The other day I was doing some research on the internet and came across an article in Scientific American which stated that the smell of cookies baking is pro-social. The scent of the cookies prompted people to be more generous and to offer help and assistance more often. While this study was conducted with people that did not know one another, I found it interesting and one of these days I am going to test the theory on my teen-age children. On a day when they are fighting and arguing with one another, I'll bake cookies and see what happens.
The article did start me thinking about scents and how different smells can affect our mood and productivity. According to Medical News Today, "It is believed that the inhalation of essential oils stimulates the part of the brain connected to smell - the olfactory system; a signal is sent to the limbic system of the brain that controls emotions and retrieves learned memories. This causes chemicals to be released which make the person feel relaxed, calm, or even stimulated." The article further says that although there is no scientific data to support aromatherapy, some clinical studies do support the claim that aromatherapy can help in both mood and productivity.
There are several ways to incorporate aromatherapy into your daily routine:
- Air fresheners or diffusers to disperse a scent throughout a room.
- Personal use by placing a few drops of essential oils onto a cotton ball for you to inhale directly
- Topical use, such as massage oils
Side effects from aromatherapy are generally mild and short-lived. Some people do, however, experience nausea, headaches or allergic reactions. Other possible problems include:
- Interaction with other medications. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you currently take prescription medication
- Sensitivity to sunlight. Some essential oils, especially citrus oils, can cause your skin to be sensitive to sunlight and you may burn easily.
- If you have allergies, hay-fever or asthma, you should speak with your doctor before undergoing aromatherapy
- If you have skin conditions, you should check with your doctor before using topical aromatherapy
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your doctor about any possible adverse reactions in the baby
- Talk to your doctor if you have epilespy, deep-vein thrombosis or high blood pressure before participating in aromatherapy
Specific Uses of Aromatherapy
We most often think about aromatherapy for relaxation but many essential oils are used for other purposes,as well. The following lists some of the essential oils that are thought to help in different areas.
Alertness, Focus or Memory
- Linden Blossom
The essential oils listed here may have a different effect on different people. You may find one oil helps you relax but does not do anything for someone else. Try to experiment with different scents to find out what works best for you. If you have tried aromatherapy, please let us know about your experiences. If you have additional scents to add that may help others, please post a comment and share with us.
"About Aromatherapy," 2008-2011 Rocky Mountain Aromatherapy Institute. LLC
"Aromatherapy for Memory and Concentration," Wavelengths Natural Health
"Essential oils that have a role in stress management," 2010, Dec, Aroma Stress Buster
"Essential Oils to Boost Memory," Methods of Healing