Even before I opened the box of oils, I could smell them.

A stew of aromas, both sweet and savory, wafted from the sample of essential oils sent from Healing Alchemy — a Minneapolis nonprofit that supplies aromatherapy products to local hospitals.

Inside was a reference card describing four oil blends, their ingredients and their purported health benefits:

• Soothing, with lemon and mint for nausea and indigestion.

• Energizing, with rosemary and turmeric for memory stimulation, energizing and focus.

• Uplifting, with mandarin and bergamot for mood balancing.

• Calming, with lavender and frankincense for relief from anxiety, pain and insomnia.

With a writing deadline looming, I chose "Energizing" in the hopes that it would boost my mental clarity and focus.

The oils came in the form of an inhaler tube that resembled Chapstick. I unscrewed the top and placed the tube a few inches beneath my nose. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. My nose was flooded with a sweet, spicy aroma. It smelled like spearmint gum and made me think of spring days. I was surprised at how quickly my brain seemed to process what was happening.

Following the instructions, I exhaled through my mouth. I opened my eyes and blinked. I felt more alert. That hyper-awareness feeling reminded me of times when I've been traveling and felt super-focused on a particular moment, making the experience meditative.

Encouraged, I sniffed again, breathing in even more deeply this time. Again, the scent washed over me, fully occupying my thoughts and centering me in the moment.

But after a couple hits of aromatherapy, the effects decreased.

The aroma was less intense, and it was as if my brain already knew what was coming and the novelty had worn off.