Aromatherapy is a popular and effective way to elevate your mood and promote healing. You can create your own scents by planting a fragrance garden. If you fill the garden with edible herbs and flowers, you'll be able to boost your health in a fun and unique way.

What is aromatherapy? It's the process of breathing in scents from plants, herbs, flowers, and their oils to promote health and well-being. Researchers aren't entirely sure how aromatherapy works, but they've found links between the smell receptors in your nose, stored emotions and memories, and specific "healing" fragrances. It's thought that certain fragrances stimulate parts of the brain that influence health. It's also theorized that fragrance molecules may interact with hormones or enzymes in the blood stream that influence health. 

Why grow your own? Gardening is good for your body, mind, and spirit. The exercise required to dig, weed, water, and harvest your plants is good for your heart, joints, and muscles. Engaging in hobbies like gardening is mentally stimulating and the process of nurturing and watching your plants grow puts you in touch with nature.

How do you start a fragrance garden? You don't need a lot of land or equipment to get started. Begin growing your fragrance garden in a planter box on your windowsill or a few pots on your patio. Purchase plant containers, some good potting soil, and a few plant starts or seeds at your local nursery or home improvement store. Then, start digging. Plant according to directions provided on the seed package or with your seedling. Place plants in a sunny window or area in your yard that's protected from frost and watch your garden grow.

What plants should you grow? Many herbs and flowers are edible and provide therapeutic fragrances. Here are five that will inspire and soothe you as well as spice up your cooking:

Basil. The spicy, fruity scent of basil stimulates mental alertness and enhances concentration. You can cook with the flowers, stems, and seeds. Try tossing chopped basil into a bowl of salad or pasta, or serve with fish or meats.

Peppermint. The crisp, fresh scent of peppermint improves memory and alertness, aids relaxation, and is good for upset stomachs and digestion. Steep the leaves in hot water for a soothing tea or add it to yogurt for a refreshing side dish with spicy foods.

Lavender. The light floral scent and flavor of lavender can help with sleep problems, headaches, skin issues, and stress. Crush a few flowers between your fingertips or fill a cloth bag to place under your pillow or over your eyes whenever you need to relax. Because of its strong fragrance, you'll want to experiment with how much to add, but lavender makes a gourmet ingredient for jams, chocolates, baked goods, and lotions.

Rosemary. The sharp, spicy tang of rosemary is useful for relieving achy muscles and joints, improve energy, and add shine and bounce to hair. It works beautifully with many savory recipes. Try steeping rosemary leaves in hot water and using the tea as a hair rinse. For a great-tasting dish, roast chopped leaves with butternut squash.

Jasmine. The light, sweet scent of jasmine can help treat depression as well as soothe dry, sensitive skin. Steep the blossoms in hot water to make tea or a rinse for affected skin.

Keep pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals out of your fragrance garden. Weed and remove pests by hand. Harvest your herbs and flowers and freeze, dry, or preserve them to enjoy the healing benefits of your organic fragrance garden year-round.