Larry Yando: actor, aromatherapist

Larry Yando wouldn’t call himself an aromatherapist. But how else to describe a guy who’s honed a daily practice of using essential oils to...
Photograph: Lisa Predko
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Larry Yando wouldn’t call himself an aromatherapist. But how else to describe a guy who’s honed a daily practice of using essential oils to finesse his moods? Scent-aholic and aroma monger just don’t have the same ring.

In his Rogers Park condo, the actor (who just finished his third stint as Scrooge in the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol) has two sets of oils: one in the bathroom, for applying to his skin; the other in his living room, for freshening the air. Every night after work, he activates his diffuser, a little ceramic dish with water, heated by a votive. He picks one of the 25 scents and shakes a few drops into the water.

Though never formally trained, after years of practice he can pick the best aroma for the moment—for example, one that helps relieve tension. He discovered aromatherapy during his undergrad days in New York, but the passion really took off in 1993, when he became a regular at Aroma Workshop (2050 N Halsted St, 773-871-1985). The owner encouraged Yando to experiment by blending oils. Eventually, he made recipes not just for himself but for his characters and for other actors as opening-night gifts. (He’s had the store ship oils around the country when he toured with The Lion King.)

When he played the humorless Malvolio in Chicago Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night last spring, “I made one that was a bit overwhelming. It was absolutely connected to the character, and it always felt weird to put it on,” he recalls. “To Larry, it was extreme and overpowering, but that’s exactly why I got a little vial of it for Malvolio. Do you remember Aramis? Every gay bar smelled like that [cologne], and it made me sick to my stomach. This was sort of like that.”

Whether foul or sweet, the oils help Yando remember to breathe consciously. “It can be lavender, bergamot, lemongrass—it doesn’t matter. The act of breathing Zens me out.”

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