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A healthy scent: how smell can affect our mood


Kim Davis , Canwest News Service; Vancouver Sun

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” – Helen Keller

Nearly any real estate agent will tell you that one of the surest ways to appeal to a would-be buyer is to have an enticing smell – freshly baked cookies, brewing coffee, simmering soup – wafting through your home when it is being toured.

The olfactory system, which senses and processes odours, is one of the oldest parts of the brain. Among our senses, smell alone has a unique relationship with the limbic system, a key emotional centre associated with our moods, behaviour, and long-term memory.

Different scents can change our moods, depending on the memories and feelings they trigger.

Different scents can change our moods, depending on the memories and feelings they trigger.

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In the book Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell, the use of fragrance in the home is described as having been a matter of “practical housekeeping” for our ancient relatives. Clothes stored in cedar chests were not only kept fragrant, but also protected from moths. Incense burned in storerooms both perfumed the wares within and helped ward off rodents.

More recently, the therapeutic use of scents – like many other traditional practices, including naturopathy, massage, and Ayurvedic medicine – is starting to receive growing attention, both from the general public and the scientific community.

Aromatic research, while still in its infancy, is already beginning to show that the smells in our homes, workplaces, and institutions such as hospitals can have a measurable effect on how comfortable we feel, and on our ability to handle stressful situations.

Aromatherapy, which uses aromatic compounds from plants to affect a person’s mood or health, is thought to have been in existence for some 6,000 years. The Greeks, Romans, and ancient Egyptians all used essential oils. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, is thought to have used aromatic fumigations to rid Athens of the plague.

The word “aromatherapy” was first used in the 1920s by French chemist Rene- Maurice Gattefosse, who devoted his life to researching the healing properties of essential oils after inadvertently experiencing the benefits of lavender oil.

Today, aromatherapy is considered one of the fastest growing fields in holistic medicine. In some countries, including France, it has already been incorporated into mainstream medicine.

“People are realizing the therapeutic value of essential oils,” says Pat Antoniak, a registered nurse and registered aromatherapist who owns the Natural Comfort Wellness Centre in the Vancouver suburb of Tsawwassen. “People are starting to see the limitations of pharmacology, and looking to get away from petrochemicals.”

While scientific research on the cause and effect of aromatherapy is still limited, in vitro testing and a few double-blind studies have demonstrated the antibacterial and antiviral effects of some essential oils, and the abilities of others to reduce stress and anxiety. A recent study, conducted at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital, found that stress related to claustrophobia during MRI scans could be reduced by nearly 63 per cent by the use of a vanilla

Categories: essential oils health and wellness Nectar Essences

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