All those years ago, when I first embarked on my Aromatherapy journey, I signed up for an online certification course from ACHS . They sent me a box of 31 essential oils and my first homework assignment was to “get to know” the oils by doing some organoleptic testing (basically, this means open them up, smell them, put them on perfume blotters, touch them, feel them, etc.). They didn’t have to tell me twice – I was so excited I had every bottle opened within 10 minutes of receiving the box. Then I notice this one bottle off to the side, in its own plastic baggie. Hmm, that should have given me a clue, but this is ME we’re talking about. I don’t get clues.
It’s garlic essential oil (Allium sativa), and I open it up, and phew! It’s pungent. I start reading the first chapter of my textbook, which explains that essential oils are highly concentrated volatile essences of plants. A cup of Chamomile tea might contain, say, one or two Chamomile flowers, but a drop of the essential oil might contain a field of Chamomile, for example. I then read that a drop of Rose essential oil contains about 60,000 rose petals! So the stuff is highly concentrated. And THEN I read that essential oils are comprised of very, very small molecules (as compared to synthetic chemicals in perfumes, etc.) that can actually penetrate the skin and move into the bloodstream, which is why they’re so effective and have so many medicinal uses. The text gives an example of how rubbing a clove of garlic on the bottom of one’s foot would result in being able to smell garlic on one’s breath just 20 minutes later…the essential oil in the garlic clove would travel all the way from the foot to the mouth, in other words. Hmm…foot to mouth, that is my specialty. Of course, then the text says, “Try it for yourself!” Well, that’s about all the encouragement I needed. I thought to myself, I don’t have any cloves of garlic around the house, but I do have garlic essential oil (!). I am sure many of you can already anticipate what came next, and are probably already laughing at me.
So I dab 2 drops of the garlic essential oil on each foot, and I sit down on the couch to watch America’s Next Top Model, a show that is mindless, pointless, and leaves me feeling oh-so-guilty after I watch it, but my husband was away for a week and I had nothing better to do as I waited for my breath to start smelling garlicky. I grab a comforter, bundle myself up, and stick my feet up on the coffee table and settle in…but then I have to go to the bathroom, so I get up and traipse back down the hall to take care of business. And then I realize I had no cup of hot tea in my hands, so I get back up again and traipse to the kitchen to make myself a delectable cup of Mighty Leaf’s Detox tea. And THEN I sit back down, mug in hand, to watch Tyra do her thang. And only THEN do I realize that I’ve tracked garlic all over the house – and it is starting to stink.
The house was ripe with the scent of garlic. The odor was rising from the carpet, from the couch, from the comforter, and from my feet. I have no idea whether any of it came from my breath because the whole place was redolent with it. Uh oh, I thought, it’s a good thing the hubby is away, or else he might divorce meover this. But I wasn’t worried, because I figured the smell would just go away on its own. IT DIDN’T. IT PERSISTED.
When I came back from work the next day, our place still smelled nasty. I opened up the windows (even though it was wintertime) and suffered the cold air through the night. Same story the next day. So I throw all the things that have even the slightest hint of garlic odor in the wash. I vacuum the carpets repeatedly with carpet freshener, and I even get on my hands and knees and start scrubbing at the carpets with other essential oils. But the garlic odor will just not go away. In fact, it lasts for days. Soon, my husband is coming home and I am getting a little worried. The hubby HATES bad smells. This is an example of how much the guy hates bad smells: when we used to live in New York City and take the subways, sometimes the stink of human beings would mix with the stench of the underground to create a truly foul miasma, even inside the train itself. My husband would reach over and tug on my hair and hold a handful of it to his nose and breathe through that the entire way. So what was he going to do when he walked through his own apartment door and discover it smelling like “The Stinking Rose?” (A garlic restaurant in San Francisco)
By the time he did come home, I had done the same load of laundry three times and scoured the carpets five times. The place was smelling mostly okay, but you could still detect that garlicky undertone no matter where you went. I decided to just tell my husband and prepare him for the worst, setting his expectations low so that when he did come home, he’d be pleasantly surprised. When he came through that front door, he started shaking his head. And then he started laughing. “Pee-yoooooooooo!” He shouted, holding his nose. “I thought you said essential oils smelled GOOD.”
And then I started laughing, finally allowing myself to feel the humor of the situation. He starts laughing some more and pantomines keeling over and choking to death from the “bad air,” and pretty soon tears of hilarity are streaming down my face. We laugh for so long, my belly hurts and I feel like I’ve done 800 crunches. Then he insists that I get rid of that bottle of garlic essential oil. I only feel marginally sad as I chuck that thing in the dumpster – with a scent like that, I’m not sure I can stand to use it anyway, no matter how therapeutic it is.
That night, before we go to sleep under covers that still smell faintly of garlic, I tell him, “Well, look on the bright side: at least we won’t have any problem with vampires.”