The Power Of Scent

Scents are used as wellness therapy all over the world.  Why is it that they are so universally acknowledged to have healing properties?  One of the answers lies in our anatomy.

First, we need to know that a synapse, or a juncture between two nerve cells, is where information can be exchanged.  In simple terms, the more synapses you have, the larger the opportunity for assessment, analysis, adjustments, and change.  There is a synapse between every nerve cell in the chain of nerves that takes input from our nose to our brain.  Normally we think of this opportunity for analysis as being a good thing; we are the mighty champions of the cerebral cortex, you know.  The reason that scent is so powerful is because there are very few synapses between the smell receptors in our nose and the end point in our brain.  Scent doesn’t have as many opportunities to get diluted, adjusted, and changed.  Thus, we can’t diminish its strength or dilute the associations the scent makes with excuses or rationality.  Scent goes straight in like a laser.

The second reason why our anatomy helps us understand the power of scent comes from understanding what part of the brain the signals are sent to.  This area is called the Limbic System.  And while it is quite complex, we often think about this area as our emotional brain.  Further, the neighborhood where scent signals are processed is also  responsible for memory.  This physical neighborhood matters because proximity makes opportunity for connections to be made.  Our anatomy sets up the opportunity for scent, emotion, and memory to all become closely associated.

Everyone has had the experience where they smell something and go, “Wow, that takes me back.  Reminds me of…”  Those memories and their emotional tones are all tied to the scent.  Science is even suggesting that our very ability to smell requires those associative memories.  That’s how profound the connections are.  We can use scents to trigger specific emotions and to balance them.  But, because of scent’s association to specific memories, we can also bring out happy associations to brighten our day or pull up negative memories for processing.

The science of using scent for wellness is called Aromatherapy.  There are a tremendous number of different Aromatherapy Essential Oils to choose from.  The individual scents each have different balancing effects on our emotions.  I highly recommend doing a little research on this wonderful healing modality.  Hopefully this article helps you appreciate why scent can be so helpful. Next week we will give examples of specific Essential Oils and their healing properties.

Caution: Aromatherapy Essential Oils are not just used for their scent.  This can be confusing when looking at the uses of essential oils.  The extractions pull more than just the aromatic plant compounds out.  This gives the entire modality of Aromatherapy a broader spectrum of use than just smelling them.

Remember: Scents go straight into the brain and thus we can’t dilute their effects before they trigger emotional responses.  This, combined with the memories associated with them, make them wonderful tools for attaining emotional wellness.


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