Contemplative Aromatherapy and Aromatic Alchemy

Jun 23, 2023

“When we smell a botanical fragrance with deep concentration we are able to gradually perceive the cosmological energies they convey. In this way we can study not only the fragrance and its therapeutic effects but also the underlying elemental influences that were metabolized by the intelligence of the plant; ultimately, we can come face to face with the botanical intelligence itself. Through this practice of contemplative aromatherapy we can develop an understanding of how human consciousness is inseparable from the processes of life within the biosphere and the greater cosmos.”- David Crow,  The Practice of Aromatic Alchemy 

Botanicals can help us arrive at deeper meditation. Aromas inspire steady breath, a calm mind and a way to connect to the present moment. When we use plants in mindfulness practice we can more easily connect with their innate rhythms and intelligence. Try these practices to cultivate a deeper relationship with yourself and plant medicine. 

“There are two basic ways to use essential oils with meditation practice. The first is to use the oils to enhance meditative states, and the second is to use meditation to study the oils.” - David Crow, L.Ac.

The Method of Contemplative Aromatherapy

It is best to use perfume strips. If that is not possible, the oil can be sampled by inhaling from the bottle, or non-dermotoxic oils can be applied to the skin.

  1. Relax for a few minutes and become aware of the flow of the breath in the nostrils.
  2. Pass the fragrance under the nose, sampling it from a distance for only a moment.
  3. Observe the fragrance notes and body sensations.
  4. Repeat the sampling process several times, increasing each in length and depth.
    Each time, observe the various layers of energies and elements that you are looking for.
  5. Be mindful of any signs of sensitivity that may come from excessive inhalation or poor quality oils, such as irritation in the sinuses or headache; discontinue if this happens.

Do not inhale more than 5 – 6 times total, then finish the session. Observe carefully the sensations of the nostrils, respiratory system, entire body, and mental state.

Source for perfume strips:


For direct palm inhalation,rub a couple of drops of essential oil between your palms and hold to your face to inhale the aroma. Try relaxing oils like Lavender, Vetiver, or Relax Blend.

To infuse your practice space, add essential oils to your diffuser before you meditate. Choose a sacred fragrance such as Palo Santo, Frankincense, or Spirit Blend.

Anoint yourself on your pulse points when you sit down to practice. Consider Agarwood Attar, Khus Attar, or Rose Infused Botanical Perfume.

To use meditation to study an oil, choose an application such as a perfume strip or your palm, and focus on the scent. Allow your curiosity to explore the aroma, noticing its qualities and its effects on your consciousness. Visualize the plant and take time to meet its healing intelligence.


“The use of fragrance in meditation, contemplation and devotional practices is widespread in the form of incense and altar offerings. Many of the ‘sacred scents’ such as frankincense, sandalwood, palo santo and agarwood that are used routinely in ceremonies and rituals now have documented research confirming their psychoactive properties as antidepressants, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety) and general mood enhancers.” - David Crow

Some important ingredients for a simple aromatic ritual:

  • A few small chips of Sandalwood in your electric incense burner will fill your space with a mystical and enlightening smoke ideal for meditation. The fragrance is soothing to the mind and calming to the nervous system.
  • Burning sticks of Palo Santo purifies your space by clearing out stagnant energies. This wood smoke assists energetic detox and manifestation; the aroma inspires a clear mind and easy calm.

Resin from Frankincense trees forms in fragrant tears that facilitate prayerful meditation when heated in an electric incense burner. This sweetly uplifting botanical has been referred to as “crystallized sunshine” and carries with it the vibrant energy of the sun.


One of the beautiful things about aromatherapy is its fast-acting effects on the body and mind. The instant the fragrance of an essential oil or incense meets your awareness the benefits unfold, helping you more easily drop into a meditative state.

If you are looking for essential oils and other herbs to use in your meditation practice, please shop at Anima Mundi Herbals.  In addition to high quality incense and herbal products, Anima Mundi Herbals has recently acquired the Floracopeia Essential Oil line, and are selling the highest quality essential oils in the world.

Get Our Newsletter

Sign up to be notified aboutĀ future blog posts!