Scent Therapy: How Scent can Boost your Wellbeing
Ever walked into a room where there is a lit scented candle and instantly felt any tension melt away? Or smelt a scent that just transports you to a moment back in time and instantly helped you feel uplifted?
People have often thought about the power of scent and how it can boost our wellbeing, but have previously failed to unpack the science behind it, so I’m doing that all right here in this article.
Discover the power of scent therapy.
The Mind and Body Connection
Scents have the ability to evoke certain memories and emotions. This is due to the fact that scents send signals to our limbic system, the part of the brain that is home to our memory and emotion.
This relationship between scents, memories and emotions helps to explain why smells can influence our mood.
Positive emotions, which can be elicited by certain scents or fragrances have been shown to lower stress and improve psychological wellbeing (Masahiro et al. 2011).
What’s more, our mind and body are so intrinsically linked that the benefits of scent on mind can also positively enhance our physiological wellbeing, too.
Scientists are now becoming interested in a field called psychoneuroendoimmunology (PNEI), which is an area that studies the connection between psychological processes and the nervous, endocrine and immune systems of the body. The area lends solid research to the mind and body connection.
PNEI looks at the specific ways in which stress and emotional states can affect our brain, hormones, nervous and immune system and vice versa, with the idea that negative emotions can have a direct negative impact on health and positive thoughts having a positive impact on wellbeing.
Therefore, positive moods and emotions elicited by scent inhalation can arouse beneficial effects on mental, hormonal, nervous and immune system health through this connection.
What are the Physical Health Benefits?
A study was conducted on participants who smelled a nostalgic odour (i.e. a fragrance that was considered personal to each individual), evoking an autobiographic memory. This was measured against a control odour, which was the same to all participants and established to not evoke any memories or nostalgia. After smelling the nostalgic scent, the mood states of participants reportedly changed. Positive feelings such as happiness and comfort were reportedly increased, whilst negative feelings such as anxiety had significantly decreased (Matsunaga et al. 2011a).
The study also investigated the effects of scent on reducing inflammation, which lies at the heart of most major Western diseases. Inflammation is the body’s natural defence against foreign invaders such as viruses or bacteria, which is a good thing if we are battling a cold. The problem lies when we have chronic inflammation, where the immune system starts to become overactive and can result in the body being flooded with lots of defence cells and hormones that can damage tissues. This type of chronic inflammation is common in chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and heart disease (Lopez-Candales et al. 2017) (Rubin et al. 2012) (Wong et al. 2004).
Interestingly, interleukin-2 (a molecule of the immune system that is normally produced during an immune response) levels decreased after smelling the nostalgic odour compared to those who smelled the control odour. A further study also demonstrated that positive feelings such as happiness decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines (also a component of the immune system) (Matsunaga et al. 2011b), which is why it is conceivable to consider scent-evocation as a way of reducing systemic inflammation. Whilst more research needs to be considered on these areas, it shows ongoing evidence surrounding the power of scent therapy.
So How Do Essential Oils Play A Part?
Essential oils are naturally occurring volatile aromatic compounds that are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers and other parts of plants.
Essential oils work to provide protection against predators and disease, whilst also playing a role in plant pollination. They also possess aromatic qualities that are fragrant to the human nose.
Essential oils have been used as part of aromatherapy for thousands of years. Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine in which healing effects are ascribed to aromatic compounds. Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose and in turn activating the limbic system, thereby benefitting wellbeing through the power of the mind-body connection.
Many studies are being continuously ran on essential oil aromatherapy. One such study measured the effects of aromatherapy on the anxiety, vital signs and sleep quality of hospital patients having stents fitted (also referred to as Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, or PCI). The study was ran against a control group and the aromatherapy group was shown to have reduced levels of anxiety, increased sleep and stabilised blood pressure (Cho et al. 2013).
DISCLAIMER: Essential oils are never to be used as replacement of medical treatment(s).
