Sense of Smell and its relation to Essential Oils
How many times have you smelled a particular scent and it reminded you of something from twenty years ago? We have a china cabinet in our home that has been in my family for decades, and each time I open it, that very distinct scent takes me back “home.” I always tease that nobody can leave it standing open for too long, as I don’t want the scent associated with my childhood to diminish!
Smell is our most primal of the five senses, followed by taste, hearing, sight, and touch. Smell can influence our thoughts and feelings, emotional behavior, moods, and can even initiate memories.
The sense of smell is processed through different pathways in your brain than the other four senses. Before reaching the thalamus, smell first winds its way through other regions of the brain including areas that control memory and emotion. This means the brain begins to process smell before we become consciously aware of the actual smell, resulting in a very powerful influence on our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Real quick, I want to remind you that there is a distinct difference in fragrances and essential oils. A candle burning your favorite scent is very different from putting essential oils into your diffuser and enjoying the aromatherapy benefits. Fragrances and perfumes are synthetic and often contain toxins and potential allergy triggers, while essential oils are therapeutic (of course, you want to make certain you are using 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils).
Using essential oils (whether independently or as a blend) in a diffuser is highly effective as it initiates your strongest sense – smell. The list of benefits is astronomical, but just to name a few:
- Stress relief
- Nausea relief
- Mood stabilization
- Natural relaxation/sleep aid
- Energy level
- Memory improvement
Many essential oils are extremely versatile, offering multiple benefits and addressing multiple ailments. For example, peppermint and lavender oils are the two main “multitaskers” that come to mind as they can be used for so many different things and provide such powerful relief for so many mental and physical ailments.
See the following chart as an example of the many benefits one single oil can provide:
Essential Oil: Ailment relief:
Lavender Stress, Anxiety, Insomnia, mood, pain, nausea/vomiting, migraines
Peppermint Stress, mood, pain, energy level, memory, focus
Chamomile Insomnia, anxiety, mood, nausea/vomiting
Lemon Allergies/colds, nausea/vomiting, awakening (mood)
Have you ever wondered why a particular scent makes one person retch and another feel happy? It’s science! The variations in response to smell is related to the pathways in our brains where information is stored with “associative” memories. For example, the smell of the ocean may have fond associative memories of a family reunion or wedding on the beach for one person, while it brings back memories of a bad experience for another. Same idea.
A Japanese study found that scent can change biochemistry within our nervous system. This supports that the use of essential oils can do so. Some oils can stimulate while others can calm the nervous system. Single essential oils most commonly associated with calming include lavender and rosemary, and there are also some excellent blends available. These work by decreasing the stress hormone in our body (cortisol).
As always, I urge you to do your own research and “sniff out” the ingredients of any product before use to ensure safety with your body! Check all ingredients to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
Thank you for visiting! Feel free to contact me any time (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss any questions you have about essential oils, health and wellness research, or your research needs!