The search for one's own well-being can take different paths. There are many approaches that can be taken to improve our lifestyle so that we feel more at ease with ourselves and with the people around us.
The trend in recent years has been leading the wellness sector towards the use of natural products, moving as far away as possible from the "absolute" chemistry that characterized the market especially in the early 80's.
In a sense, there has been a gradual return to the rituals used in ancient Greece, where essential oils, plants, spices and infusions, were widely used to give relief to the body and to improve its health, and this is what we now call aromatherapy. This concept was actually developed in the late 1920s by a French cosmetologist who noticed the healing properties of lavender oil.
Aromatherapy uses essential oil extracted from plants to stimulate the senses and consequently influence the body's functions. The aromatic substance is inhaled to stimulate the sense of smell, and the friction performed during application favors the penetration of the active substance.
It was in 1989 that this concept underwent a sort of evolution, and thus the concept of aromachology was born: a term to describe the connection between the effects of fragrances on physio-psychology. If aromatherapy represents a method of treatment by applying and inhaling plant extracts, aromachology studies the psychological and physiological effects resulting from the olfactory stimulation of the constituents that make up the fragrances. The relationships between various types of olfactory stimuli and the emotions and reactions caused by exploiting the direct relationship between odors and the brain are studied. The subject of the research is aimed at how olfactory stimulation affects mood, behavior and physiology. These studies have also been closely intertwined with marketing. Synthetic molecules are created to lead the consumer to buy one thing over another (in cosmetics, cleaning products, food ...).
Why all this? The studies are essentially based on the associations that our brain makes in reaction and in relation to a smell. Brown University's faculty of psychology produced a report depicting how smells can affect a person's mood or work performance. This does not stem from the fact that odors in some way alter our perceptions, as they are not substances that work like drugs. For an influence to occur, it is necessary that that particular smell has provoked in us an equally determined reaction in a real, previously lived personal or collective experience.
A new smell associated with a new experience creates a small archive in our limbic system. For example, the first time we go to the dentist: we smell the disinfectant, which is almost always followed by an unpleasant experience. From that moment on, the smell of disinfectant will generate feelings of anxiety, agitation and malaise in us. And it is precisely in the dental field that an experiment was carried out to evaluate the power of aromatics: Several patients who had to undergo the same type of surgery were placed in waiting rooms where in some cases orange essential oil (known for its relaxing, calming and anti-stress properties) were introduced, while in other cases not. All the patients had their vital signs taken twice before surgery, and in the case of patients in the waiting room with the fragrance of orange oil, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate values were significantly lower than the values found in the other group of patients. This resulted in a decrease in the level of stress and anxiety in the patients.
The olfactory experience begins even before birth, when the flavors experienced by the mother through her diet are conveyed to the baby through the amniotic fluid. If a mother has a very tasty diet during pregnancy, it is much easier for the baby to be more predisposed to accept certain types of smells and consequently of tastes in the course of life (sometimes even as an adult). And it is in any case, as children, that we create most of our wealth of olfactory experiences that will then influence our future behaviors. As a child everything is new and needs to be registered.
Another factor to consider in how smells affect our mood is context, which we can evaluate in two different ways, with the social context, first. An experiment was made with wintergreen, an oil that is used in medicine and in the confectionery industry. In the UK, the pungent odor is associated with a medicine that was used during the war. In the United States, however, it reminded almost everyone of winter holiday candies and sweets. Secondly, the context in which a smell occurs needs to be considered. We can have a response to a much more intense aroma, the more unexpected it is occurring in the moment, or in that place.
It may seem trivial, but the smells we associate with a good memory make us feel better, while on the contrary we feel bad if we smell a smell that evokes unpleasant thoughts. Interestingly, smells also have implications on a physiological level. The reaction to a smell doesn't just change our mood, it can increase our heart rate, it can make us blink more often and make us sweat more.The sense of smell is the most powerful of our senses. 75% of the emotions we experience during the day are influenced not by what we see, hear or touch, but by the smells that pass through our nose!