Aromatherapy for the Chakras: Root

Please note: I am not a licensed physician or mental healthcare practitioner. If you feel you need the assistance of a licensed professional or an agency that seeks to protect those in domestic abuse situations, please reach out to those professionals immediately. If you are in danger or feel you may be a danger to yourself or others, please dial 911.

The information provided in this post is for educational/inspirational purposes only, is not approved by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate disease, substitute mental healthcare, prescription medication, or serve as legal advice. Please see the appropriate professionals and agencies per your specific needs. Always follow essential oil safety best practices when using essential oils. Do not ingest. Research all oils before use to ensure you are safe to use them.


Root Chakra, by Catherine D McElroy

As I was surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, listening the the rush of a mountain river, I finally admitted to myself that my current life situation was not healthy or sustainable, if I wanted to feel emotionally safe and viable.

It took years to finally get to the place in my life where I could recognize and connect with that truth (which felt scary), another year to say it out loud, and several more months to make critical changes.

Fear is what kept me paralyzed for years.

When I finally made the choice to change my circumstances, work with a therapist, while studying aromatherapy and practicing yoga, I felt ready to look at what created fear in me, what I was afraid to touch, and my relationship with it. Until then, I largely dissociated with my reality in order to protect my mind, a classic trauma coping mechanism, I would find out later.

What unfolded in those practices was the gift that would give me back my life as I had never experienced it. But first, I had to recognize that the patterns that led me to my situation were up to me to face and address, regardless of their origin. This is the real and actual work of chakra balance.

Chakras (Cha-kras), derived from the Sanskrit cakra, meaning “wheel or circle” (New Oxford American Dictionary), are thought to be energetic vortices within our bodies and aura relating to specific nerve clusters and organs. When their energies, manifested in certain states of feeling and being, become sluggish or blocked, we will commonly feel a set of emotional challenges. Many practitioners say that if these emotional challenges become chronic, the nerves and organs associated with these chakras will inevitably become affected, too. For the sake of this post, however, we’ll focus on the emotional challenges, the aromatherapy intended to assist, and how it might assist.

The Root Chakra relates to our access and connectedness to the resources that support a firm and safe foundation in life, such as:

  • Clean Water
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Healthcare andd/or Self-Health (as my herbalist, Ramona, says)

Fundamental emotional necessities are also included:

  • Being loved and cared for
  • Feeling supported by loved ones and friends
  • Feeling supported in your work
  • Co-operating in safe, loving, nurturing, respectful relationships
  • Owning agency in the relationship you have with yourself and others
  • Sovereignty as an individual

It’s our right to experience these things in our lives but it’s also our responsibility to regularly honor these resources and relationships with gratitude. To be mindful of how special and important it is to have our needs met (and be the one to meet them!) and to be a part of loving, respectful relationships.


We would be remiss to glide over the reality that what I listed above seems like an impossible dream to those in underserved communities and those facing domestic violence – defined as “violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner.” (Oxford Languages). (This is violence and/or aggressive behavior on the mind as well as the body.) But is it possible? I will never say it’s as easy as tapping your heels together three times, but I do believe it is possible, with help.


Root Chakra Emotional Challenges

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but typically a blocked root chakra created by our basic human needs not being met manifest in the following emotional challenges:

  • Fear
  • Inability to Focus
  • Feelings of Anxiousness and/or Depression
  • Feelings of Hopelessness
  • Feelings of Dissociation
  • Insecurity

These feelings can lead anywhere to thoughts or actions that harm the mind/body and inability to perform daily tasks that support our livelihood to a general feeling of uneasiness and mental fog. It should be noted that even if you are not in a dire situation where you feel you and/or your wellbeing are being threatened, you can still experience imbalance in the root chakra. Like most emotional challenges, there is a spectrum and your situation is relative to you.

Regardless of how you arrived at this imbalance, how might you address it with aromatherapy? And what if your means are limited and can’t afford to buy essential oils? I’ll cover that next, but first, what is aromatherapy and how does it work?

Aromatherapy is often defined as the controlled use of essential oils by inhalation of vapors, bath, compress, and topical application to create balance and wellbeing in the body, mind, and soul. Essential oils contain thousands of chemical constituents that may create therapeutic action in the body (proven by countless studies) as well as may help to address regulation, relaxation, and/or stimulation in various parts of the brain. Clinical Aromatherapist and Herbalist, Peter Holmes, LAc, MH, notes in Aromatica: a Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics (2019), “Used for olfaction by mild inhalation in their vapour form, essential oils have proven highly effective for treating mental and emotional conditions, including the treatment of mood disorders and various psychological states.” It should be noted that essential oils are never intended to replace your current prescribed medications but may work in concert with them, provided their contraindications don’t apply to you and there’s no risk of the essential oil affecting the efficacy of your medications. Always refer to your prescribing physician and/or pharmacist with questions/concerns.

Aromatherapy for the Root Chakra

While there is no set or definitive list of essential oils dedicated to address imbalance in the root chakra, there are a few classics whose constituents and subtle energetics are thought to be helpful. If you find yourself in a state of overwhelm standing in front of many little essential oil bottles at a health food store, make it simple and just follow your nose. Take your time smelling a few of which you’re already familiar and just notice how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel calm, that is a great place to start building your collection and furthering your research of the oil.

