Aromatherapy is both an art and a science. When used safely, it’s a fabulous way to naturally enhance wellbeing.
Here in the UK we massively underestimate the power of smell and its very primal connection with our emotions. The power of smell is instinctive, just like how if we suddenly smelt gas, we would start to feel fear or panic.. or how a newborn baby can recognise it’s mother by her subtle smell.
We don’t respond to smell by thinking, we respond by feeling…
It’s true, thanks to our very clever limbic system, also known as the “smell brain” or “emotional brain”.
The science behing smelling..
Here’s the sciencey bit (thank goodness I’ve managed to retain a few things I learnt studying for my degree) …
When you inhale an aroma, the aromatic compounds of that smell stimulates receptor cells in our nasal cavity, which fires electrical signals to the olfactory bulb and in turn, sending information to the limbic system (often called our “emotional brain”.
THIS is where it gets really interesting.
Our very clever limbic system (often referred to as the “emotional” part of the brain) is made up of several parts:
– The amygdala – which is where we process emotions.
– The hippocampus – responsible for memory.
Through conditioned responses, your brain learns to associate a smell with feelings, evoking emotional and physical responses almost instantly.
As a clinical aromatherapist and massage therapist, I work with the power of smell to help encourage calm and relaxation for anxious and stressed clients.
Whilst encouraging relaxation by giving a slow, rhythmical and comforting massage to a client, I will use aromatherapy for its additional benefits. For example, (If the client likes and enjoys the aroma) I will diffuse relaxing and sedative ylang-ylang and lavender into the therapy space. I will then give that client ylang-ylang and lavender to take home on a sniff stick for them to inhale in times of stress or anxiety, to encourage a feeling of calm.Holly Turner, BSc, MIFPA.
This will help the client in two ways. Firstly, the chemical compounds of the oils have a relaxing and sedative effect on the mind… AND (thanks to our Hippocampus) inhaling the SAME aroma should also remind them of being on the therapy couch and enjoying a relaxing massage, therefore creating a relaxing and calming effect on the mind. It’s like a double whammy!
So.. smells cause a physiological response in the body.
Inhaling essential oils is one of the quickest ways for it to enter our body. When we breathe in the oil, the aromatic molecules travel through our respiratory tract, into our lungs and then into our bloodstream. It is well known in the medical community that inhalation is one of the best ways of getting drugs into the brain.
This is why my handmade sniff sticks can be so helpful for our mind and mood.
Thanks to our very clever link between smell, memory and emotions, an aroma could evoke feelings of comfort and relaxation whereas other smells may make you feel more alert.
For example, scientific research from Northumbria University demonstrated inhaling Rosemary essential oil can help to improve memory. Although the science now tells us this, we’ve known this for centuries. In ancient Greece, students would wear rosemary garlands during their exams.
This is why I created my Focus Sniff Stick.
Whilst many research studies have shown that inhaling lavender essential oil can significantly reduce anxiety levels. Hence why I created my Chill Vibes Rollerball and Sniff Stick in the hope to help encourage calm and relaxation.