Fragrance facts

FRAGRANCE FACTS

Fragrance oils have been used as far back as Greek and Roman times, when athletes used them to treat their muscles before and after competing. So when a sports masseuse starts wafting aromatic scents around the treatment room, it’s not just for effect. Essential oils help alleviate stress, restore mental acuity and calm or invigorate as needed. Learn about the power of scent with these facts:

SMELL BRAIN

1. Olfactory receptor neuron (ORN):
In our nasal cavity, about 40 million olfactory neuron receptors are waiting to catch different odours to send them on to the olfactory bulb. Individual ORNs have a cycle of about 40 days, so there is a constant turnover of new cells occurring in the nasal passage.

2. Olfactory bulb:
As the middleman between your nose and your brain, it transfers smell information to help you distinguish key odours from other smells that occur at the same time. It’s an indispensable part of our survival instinct as humans, helping us find edible food and allowing us to distinguish between friend and foe.

3. Nasal cavity:
A large part of it has absolutely nothing to do with smell. Its primary function is to purify the air we breathe before it reaches our lungs. The moisture in the nasal cavity dissolves odour particles into liquid form so that the olfactory neurons can detect them.

4. The limbic system:
Long before we can speak, we develop this set of structures as children. It’s an emotional memory bank, storing all our happiness, sorrow, fear, pleasure and anger - assigning feelings to different stimuli. And since scent can tap straight into the limbic system, it can evoke emotions from our past without our permission.

fragrance

MENTAL IMPACT

Our sense of smell is the only sense that’s directly wired to the limbic system, our emotional control centre. Other senses like touch or sight require a lot of decoding before they can be understood and get a response. The direct connection of smell means fragrances have the unique ability to tap into our memories and involuntarily affect our moods, thoughts, emotions, and even our mental performance. For example, if Brussels sprouts made you sick when you were five, their smell could make you queasy as an adult.

MEMORY

Smells can also trigger memories because the olfactory bulb is close to the part of your brain where memories are stored (the limbic system). With a memory bank of 2,000 to 4,000 aromas in any one human being, it’s easy to tap into your involuntary memory with a simple scent.

For example, when you catch a whiff of your first crush’s perfume, you’ll remember all those times you had together. Your first kiss. Junior prom. That time her parents came home early...