Something I like to share with my clients in my custom blending and my AromaReiki practice, when in doubt, consider the plants and trees. What has long sturdy roots? Tall grasses and trees, right? So, when we feel blown about by the strong winds of our lives, consider the movement and stability of tall grass. Consider how it blows in the wind but is never flattened or ripped from its foundation. Consider its strength and resilience. Likewise with the trees, consider the height and breadth of their trunks and limbs as well as the depth of their roots. Consider how studies have proven the biological communication taking place in deep soil from root system to root system, passing on vital information about the health, reproduction, and potential dangers to the trees. It’s amazing! This is where life starts – from the dirt.

So it’s no surprise, then, that the scents that help to ground us, that helps us to feel safe, smell a little like soil, connecting us back to our Mother Earth. They are often resinous, slow moving, deep.

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides): With a smoky, sweet, earthy, resinous scent, vetiver is known as “the oil of tranquility” in Sri Lanka, its native home. This oil is used to help cool the body and focus the mind. It also helps to:

  • Promote the release of negative thought loops
  • Stabilize the mind during emotional/mental disconnect and instability
  • Focus the mind on what is real

Vetiver is an essential oil that helps one to connect with their bodies when, perhaps, much of their emotional energy is trapped within their overactive and/or hypervigilant mind. What does that mean, exactly? Peter Holmes notes in Aromatica vol 1, vetiver’s possible brain dynamics include: reducing Basal Ganglia and Cingulate System hyperfunctioning as well as resolving Temporal Lobe Dysregulation (2019). The Basal Ganglia, for example, AKA, “The Anxiety Center” of the brain responsible for the integration of feelings, thoughts, as well as modulating motivation, among other things, when overactive/overstimulated presents the following symptoms: high anxiety, panic, hypervigilance, conflict avoidance, tendency to freeze in conflict situations (Getting Started with Neurofeedback, John Demos). Vetiver helps us take a time out to collect ourselves, gather our surroundings, and feel the weight of our bodies, so that we might think more rationally, with more focus and discernment. As the Root Chakra’s elemental association is with Earth, Holmes perfectly captures the subtle yet powerful gift of vetiver, “Vetiver oil is about the gifts of mother earth to humankind. Like a mother’s deep embrace of her child, Vetiver represents the nurture and self-empowerment given us freely by our Earth Mother, our planet Gaia.”

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin): With a rooted scent reminiscent of rich soil, patchouli is a leafy herb native to tropical climates like Indonesia, India, Madagascar, and South China, among other areas. Famously used on its own or in synergistic blends to help calm the mind, patchouli helps to:

  • Support a feeling of emotional stability
  • Encourage the release of worrisome or obsessive thoughts
  • Promotes balance and connection between thinking and feeling

Like vetiver, patchouli also helps one to connect with their physical senses. Its possible brain dynamics include: reducing Basal Ganglia and Cingulate System Hyperfunctioning (Holmes, 2019). The Cingulate System, according to Demos, is in charge of “cognitive flexibility”- our brain’s ability to remain agile and flexible amidst life’s ups and downs. To go with the flow. Importantly, it’s an oil that helps create a safe space for one to feel connected to their emotional and physical needs after trauma.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Unlike vetiver and patchouli, thyme’s heart-centered notes serve to regulate (rather than relax) the emotions and move stagnant feelings into a place of action and resolve. Green, herbaceous, pungent yet sweet, thyme helps to:

  • Promote a bridge between feeling and sensing
  • Promote clear, focused vision and discernment
  • Stabilizes and renews mood

Thyme’s constituents possibly serve to regulate the Deep Limbic System, our ancient brain, the storehouse of our memories, mood, and motivation. (Holmes, 2019) Symptoms of an overactive DLS include but are not limited to: feelings of sadness; ruminating negative thoughts; low motivation/energy; low self-esteem; feelings of boredom and hopelessness. (Demos, 2005)

Energetically, thyme powerfully instills a sense of courage and protection in an individual, boosting morale and a sense of fortitude. As the energy of one chakra affects the others moving from the Root upwards to the other six, it’s important to anticipate what is needed, energetically and spiritually, as well as physically, for the road ahead. If your basic sense of security is shaken, it’s unlikely to honestly feel like you’re thriving elsewhere in your life. Thyme helps lift us up as though to say, Listen, you can do this. I’ve got your back. Now, let’s put one foot in front of the other.

Without Oils

Working on cultivating a sense of rootedness absolutely can be achieved without the use of essential oils. Can you take a walk in the country, a forest, or in your neighborhood and simply notice one small thing with which you feel a connection? What smells do you notice? How does it make you feel? Can you sit quietly, on the ground, if possible (outside is even better), and observe the neutrality of your surroundings? How do you feel after you pray, meditate, or work your magic? Is it possible for you to share a meal with a friend or loved one? Is it time for you to reach out for professional help?

Empowering the Root Chakra

What shifts in perspective and in the body might you feel when focusing on the following thoughts? If you can work with some of the essential oils above while doing so, note what you sense; these things become powerful memory associations tied to that scent.

  • I deserve to be safe, respected, and cared for in the body, mind, and spirit.
  • I am protected.
  • I release the pain of the past in order to receive the gifts of the present.
  • I deserve to feel good and to have my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met.
  • I am able to meet my own needs.
  • Help and the resources I need are available to me, when I need them.

Listen, you can do this. I’ve got your back. Now, let’s put one foot in front of the other.


Resources

Demos, J. N. (2005). Getting started with neurofeedback. W.W. Norton.

Holmes, P., Majoy, G., Tiffany Carole Pollard, Lev, C., & Camp, M. (2016). Aromatica : a clinical guide to essential oil therapeutics. Singing Dragon.

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