Candles may be small in size but they have a mighty and long history. They were first created thousands of years ago, by an ingenious innovator whose name has been lost in the sands of time. However, we owe that person – or people – an eternal vote of thanks. This is because for the longest time – and we’re talking millennia here – candles were one of the main sources of indoor illumination. Nowadays, the world has moved on to electricity however, candles continue to be popular. And part of the reason for this is the fact that they are so relaxing.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE CANDLES?
Candles are items or objects that are made of wax and wick, and are usually molded in a cylindrical shape; as it supports candle burning. When the wicks of candles are lit, the flame serves the function of providing light. In order to sustain this light – and based on the design mechanism of the candle – the heat of the flame also melts the candle wax, which serves as the fuel source. Thousands of years ago, when they were first invented, candles were made with fat (or tallow) which was obtained from the carcasses of slaughtered cattle and other livestock. In some parts of the world, fat used for making candles were also gotten from aquatic animals – mammals, especially – such as whales, while some people used insects rolled up in paper or paper-like materials to form candles. In this case, the insects served as the source of fuel which sustained the flame during candle burning. However, while all of these materials (i.e. fat or tallow from cattle, livestock and whales, and insects) are still in use today, in the process of candle-making – along with many other materials such as beeswax – the major material used in making candles in today’s age is paraffin wax.
Paraffin wax candles became popular in the late 1800s, a little while after they were first invented and they ended up taking over the market almost completely from tallow candles and other kinds of candles, which were made from other materials apart from animal fat (e.g. beeswax candles). This was largely because candles made from paraffin wax were easier to make compared to candles made from tallow and animal fat; they also required less time, and many of them could be produced within a short because they could be made in factories, using molds.
WHY DO PEOPLE NOW USE CANDLES AS A RELAXATION TOOL?
These days, people use candles as tools for the purpose of aiding their relaxation. This is especially true for scented candles, which are mainly used in aromatherapy; as scented candles contain perfumes and fragrances which are released and emitted upon candle burning. These perfumes and fragrances usually provide a calming effect on those that inhale them after they are released, because – even though they are usually common scents such as lavender, vanilla and citrus (among others) – they are usually derived from plant sources which is part of why they provide this calming effect.
However, candles haven’t always been so popular for this reputation. Back in the days of old, candles were mainly used for the purpose of providing illumination – particularly indoor illumination – however, right on the heels of the first commercial boom of candles made of paraffin wax, the electric light bulb was invented. And slowly, this shifted the focus to electricity (i.e. for the provision of indoor illumination) as the electric light bulb gradually became more popular than candles. Quite basically, with the discovery of electricity and the subsequent invention of the electric light bulb – which took place towards the latter end of the 1800s – the world began to open its eyes to see that its energy needs, as well as illumination needs, had far outgrown the capacity of candles. And so, the popularity of candles began to decline.
Yet, candles continued to remain relevant in society. They did not go extinct or drop out of the global markets entirely. Instead, they simply evolved in terms of their niche and the needs they met. No longer were candles one of the major sources of indoor illumination, particularly in developed countries, however, they found a place in relaxation and aiding stress relief.
WHY ARE CANDLES SO RELAXING?
Already, we’ve established that aromatherapy is one of the reasons why people find candles to e so relaxing. The use of candles in aromatherapy, for stress relief, through the inhalation of emitted fragrances in burning scented candles is one of the major reasons why candles are still so popular today; particularly the scented types.
Aromatherapy works on the principle that aromatic extracts from plants and fruits can relax an individual when their scents are inhaled. This is because odors, scents and smells are very important factors which tend to influence a person’s ability to relax during meditation. They can also, to a large extent, influence the quality of a person’s health; because anything you can smell actually finds its way into your body, even if it is only in minute quantities. And so, many natural extracts and oils are usually used in this practice (i.e. aromatherapy), which is where the concept of scented candles come in.
Scented candles are candles which contain perfumes and fragrances which usually come in the form of aromatic oils and extracts derived from plants. The kinds of fragrances used in scented candles often come in different scents such as citrus, lavender and so on, and they are released into the air as gaseous emissions during candle burning. Upon emission and inhalation, these scents go on to aid stress relief by assisting you during relaxation and meditation. However, this process tends to work better when you buy scented candles with fragrances you like.
Aside from their use in aromatherapy, candles are also good visual tools for meditation. In some forms of meditation, which require people to focus all of their attention on a single thing; the flame of a candle or candlelight is usually one of the items or things used. This is because the mere act of staring into a candle flame can be very therapeutic during meditation.