Smell is powerful – it can invoke a memory or change a mood. The use of essential oils to improve physical and mental well-being goes back thousands of years to ancient civilisations including the Chinese, Egyptians, Indians, Greeks and Romans, regaining popularity in Europe in the 1920’s. Several scents have been scientifically proven to impact upon a person’s mood, particularly if that person is hyper-sensitive to sensory inputs (around 15-20% of the population).
The number one smell to promote mental well-being is vanilla, which has been shown to induce feelings of both happiness and relaxation. The essential oil of vanilla is extracted from the fermented vanilla beans of the Vanilla Planifolia creeper, which primarily grows in Mexico. Its sweet and soothing scent is known to lift the mood and have anti-depressive properties. Vanilla has a relaxing effect on the brain, promoting well-being and reducing anxiety.
Another highly popular scent for relaxation is lavender, which is widely used for treating insomnia and promoting a good night’s sleep, in part because of its impact on the autonomic nervous system. Lavender has also been shown to lower stress levels.
Rosemary, also known as Rosmarinus Officinalis, is useful to renewing mental energy, particularly at times of stress such as during exams. It has been shown to reduce the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the saliva.
Citrus smells such as grapefruit are useful to uplift and detoxify, tangerine is particularly good for if you are suffering from a lack of motivation, as are peppermint and eucalyptus to invigorate the mind. If you don’t have any essential oils to hand, simply smelling a citrus fruit can boost your energy.
A familiar Christmas smell, pine has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels whilst promoting mental clarity. The essential oil is obtained from the PinusSylvestristree, which originated in Austria and Russia and is a popular candle scent.