You may already dab on essential oils when you’re feeling anxious or having trouble sleeping, but it turns out that stashing ’em in your gym bag is just as good of an idea as keeping them on your nightstand. A few drops might be exactly what you need to get in more reps or beat your personal best run time. Why?
“Since essential oils come from living things—plants, trees, and flowers—they actually have a lot of the same electrolytes as humans,” explains Judith Jackson, a former dancer and certified aromatherapist with over 30 years of experience.
“Since essential oils come from living things—plants, trees, and flowers—they actually have a lot of the same electrolytes as humans.”
But before you read on for three ways to incorporate them into your workout routine, Jackson offers up some key advice: “It’s important to only use one formula or blend at a time and not just put on a bunch of different ones,” she says. “Not all essences are compatible with one another.”
It’s better to pick one based on your greatest need i.e. energy, stamina, or recovery, for example. No matter what you choose, there’s a major added bonus: You’ll be the best smelling person at the gym.
Scroll down for Judith Jackson’s tips on 3 different ways to use essential oils to rev up your workout.
1. Make morning workouts actually happen
Sometimes, an alarm clock just isn’t enough to get you to that early workout class—yes, even when you do that annoying trick of placing it all the way across the room. “If you feel tired or lazy, you can use an essential oil to help motivate you,” Jackson says. Her go-to: juniper. A stimulant, it’s been known to help wake up the body and decrease fatigue.
Jackson’s pro-tip for amplifying its effects: “Essential oils take about 30 minutes to fully be absorbed into the body, so I recommend putting [a few drops on] right when you wake up,” she advises. “Then, by the time you’re ready to work out, you’ll be good to go.”
2. Go the extra mile—literally
When people think of essential oils, often the calming ones are the first to come to mind—soothing scents like lavender or chamomile. But don’t be fooled—the right one can transform you into beast mode. In one study, 10 athletes used peppermint essential oil for 10 consecutive days. Even just one day into the experiment, they had increased oxygen and blood flow—and they PR’d on the treadmill, running faster than before.
In another study, athletes who used peppermint essential oil did better at circuit workout moves, like jumping, and strength moves than people who worked out au naturale.
And you know that weird brain fog you start feeling when you’re nearing the end of your workout? Peppermint can help with that, too, by actually increasing concentration and alertness. No more being the one person in the class who seemingly doesn’t know left from right.
3. Soothe sore muscles
Since essential oils are absorbed deep into the tissue, Jackson says they’re amazing for alleviating aches and pains. “Eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender are all good for that,” she says. “They [soothe] the muscles by going in and actually relaxing the nerve impulse—and some essential oils, like capsaicin can literally stop the pain signal.” Pretty powerful!
Other essential oils linked to restoring muscles are chamomile, sage, and frankincense—all of which have a dual purpose of inspiring a good night’s sleep. (One, called Calm, even has its own bedtime story app.) Jackson says the best way to apply them is right on the aching joint or muscle, whether it’s your knees, neck, lower back, calf muscles, or any other area that needs a little extra love.
Foam rolling plus self-massaging with chamomile is a pretty sweet reward for putting in work at the gym—and will keep your muscles primed to keep at it on a regular basis.
For more essential oil advice, find out the best one for you, according to your astrological sign. Or, use them to mix up your own one-of-a-kind perfume.