Science of smell worth sniffing out

Lynda Pupo tells us how aromatherapy can make scents

Take a nap amongst the lavender at Happy Valley Lavender

Take a nap amongst the lavender at Happy Valley Lavender

 

The sense of smell is powerful. It can tell us when something is wrong, like burning toast, remind us of our past, and create a feeling of tranquility. Be it relaxing, rejuvenating, or energizing there’s a scent to create the perfect feeling. But while companies spend top dollar perfecting the scent of your bath and house-cleaning products, the science behind scents can be utilized at home.

Aromatherapy is the use of concentrated essential oils from plants with healing properties. They are traditionally rubbed into the skin, inhaled, or used as a compress, but are not to be consumed.  In the western world, aromatherapy is a form of complementary or alternative medicine. It is believed to have been used by Hippocrates as early medicine in the form of herbal baths and accounts can be found dating as far back as 3500 BC.

Science shows that when you smell something, the olfactory nerves talk directly to the deep limbic system in the brain, the same area that processes memory — which is why smell can trigger a vivid moment of the past. It is believed that certain smells can actually cool down the deep limbic system to promote calmness. Scents such as lavender, mandarin, sandalwood and rose are known to have anxiolytic activity that relieves anxiety and panic.

Practitioners that use aromatherapy find lavender can help with sleep. Just Me Natural Products of Metchosin, for example, sells lavender pillows for relaxation, plus eucalyptus and peppermint pillows as a sinus decongestant. Aromatherapy diffuser pendants (hollow blown glass filled with essential oils) are a great way to wear a scent around your neck. There are a wide variety of scented health products available at your local herbal store or artisan shop.

Victoria’s very own lavender farm, Happy Valley Lavender, offers a unique experience: a rest in a bed placed right out in their field surrounded by lavender. Now that’s relaxation. They also offer a variety of products and recipes with lavender as the main ingredient.

Essential oils steaming away above a candle may fill the room with aroma, but imagine the experience of an aromatherapy massage which is now offered at most spas. A study on women with breast cancer found that those massaged with essential oils were more likely to be relaxed and reported less stress in their overall lives than women who don’t use aromatherapy. Another study in the United Kingdom found that midwives using rose oil and lavender aromatherapy helped the labouring mother with stress and also with the contractions.

Although lavender is popular, there are many different scents. Sandalwood, geranium, peppermint, and chamomile have been found to help with mood and meditation, and practitioners have found that cinnamon works as an aphrodisiac. But mostly you should sniff a few to see what happens for you.

While stores and spas offer elaborate aromatherapy products, it is also easy to create some home remedies. Make your own pillows by stuffing a sock with dried lavender, peppermint leaves, or even your favourite aromatic tea. Add cucumber slices or mint leaves to your water to liven it up.  Keep a small clipping of fragrant soap in the tip of tied-off pantyhose and store it in your purse or office desk.

Be it cream, oil, a pillow, or just a bouquet on your desk, aromatherapy is something worth sniffing out. Remember to get your nose working for you. Find your scent, sit back, and breathe. M

 

 

Cool down peppermint pillow

 

You will need;

1 cotton tube sock

4 cups uncooked rice

3 cups dried peppermint

leaves

In a large bowl, mix the rice and peppermint. Carefully pour the mixture into your tube sock. Tie or sew the end closed. Place in your freezer overnight. Whenever you need to rejuvenate, take the pillow out and place around the back of your neck. Feel the cooling power of peppermint and relax.

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