Winter brings enough holiday parties, shopping sprees, and travel to wear down even the hardiest among us. How can you refresh and rejuvenate for the new year? Try essential oils, the natural or volatile oils derived from plants. These vaporize easily in the air, releasing beneficial compounds that contain a variety of health benefits. Read on to learn about four distinct techniques—bathing, inhaling, massaging, and misting—for using essential oils to reduce stress, lift your spirits, enhance your love life, and boost your energy.

Soak away

When holiday stress becomes overwhelming, Minneapolis-based registered aromatherapist Mindy Green recommends relaxing in a warm bath with soothing essential oils. To bathe away winter anxiety, try Green's combination of essential oils: 3 drops of uplifting orange (Citrus sinensis), 5 drops of frankincense (Boswellia carteri), and 2 drops of clary sage (Salvia officinalis) with 1 ounce of a moisturizing carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of this mixture to a warm bath. "Add the oils just before getting into the bath so you can inhale the volatile compounds in the air while you soak," says Green. "If you add the oils while the tub is filling up, the beneficial volatile substances will evaporate too quickly."

In one study, men and women who inhaled volatile compounds from orange essential oil relaxed more than when exposed to unscented air (Physiology of Behavior, 2000, vol. 71, nos. 1–2). In addition, the women in the study experienced less anxiety and better moods.