How Can the Power of Scent Lift Your Mood? | Guest Posy by Jane Sandwood

Essential oil diffusers, scented castles, and perfumes are just three items with a fragrance that human beings use almost every day to give themselves a mood lift. New research from Monash University scientists has discovered that there is a good reason why we are drawn to scented items: essential oils (which are an important ingredient in natural fragrances) can help improve mood and symptoms in people with anxiety and depression because they have antioxidant effects on the brain. In order to obtain the maximum benefits from aromatherapy, said the researchers, it is important to know which oils are best for which goal and what dose is required. Lavender, in particular, has been proven to exert a calming effect on the brain but scientists are still considering how different oils and combinations can potentially help with conditions like anxiety, inflammation, and even cancer.

Energizing Fragrances

Essential oils are ultra-concentrated, natural fragrances that wield the protective properties of the plants they hail from. Essential oils can be placed in diffusers, used in treats such as raw chocolate, diluted in oils like almond oil for massages, and used in candles. Essential oil candles awaken senses, taking us to a more positive state after just a couple of whiffs. For this reason, they are a popular component of the living spaces of house-proud individuals. We mentioned that lavender has the power to calm one’s state. Other oils have very different effects. Lemon oil, for instance, energizes the mind, rosemary can have a positive effect on the academic performance of children when inhaled over a sustained period of time, and other citrus scents such as orange and bergamot can also give you a lift when you are feeling tired or low.

Reducing Anxiety

A study published in the journal Neurochemistry International has found that essential oils which are vaporized at low temperatures (for instance, by burning candles or diffused through an essential oil diffuser) affect smell receptors in the brain. The bio-availability of therapeutic grade essential oils is so high that it has an immediate anxiolytic impact. In other words, it reduces anxiety. Their fragrance releases important hormones like dopamine (often called the ‘feel-good hormone’) and endorphins (the ‘painkiller hormone’). Together, these hormones create a sense of relaxation and reduce stress and pain.

Fragrance and Sleep

Research conducted by researchers at the Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany has shown that a nose full of jasmine from Gardenia jasminoides is just as effective and strong as sleep-enhancing pills like valium, or propofol. By breathing in this powerful scent, the scent molecules travel from the lungs into the blood and continue to the brain. The effect on nerve cells that are active in sleep is enhanced by this fragrance. The results, scientists state, are evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy.

Fragrances are no longer considered ‘feel-good’ products that have little effect on human health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that specific fragrances can calm people down and battle anxiety, while others can give human beings a welcome, energizing lift. Essential oils can also be used to enhance sleep, improve academic performance, and boost focus—and more and more positive findings are being made as more studies on the subject are carried out.