Sounds silly, but the nose knows. Your sniffer can distinguish between 10,000 scents that waft their way to your limbic system. The what system? The limbic system — the part of your brain that controls your moods, emotions, memory and learning. So it makes sense that aromatherapy, or treatment using scents, can have powerful applications for your state of mind and well-being.
The basics of how the nose detects smells have been known for some time. Odorants waft up through the two nasal cavities until they strike a region that contains approximately 50 million olfactory neurons, the cells that bear odorant receptors. These sensory cells extend long fibers, known as axons, from the nose to the olfactory bulb, the brain region that first processes olfactory information and then sends signals to other areas of the brain (SN: 8/15/98, p. 106).
From Nobel Prize winning researchers to factories in Tokyo, aromatherapy has come of Age.
Aromatherapy scents have been used for centuries, but the science behind aromatherapy and scent therapy has in recent years gained much recognition.
For example, the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to smell researchers, Drs. Linda Buck and Richard Axel for their discoveries that clarify how the sense of smell works.
Buck and Axel discovered a large gene family, comprised of some 1,000 different genes. The gene’s receptors are located on the olfactory receptor cells, which occupy a small area in the upper nasal cavity and detect inhaled odorant molecules.
With each of our olfactory-receptor cells producing a single odorant receptor gene, they determined that there are as many types of olfactory-receptor cells as there are odorant receptors.
Since most odors results from a combination of odorant molecules, a pattern is formed; thus, the human sense of smell can recognize approximately 10,000 different odors.
And, of most significance to most, each of these odors can evoke a memory. In fact, unlike the other senses, the brain triggers an emotional response to an odor before a conscious identification.
In other words, if you associate the scent of apple pie with a cozy feeling evoked by memories of baking with your mother, than you will feel this warm feeling even before your brain says, “Mmm apple pie!”
Now that we are beginning to understand the mystery of the human sense of smell, how are we applying this knowledge?
From the Egyptian pyramids to our homes
Even the ancient Egyptians used aromatherapy scents in the form of candles and oils as natural mood enhancers. Humans are naturally drawn to things that smell good and make us feel good. Naturally, scents that evoke good feelings are the ones we want to have in our homes.
Scented candles, infusers, diffusers, simmer pots, bath oils, and Scent Therapy [http://www.scenttherapy.com/] patches are among the various ways we use aromatherapy scents to enrich our family and personal lives.
Through the gentle, yet powerful, stimulation of the limbic system, aromatherapy scents can be used as safe and effective mood enhancers, as well as stimulants for our thinking processes. They can even help us change behaviors. For example the scented weight loss patch, Diet Scents [http://www.scenttherapy.com/products-diet.asp] can help curb your cravings.
Aromatherapy, in the classic sense, calls for the use of pure essential oils. Synthetic oils, like anything with an odor, can evoke a feeling or memory; however, they do not contain the therapeutic properties of quality essential oils. This is because the brain’s ‘feel good’ endorphins are released through certain aromatic scents.
A new market entry is the Scent Therapy [http://www.scenttherapy.com/scent-therapy-technology.asp] products that use essential oils in a special blend of formulas developed by Dr. George Dodd, one of the world’s leading aroma scientists. Scent Therapy uses a transparent patch the size of a thumbnail that is infused with a mood transforming scent. Simply smelling the patch throughout the day brings the benefits of aromas directly to the nose of the user.
Aromatherapy Scents in the Corporate World
Kajima Construction Company, located in Tokyo, uses aromatherapy scents [http://www.scenttherapy.com/scent-therapy-technology.asp] to improve productivity at their plant and in their offices. In the morning, the invigorating scent of lemon flows from the air conditioning/heating vents. At mid-day, the scent of roses reduces stress, and in the afternoon when workers are tiring, the scent of cypress provides a pick-me-up.
At the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the scent of peppermint wafts through the ducts and out the vents to perk up associates.
Smart executives at companies like these have found an efficient and cost effective way to increase productivity and quality of work, as well as a sense of well-being.
According to professional journals, psychologists agree that concentration; aromatherapy can improve efficiency and mental stamina.
Luke Vorstermans is the founder of The Sense of Smell Lab, a world leader in the development of innovative products that use our sense of smell to influence behavior, trigger memories, manage cravings, enhance moods and improve sexual health. Learn more about enhancing your emotional health at: http://www.scenttherapy.com
Additional Resources on Aromatherapy can be found at:
Website Directory for Aromatherapy
Articles on Aromatherapy
Products for Aromatherapy
Luke Vorstermans, The Official Guide to Aromatherapy