BY JAN MORAN
CAN THE AROMAS you encounter every
day actually have an impact on your health
and well-being? Many researchers say the
right scents can have a multitude of benefits.
“Aromas are more likely to have benefi-
cial impacts if people find them pleasant and
have a strong memory or association,” says
Pamela Dalton, a scientist and odor researcher
at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in
Philadelphia. “Aromas with positive associa-
tions can bring back a sense of well-being.”
While laboratory studies haven’t found
strong pharmacological results from aromas,
appealing scents can reduce stress and
“We use fragrance to alter our mood, and
when our mood is altered, we derive benefits,”
Dalton says. “Laboratory studies have shown
that people breathe more deeply when they
smell an aroma with a positive association.
Deep breathing is highly beneficial; it lowers
the heart rate and leads to relaxation.”
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative
medicine that uses plant-based essential oils
for the purpose of altering one’s psychological
or physical state. In the study of integrated
medicine, aromatherapy is now recognized
for helping patients manage their health.
A Mayo Clinic post on its website states
that “aromatherapy with lavender oil may
help make needle sticks less painful for people
receiving dialysis, improve sleep for people
who are hospitalized and reduce pain for children undergoing tonsillectomy.”
Positive aroma association
Many people can attest to the power of
scent and its ability to transform mood. When
you choose fragrances, you’re making choices
that have an impact on your emotions.
“The degree to which people find an aroma
pleasant depends on how they have experienced it in the past,” Dalton explains. “If the
memory is positive, the aroma will have a
positive influence on mood. Aromas become
imbedded with these positive experiences.
Many people find vanilla and citrus appealing, and there might even be evolutionary reasons why we like those.”
How the sense of smell works
Any emotion governed by the limbic center of the brain—the seat of emotions, memory
and creativity—can be enhanced by aromas.
When scents stimulate the nasal receptors on the olfactory path to the brain’s limbic
center, neurotransmitters are released and
chemicals are secreted into the blood system.
This can alter a person’s mental and emotional state, bring up long-forgotten memories and trigger physical reactions.
To de-stress, Dalton recommends “learned
relaxation responses.” If you don’t already
have a scent you like, you can actually develop
one. “Aromas can help people acquire a posi-
tive state of relaxation through future associa-
tion,” Dalton says. “If you put yourself in a
relaxed state and smell an aroma, you’re giv-
ing the aroma the power to bring you back to
a positive state in the future.”
Benefits of aromas
Psychologists have found that lily of the
valley and peppermint make students more
alert during tests.
Rose is a good antidepressant, and the
scent of vanilla is calming. Researchers at
New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer
Center discovered that vanilla helps relax
patients undergoing an MRI. Hotels often use
scent to increase positive association, too.
Get the benefits of aromas by using a
room diffuser, inhaling the scent directly or
adding it to massage oil. Look for fragrances
with positive scent associations, too.
Whether you’re choosing a fragrance to
lift your spirits or for gift-giving, just follow
your nose. C
Jan Moran ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Costco
member and author of Fabulous Fragrances
(Crescent House Publishing 2000; not available at Costco).
FOLLOWING IS A list of problems and
common aromatherapy treatments.
Experiment to learn what works best
Anxiety: Vanilla, lavender, basil,
bergamot, rose, chamomile, ylang-ylang
Depression: Bergamot, tuberose,
rose, lavender, frankincense, neroli,
Fatigue: Jasmine, lemon, peppermint, lily of the valley, osmanthus,
Headache: Lavender, eucalyptus,
High blood pressure: Bergamot,
clary sage, ylang-ylang, lavender
Insomnia: Lavender, clary sage,
chamomile, basil, vanilla, frankincense
Menopause: Clary sage, pepper-
mint, lemon, angelica, jasmine, neroli
Menstrual cramps: Clary sage,
lavender, rose, marjoram, ginger
Mental efficiency: Rose, basil,
bergamot, lemon, peppermint,
Sensuality: Jasmine, rose,
sandalwood, ylang-ylang, neroli,
Stress: Lavender, rose, frankincense, chamomile, vanilla, bergamot,
THE COS TCO CONNECTION
Costco carries a variety of spices, flowers,
fruits and men’s and women’s perfumes in
the warehouse, and a fragrance dispenser
and refills on Costco.com.
FOR YOUR HEALTH