What can I use in order to get these wellbeing-promoting benefits?
As we have covered the fundamental basics on the science of scent and aromatherapy, we can now turn our attention to what we can place in our homes in order to reap the benefits.
Placing scented natural wax candles full of essential oils in your home can support your wellbeing. Whilst most candles on the market are full of toxic paraffin wax we have a natural candle collection for you that considers your wellbeing from every angle!
ARDERE candles can promote optimum wellbeing through a combination of factors, such as using quality 100% organic natural wax and 100% cotton wicks (no toxic interlaced lead). But most of all it is the abundance of essential oils used, the unique and exquisite scent profiles (to evoke positive mental states) as well as the benefits that arise from each essential oils’ molecular constituents. These have been carefully considered by ARDERE’s in-house Naturopath to boost mood and wellbeing.
For example, lavender essential oil used within the Provence candle has been studied to reveal its impacts on promoting sleep. One study revealed how lavender oil was able to induce feelings of relaxation in healthy volunteers whilst also decreasing blood pressure and heart rate (Savorwan et al. 2012), whilst another study supported the findings that lavender was able to promote deep sleep in both young men and women (Goel, 2005).
You can read all about the therapeutic benefits of each scent via ardere.com.
By Nicole Windas (ARDERE co-founder)
Cho, M.Y. Min, E.S. Hur, M.H. et al. (2013). ‘Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units’, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, pp. 1-6, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3588400/(Accessed: 5 September 2018).
Goel, N. Kim, H and Lao, R.P. (2005). ‘An Olfactory Stimulus Modifies Nighttime Sleep in Young Men and Women’, Chronobiology International, 22 (5), pp. 889-904, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16298774(Accessed: 18 September 2018).
Lopez-Candales, A. Burgos, P.M, Hernandez-Suarez, D.F. et al. (2017). ‘Linking Chronic Inflammation with Cardiovascular Disease: From Normal Aging to the Metabolic Syndrome’, 3 (4), p. 341, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5488800/(Accessed: 13 September 2018).
Masahiro, M. Isowa, T. Yamakawa, K. et al. (2011). ‘Psychological and Physiological Responses to Odor-Evoked Autobiographic Memory’, Activitas Nervosa Superior Rediviva, 53 (3), pp. 114-120, Semantic Scholar [Online]. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/628d/a5529ea7f1af23dea002852f6a4225b23458.pdf?_ga=2.219413407.703564051.1536135427-1541759280.1536135427(Accessed: 5 September 2018).
Matsunaga, M. Isowa, T. Yamakawa, K. (2011a). ‘Psychological and Physiological Responses to Odor-Evoked Autobiographic Memory’, Activitas Nervosa Superior Rediviva, 53 (3), pp. 114-120, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22286798(Accessed: 7 September 2018).
Matsunaga, M. Isowa, T. Yamakawa, K. (2011b). ‘Association Between Perceived Happiness Levels and Peripheral Circulating Pro-Inflammatory Cytokine Levels in Middle-Aged Adults in Japan’, Neuroendocrionology Letters, 32 (4), pp. 458-463, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21876513(Accessed: 5 September 2018).
Rubin, D.C, Shaker, A and Levin, M.S. (2012). ‘Chronic Intestinal Inflammation: Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Colitis-Associated Colon Cancer’, Frontiers in Immunology, 3, p. 107, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3347037/(Accessed: 13 September 2018).
Sayorwan, W. Siripornpanich, V. Piriyapunyaporn, T. et al. (2012). ‘The Effects of Lavender Oil Inhalation on Emotional States, Autonomic Nervous System and Brain Electrical Activity’, Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 95 (4), pp. 598-606, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22612017(Accessed: 18 September 2018).
Wong, S.H and Lord, J.M. (2004). ‘Factors Underlying Chronic Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis’, Archivum Immunologiae et Therapia Experimentalis, 52 (6), pp. 379-388, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15577739(Accessed: 13 September 2018).