Scented candles are often considered an easy way to create a cozy atmosphere or to unwind after a long day. It seems they become even more common during the holiday season. However, beneath their fragrant allure lie several potential health hazards that many overlook.

Most scented candles are made from paraffin wax, a petroleum byproduct. When burned, they release chemicals like benzene and toluene, both known carcinogens. The wicks may also contain heavy metals such as lead, emitting toxic fumes when lit. These pollutants can cause respiratory issues, trigger allergies, and even contribute to long-term health problems.

In addition, synthetic fragrances used in candles often contain phthalates- chemicals linked to hormonal disruptions and reproductive issues. These compounds are not just inhaled, but can also be absorbed through the skin or ingested when the melted wax comes in contact with food.

But fear not! There are safer alternatives to achieve a delightful aroma at home. One of my favorite options is homemade potpourri, which not only adds a pleasant smell to your home but also allows for plenty of customization. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:

Homemade Potpourri Recipe:


  • Dried flowers (rose petals, lavender, chamomile)
  • Citrus peels (orange, lemon, lime)
  • Spices (cinnamon sticks, cloves, rosemary)
  • Essential oils such as peppermint (optional for added fragrance)


  • Gather your dried flowers, citrus peels, and spices in a bowl. You can either purchase these items or dry them yourself by leaving them out in a cool, dry place for a few days.
  • Add a few drops of your preferred essential oil if you desire a stronger scent.
  • Mix the ingredients together gently.
  • Place the potpourri mix in a decorative bowl
  • This homemade potpourri not only provides a natural and pleasant scent but also serves as a lovely decorative element in your home. You can experiment with different combinations of flowers, fruits, and spices to find your favorite blend.

Making the switch from scented candles to homemade potpourri might seem like a small change, but it can significantly reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals. By prioritizing your health and the air quality in your home, you can create a soothing and inviting environment without compromising the well-being of you or your guests.

Remember, a cozy atmosphere doesn’t have to come at the expense of your health. Here’s to making our homes healthier, one step at a time! 

Mikaela Cradit, CNHP