If you struggle to stay alert throughout the day, you might wake yourself up with a cup of coffee or a walk around the block. However, many people don’t know that the right scents can be just as effective for getting over the afternoon slump. 

Using scents to improve your health or mood is known as aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the practice of smelling essential oils derived from plants. In aromatherapy, the scents are typically sprayed on a pillow, added to a diffuser, placed in a bath or shower, or sprayed around the room.

Which Scents Should You Try?

If you’re looking to use aromatherapy in your routine, it’s important to know that not all scents will boost your energy or improve your mood. For example, lavender is well known for its calming effects. If you’re looking for a new way to wake up, the best scents for alertness include:

Citrus: Beyond their appealing fragrance, citrus scents can fight sleepiness. While there are many citrus essential oils, the most effective scents for waking up are lemon and sweet orange.

Studies show that sweet orange scents can help lower stress and improve mood when inhaled. Similarly, lemon scent was shown to enhance creativity. Ways to enjoy these refreshing scents include diffusing it into the room or using oil designed to be rolled onto the wrist or neck.

Coffee. While it may seem obvious, coffee is one of the most potent scents for waking up. The health benefits of drinking coffee are promising, but studies show that smelling coffee’s fragrance might offer the same lift in energy without the crash many feel after drinking a cup of coffee. 

Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus is a popular scent in aromatherapy practice. Eucalyptus has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and anti-bacterial properties, and studies also show that eucalyptus may help get rid of headaches while helping you wake up.

Ginger. Used traditionally throughout the generations, ginger has been shown to help soothe nausea. Combined with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, ginger is often used as a remedy for people who are recovering from surgery or chemotherapy. 

Ginger also has a refreshing scent that works well for many people, whether they’re healthy or recovering. When used as part of daily aromatherapy, ginger may help encourage a positive mood and raise your energy levels. 

Peppermint. Peppermint is another popular aromatherapy scent with a long history of traditional use. Mint is well-known for soothing upset stomachs and clearing congestion. Studies also show that peppermint oil can settle nausea and vomiting when the fragrance is inhaled.

Beyond this, promising research shows that peppermint oil may improve alertness and memory. 

Rosemary. You may be familiar with rosemary as a fragrant addition to your meal, but rosemary’s benefits reach beyond the kitchen. Studies show that rosemary can leave you feeling refreshed, providing a pick-me-up for your mood, brain activity, and nervous system.

Sage. Like mint, sage is popular for its positive effects as an essential oil. Studies show that inhaling sage can create a sensation of peace and focus, making it easier to take on more tasks throughout the day with less stress.

What You Should Know Before Trying New Scents

Scents and essential oils used in aromatherapy may offer health benefits, but before you try new scents, note that every person has a unique reaction to essential oils. Studies have shown that some scents can lead to negative reactions in some individuals.

Before you introduce new scents into your routine, always start by talking to your doctor about any possible allergies.

Show Sources


Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine: “Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review.”

Behavioral Brain Research: “Biological Activities and Safety of Citrus spp. Essential Oils.”

Integrative Medicine Research: “Effect of one time coffee fragrance inhalation on working memory, mood, and salivary cortisol level in healthy young volunteers: a randomized placebo controlled trial.”

‌Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice: “The effect of aromatherapy with peppermint essential oil on nausea and vomiting after cardiac surgery: A randomized clinical trial.”

Complementary Therapies in Medicine: “Effects of inhaled ginger aromatherapy on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and health-related quality of life in women with breast cancer.”

International Journal of Neuroscience: “Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations.”

Phytomedicine: “Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis.”

Planta Medica: “Clary Sage Essential Oil and Its Effect on Human Mood and Pulse Rate: An in vivo Pilot Study.”

Scientia Pharmaceutica: “Effects of Inhaled Rosemary Oil on Subjective Feelings and Activities of the Nervous System.”

Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine: “Essential Oils and Health.”

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