October 6, 2009

It Makes Scents!

It is a popular notion that memories can be triggered by aromas, but is this a scientific fact? You betcha! There is definitely science behind this phenomenon. Scent molecules are carried to the olfactory tract that just happens to reside next door to the amygdala which performs a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. Odor-evoked memories are usually emotionally potent and often very vivid.

You have probably had this occur uncounted times in your life and not even realized that scent was the trigger of the emotional memories you experienced. When I smell musky aromas like patchouli or a woody incense I am immediately transported back to the early 70's and a groovy little shop on the beach that sold all sorts of jewelry, t-shirts, black light posters and other various sundry items that my mother wouldn't let us look at. The memories are very distinct and include the senses of sight, sound and smell. I was only about 13 years old and though it was a really long time ago (more than I'd care to admit!) the memory feels very fresh, like it just happened yesterday.

Stimulating scents are all around you from the grilled burger aroma being pumped out by Burger King that makes you feel hungry, to the ever expanding home fragrance products now available on every grocery and drugstore shelf. In the cosmetic and household fragrance industry you will find many scents that are made to not only emit a pleasing aroma but to evoke pleasurable memories that will keep you coming back for more. Each holiday season when we bring back our Spiced Pumpkin body care line we have customers gushing about their memories of the aroma of homemade pumpkin pie wafting in the air from the kitchens of their mothers or grandmothers and it makes them feel warm and cozy all over. That's the idea!

Some scents have calming effects like lavender, chamomile and vanilla, while others are meant to energize and rejuvenate such as peppermint, grapefruit and neroli. Aromatherapy has its origins in antiquity and many holistic and alternative health practitioners value the therapeutic properties of essential oils to help treat myriad maladies including depression, migraines, stress and sinus problems. You have likely heard the term "Chakra" that has come into mainstream vogue of late but has actually been practiced for centuries. Chakra is a Sandskrit word that means "wheel of light". According to traditional Indian medicine Chakra refers to each of the seven energy centers located along the midline of the body starting at the base of the spine and ending at the crown of the head. It is said that when all the Chakras are open and radiant the Chakra system is balanced, creating harmony between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of a person.

I believe there is a valid argument that the smell of almost everything can affect you. They may trigger vivid memories, offer healing when used properly or evoke feelings of energy, peace or comfort. I advise caution when using essential or plant-based oils as some are very strong and a number of them should be avoided during pregnancy. Now that you have a starting point why not check into ways to naturally modify your moods and possibly your over-all health? It makes scents, right?

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