By Angela Pirisi
SCIENCE HAS BEEN finding out how certain scents can affect memory, learning, emotions, physical performance, pain, appetite and sexual attraction. That
may explain why aromatherapy—the use of aromatic extracts (essential oils)
from herbs, flowers and spices by inhalation or topical application—is growing
more popular. It’s a no-brainer, suggest smell researchers, who explain that
scent has the power to positively alter mood and behavior, and heal the body.
An answer to drugs
The growing fascination with aromatherapy has created a huge interest in
fragrance-based products, such as room fragrances, scented candles, essential
oils, and bath and spa treatments; even scented leg wax and feminine
hygiene products have recently appeared on the market.
“There’s a strong movement away from expensive drugs that
have many side effects to herbs and essential oils that have little
to any side effects and that have promise,” says Glen Nagel, N.D.,
an assistant professor of botanical medicine at Bastyr University
For example, some scents, such as ylang-ylang and rose, may
help to reduce pain, theoretically by eliciting relaxation. (Painkillers
work similarly through a sedative effect.)
Research from the University of Kiel, Germany, showed that dabbing
peppermint oil on the forehead and temples for three minutes reduced tension
headache pain. Similarly, sniffing the fresh scent of green apple reduces the
severity and duration of migraine, suggested findings from the Smell & Taste
Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.
Meanwhile, research sponsored by the Sense of Smell Institute in New
York City found that sniffing lavender increased the amount of time subjects
spend in deep (or slow-wave) sleep, the restful, restorative phase of sleep.
Other studies have found that the smell of spiced apple, nutmeg or sandalwood
can lower blood pressure.