In a modern world largely devoid of natural scent, the office is one of the worst offenders. Most offices smell like absolutely nothing at all—or perhaps a hint of stale HVAC system, if you sniff hard enough. Unless you've got coworker who's averse to showering or prone to soaking in perfume (which we hope you don't!) your poor nose is not likely to get any action whatsoever when you're at work. And that's a shame, because your sense of smell is one of your most powerful assets when it comes to being productive.
In fact, recent research has shown powerful benefits from plant extracts in memory, focus, and attention. Here are a few to consider bringing to your desk:
May be helpful for: Stress. A study done in rats showed that inhaled coriander essential oil helped alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, allowing rats with Alzheimer's-like symptoms to better navigate a difficult maze. I do sincerely hope that your job does not make you feel like an Alzheimer's-stricken rat faced with an incomprehensible maze—but if it does, coriander might be the answer.
May be helpful for: Accuracy. A study conducted by a fragrance company in Japan found that workers in offices scented with lemon made fewer typing errors. Lemon is considered uplifting and invigorating and may be especially helpful to pick you up during a mid-afternoon slump.
May be helpful for: Overall mental function. Studies have demonstrated that piperine, a main component of black pepper, enhances overall cognitive function when taken as a supplement. Black pepper essential oil should not be ingested; however, the oil is noted in aromatherapy for enhancing alertness and stamina.
May be helpful for: Performance. A study conducted with college students found that their performance on a series of math problems was improved in the presence of a lavender fragrance. Lavender has also been shown to be a powerfully calming essential oil, which may make it especially useful for boosting performance on stressful tasks.
May be helpful for: Learning. A study done with mice showed that giving ginger extract helped the mice to better recognize new objects, indicating an improvement in learning ability. To harness the benefits, brew a cup of ginger tea, or use the warm, bracing scent of ginger essential oil is as a potent energizer to help wake up a tired mind.
As an added bonus, these oils smell pretty nice together. To use at work, try either of the following recipes on a tissue and sniff whenever your concentration flags.
Productivity Blend #1
- 2 drops Ginger essential oil
- 2 drops Coriander essential oil
- 3 drops Black Pepper essential oil
Productivity Blend #2
- 2 drops Lemon essential oil
- 4 drops Lavender essential oil
- 1 drop Black Pepper essential oil
Scientific research on aromatherapy is really just getting started, so there are likely many other essential oils that can help with productivity that aren't yet "proven" by science. In addition to the oils mentioned above, spearmint, peppermint, rosemary, cinnamon, and lavender are all worth a try in your office aromatherapy kit.
What are your favorite essential oils to use at work?