Create your own potpourri

When I want a pleasant smell in the house without having to do much, I create a little potpourri mix with whatever I have on hand. Within a few minutes, the house smells heavenly. Here’s a quick recipe you can try:

Stovetop Citrus and Spice Potpourri

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary (or a few drops of vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups water

Instructions:

  1. Fill a small pot with 2 cups of water.
  2. Add the sliced orange, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and rosemary sprig (or vanilla extract) to the pot.
  3. Place the pot on the stove over low heat.
  4. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle simmer.
  5. As the potpourri simmers, the aroma will gradually fill your home with a delightful scent.
  6. Check the water level periodically and add more water if needed to prevent the pot from drying out.
  7. You can let the potpourri simmer for as long as you like, but be sure to turn off the stove when you’re done.

Note: Never leave the potpourri unattended on the stove, and make sure to turn off the heat when you’re finished using it.

Feel free to adjust the ingredients and proportions to meet your preferences. You can also get creative with other aromatic additions like apple slices, lemon peels, or pumpkin spice.

Aroma Therapy Considerations

Aromatherapy can be quite subjective as far as what each individual prefers to smell. Some kids might find a smell you enjoy to be absolutely revolting. In a few cases, aroma therapy could cause increased discomfort. Be sure to communicate with your child and discover what works best for them!

Final Thoughts

You don’t need oils or fancy candles to try aroma therapy with your kids. The world is filled with many amazing natural smells. Take the time to experiment and you’ll be surprised by how many possibilities there are!

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