Have you ever smelled a certain flower or cologne and suddenly experienced deja vu? Or perhaps you've caught a whiff of fir and immediately envisioned a Christmas tree even in the middle of July. Scent can transport us back to previous experiences, triggering long forgotten feelings associated with those memories. That's because a particular aroma triggers areas of the brain that influence your emotions, memory, cardiovascular functioning, and hormonal balance. Your body thinks you are there!
In fact, memories associated with scent influence us more than most of us realize. Realtors know that the smell of baking cookies, heightened by the aroma of vanilla, can sell a house because it reminds potential buyers of being nurtured. In fact, realtors can forgo the cookies and simply scent the air with a vanilla fragrance.
The Sweet Smell of Success
International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc. (IFF), a New Jersey research company, has tested more than 2,000 people to better understand how certain scents summon deep-seated memories and affect personality, behavior, and sleep patterns. They found that pleasant smells put people into better moods and make them more willing to negotiate, cooperate, and compromise.
As a result of these and other studies, several large Tokyo corporations circulate the essential oils of lemon, peppermint, and cypress in their air-conditioning systems to keep workers alert and attentive on the job. As a happy side-effect, this practice is said to reduce the employees' urge to smoke. Pleasing fragrances are being pumped into offices, stores, and hotels in cities around the world to make the atmosphere more relaxing and invigorating, a task that multidimensional essential oils handle with ease. Of course, what these companies really want is for you to feel so comfortable that you will stay longer and return often.
Natural Uppers and Downers
Memory and association are only one way scents affect us psychologically. According to researchers studying aromacology, the science of medicinal aromas, fragrance actually alters our brain waves.
For instance, stimulating scents such as peppermint and eucalyptus intensify brain waves, making the mind sharper and clearer. The effects are similar to those of coffee, but are achieved without caffeine's detrimental impact on the adrenal glands. As a result, aroma is currently helping workers such as truck drivers and air traffic controllers, whose jobs -- and the safety of others -- depend on their being attentive.
Certain fragrances can also produce the opposite effect. If you inhale a flowery draft of chamomile tea, your brain waves will lengthen, causing you to feel relaxed. This is similar to the effect of taking a sedative drug but without the concomitant liver damage.
Some essential oils have effects similar to antidepressant drugs, according to the Olfaction Research Group at Warwick University in England. Italian psychiatrist Paolo Rovesti, M.D., helped is patients overcome depression using the scents of various citruses, such as orange, bergamot, lemon, and lemon verbena.
Psychologists help people overcome anxiety, tension, and mood swings by having them associate a scent with feelings of rest and contentment. The psychologist uses biofeedback or visualization techniques to help the client relax, and then sniff a relaxing scent. Later, the client can simply smell the relaxation scent when he or she becomes nervous or anxious.
To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:
- Aromatherapy: Here you will learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
- How Essential Oils Work: In this article, you will learn how essential oils are produced, the difference between essential oils, and how to buy and store essential oils.
- How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
- Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
- Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.