Believe it or not, working at Little Trees CAR-FRESHNER this summer has piqued my interest in fragrance! We do so much with fragrance at work (and I’ve smelled some of the best and the absolute WORST aka malodor) that I’ve decided to do a little research of my own on fragrance.
Obviously if you’re smelling something nasty, you’re going to feel nasty, too. Bad smells alert your brain to danger. Is your milk expired? Give it a quick sniff. You’ll know.
What I really want to focus on are the good smells out there and what they can really do to improve one’s mood – and why.
As babies, our olfactory senses are the first to develop and although we aren’t as gifted as dogs are in the smell department, we have a highly developed sense of smell (some more than others). Our body’s limbic system (see below) is directly connected to our olfactory bulbs – so what we smell plays a bigger role in our moods than we might think.
Recently businesses like hotels and clothing stores have begun to use scent as a marketing tactic. While clothing stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister, Inc. douse their product in their signature scent, they’re really training your brain to identify with the brand in a positive way. If you don’t like the scent, however, this tactic may have the opposite effect.
Studies have been done, like this one where participants were exposed to certain fragrances and asked to identify which mood they elicited. This method is called Mood Mapping and has been trademarked by Stephen Warrenburg at Oxford. While studies like this one have been done, lots of others (most likely less qualified than Mr. Warrenburg) have gathered evidence of specific natural fragrances being useful for a variety of stress-relieving outcomes.
Here’s what I found:
You know the smell. I’m sure I don’t have to do much explaining to convince you that the warm and sweet scent of vanilla makes you feel nurtured and content – and gives you a sense of nostalgia, too. P.S. Hot tip: the scent of vanilla wards off pesky flies.
This sweetly sour citrus scent spikes energy and clears the mind giving you the extra boost you need to get through the day. Eat half a grapefruit a day, or even once a week, and you’ll reap the benefits of the combination of fiber, potassium, lycopene, Vitamin C, and cholene which all contribute to a healthy heart. It also helps regulate blood pressure.
The pungent and bitter root spice has an encouraging benefit: the release of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin signal depression, so turmeric plays an adverse role on the mental disorder.
Feeling irritable or angry? Take the edge off with a fragrance that includes bergamot. Bergamot scent is derived from the bergamot orange. It’s a fragrant yellow/green citrus fruit roughly the size of a Florida orange. Bergamot is supposed to be mood balancing.
Personally, I’m not fond of the scent, but it has some pretty great qualities. Jasmine is supposed to be deeply sedating to the body’s nervous system. It’s perfect to use after a long day – just try to stay away from stressors and take a few deep breaths after applying.
Lilly of the Valley
One of the cutest and most fragile flowering plants, Lily of the Valley, is known to help with sadness or grief by inducing a sense of security and comfort. Keep an eye out for those little white bells!
Rosemary improves memory retention and fights headaches, mental fatigue, and physical burnout. It’s also delicious and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that prevent brain aging and improves digestion.
The magical scent of coffee. Mmm. I feel more relaxed just thinking about my morning cup. A study was done by Han-Seouk Seo of Seoul National University in which rats were stressed out because they were being deprived of sleep, but once exposed to the fragrance of Colombian coffee beans, brain protein levels changed and had a calming/antioxidant effect on them.
Try these out. You never know, a better day might be a sniff away.