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The mood-generating properties of candles are well-documented. For centuries, candles were employed for their most obvious virtue – they shed light on their surroundings. But they’ve long been used for their aromatic properties, too; by mixing the wax with perfume, a slow-release scent diffuser can be created. It didn’t take long for the merits of this innovation to become widely-appreciated, and before long scented candles were everywhere. They’ve been used as an aid for meditation and relaxation for centuries, and even in today’s digitised world, they still enjoy enormous popularity.

What effects do the different scents have?

You’ll find that different candles effect your mood in different ways. Why exactly this should be is a matter of some complexity, and the sense of smell is by far the least well-understood of the five sense. But the testimony of millions of people over the centuries can give us an idea of what sort of effect the popular scents might have on our mood.

It’s worth noting that, despite the widespread impression that all scented candles qualify as aroma-therapeutic, there are many aromatherapists who would beg to differ. Merely scented candles, runs the argument, lack the oils necessary to provoke truly aroma-therapeutic results.

That said, scented candles do undeniably produce psychological effects, and thereby alter your mood. Let’s take a look at these effects.

Flowering plants

In the wild, flowering plants produce a wide variety of different scents. Through artificial selection, horticulturalists have managed to create even more – and to make the existing ones even more powerful. By drying the petals out, grinding them into a fine powder and soaking them in oil, we can transfer their distinctive aroma to wherever we choose. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, these plants have found their way into many scented candles over the years.


Lavender is among the most popular scents to be found in the modern home. It was discovered in the ‘Old World’ of East Asia, before the Americas were discovered, and quickly introduced to the west, where it became so popular that a colour was named after it.

Lavender produces an oil with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, but it also produces a scent which is thought to relieve stress. People use it to relieve stress-related disorders like headaches.


Geraniums are flowering plants that are found in the eastern Mediterranean, around Greece and Turkey. Like Lavender, Geranium-scented candles are thought to act as a relaxant.


Jasmine comes from a shrub that’s part of the olive family. It’s found in the tropics, and produces a flower that’s highly prized for its aroma.


Rose is a flower that requires no introduction, being a favourite for romantics the world over. It’s also a favourite among middle-eastern cooks. Many find its aroma soothing, and as such it represents an attractive alternative to the other floral scents.


Citrus fruits (like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges) have a characteristic, sharp flavour – and a similar aroma, too. Their aroma can help to invigorate the mood; it’s clean and uplifting, and is used by many as a concentration aid.


Vanilla is a fruit that comes from the orchid flower. It’s native to Mexico, and grown throughout the tropics, with Indonesia being the world’s largest producer. Its fruit is a seed capsule, filled with the tiny black seeds that you might recognise as vanilla dust.

The scent of vanilla is thought to be an aphrodisiac. It has a sweet smell, reminiscent of childhood desert, which soothes, relaxes, warms and comforts.


This spice, a favourite in curries, comes from the bark of a number of different trees, each of which has a slightly different scent. The most commonly used cinnamon today comes from China, and is known as cassia.

Cinnamon has long been associated with invigoration; if you’re feeling a little bit lethargic, then cinnamon will act as a stimulant. It’s therefore great for home office environments, where concentration is essential.

Of course, everyone is different, and so will be effected by these scents in different ways. It’s worth therefore experimenting with the different scents, in order to see what

Why don’t candles smell more strongly?

The scent that a candle might put out is quite subtle. It’s reasonable, therefore, to ponder why there aren’t more powerful alternatives available. After all, if a subtle waft of lavender is enough put one in a state of relaxation, then a powerful blast of the stuff would be enough to serve as a tranquiliser.

Well, no. Even if that were the case, there are practical reasons that we can’t put too much perfume into a scented candle. Once we put too much fragrance into a candle, we begin to effect the way in which it burns. Since we’re quite literally playing with fire, it’s best to be on the safe side. If you’d like a stronger aroma, you can always burn multiple candles simultaneously.

What shapes do candles come in?

Candles come in an enormous variety of shapes and sizes. Some are highly decorated, others and simpler and more practical. The one you opt for will hinge on your personal taste, but you should be aware that different shapes will burn at different rates; fatter ones will burn more slowly as molten wax from the edges falls inward, while thinner ones will descend rapidly. The colours of the different candles are produced afterwards in order to reflect how they’re going to smell – but if you’re going to make your own candles, you can add special colouring to create your own unique effect.

How should I arrange my candles?

Once you’ve gotten your candles, you can arrange them however you’d like. Since the aroma is going to inevitably spread throughout the room, your decision will largely hinge upon what looks best – a ‘horseshoe’ arrangement around the top of a bathtub being a favourite. That said, lots of smaller candles spread around the room will create a more even distribution more quickly.