The Language of Scent
Working with natural scents we are super interested in the profound effects these scents have on our emotional and biological wellbeing. Research and experience highlights that contact with plants and their fragrances is associated with positive health benefits, including improvements in physical, cognitive, psychological, and social functioning.
Particularly at this time of year (Winter) in the Northern Hemisphere, scent is an important part of our well-being to uplift and invigorate mood - take our Saffron, Sandalwood, Oud & Rose Attar this is truly a swipe of sunshine. We are writing a piece around this, which will form part of a larger text but wanted to start sharing some of this writing with you.
Scent exists as a vapour – where the plants scent molecules or plant secondary metabolites (chemicals created by the plants for fitness, fight infection ward off or attract animals & insects) are light enough to evaporate into the air, into our mouth, lungs, into our noses and into our olfactory system (if applied to our skin in the form of a cream, lotion or balm the aromatic molecules are also absorbed this way).
Our olfactory system consists of around 800 million nerve endings – connected via neurons to the olfactory bulb which extends into the olfactory nerve where signals triggered by scent molecules are transmitted to the limbic system in the brain.
The Limbic system is situated in the temporal lobes of the brain it includes the hippocampus, the amygdala and the hypothalamus – it is associated with a host of emotional responses, memories, nostalgia, motivation, pleasure and sexual desire. The Limbic system is highly connected to our endocrine (hormones) and autonomic nervous systems so impacts on how we deal and respond stress.
Limbic - pertaining to or characteristic of a border, in anatomy, in reference to the brain, from French limbique, from limbe, from Latin limbus "edge".
By extracting, distilling, resting, aging and blending the complex mixtures of natural plant compounds we are condensing and intensifying these aroma molecules – in turn we may have more profound effects on our nervous systems when inhaled or adorned.
By studying the cerebral and autonomic nervous system responses to natural fragrance – research has highlighted the positive physiological responses to scent.
Below a few interesting research papers and further reading.
Effects of inhaling lemon, cinnamon, sandalwood on brain activity
Positive impact of rose oil and stress in nurses
Neuro-architecture – designing for human wellbeing - generating spaces that cause mental stimulation and impacts human psychology and body physiology avoiding stresses – spaces scented with plants – more optimal for human comfort.
Scent (rosemary & lavender) and Mood State Following an Anxiety Provoking Task
Synthetic perfumes – pollutants and health effects
Jennifer Peace Rhind