Aromatherapy’s Mind-Smell Connection

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Why is smell so strongly linked to memory and emotion?

It is not fully understood, but this is no surprise as the complexities of brain activity are still far from being unravelled and understood. The brain holds far more secrets than we have discovered. What is known is that the sense of smell is registered in a part of the brain which was already developed in our earliest ancestors.

The limbic area of the brain was well developed before man had the power of speech or was able to make tools. The limbic area is concerned with all those activities vital to survival in a sometimes hostile world: sleep, hunger, thirst, memory, sexual response and, or course, smell are all affected by the limbic system.

As modern man developed the ‘higher’ senses and the brain became larger to accommodate development of speech, intellect and creativity, the ancient knowledge became blunted or buried deep in the unconscious and the limbic area of the brain lost some of its importance. But that ancient knowledge is still there and needs only to be re-awakened.

Essential oils have the power to re-awaken and stimulate the limbic system and the aromas can be used to excellent effect by the aromatherapist.

They also have the power to balance the two hemispheres of the brain. It is known that the left hemisphere of the brain is concerned with logic and intellect, whilst the right is concerned with intuition.

When both hemispheres are in harmony and balanced, we experience feelings of calm and well-being. As we inhale the balancing essential oils, the two hemispheres of the brain come into closer symmetry, whilst the stimulating essential oils make us feel mentally alert and the sedating oils promote deeper feeling of relaxation. The relationship between the brain, the mind and the body is of vital importance in aromatherapy.

When we send pleasing, relaxing messages to the brain during aromatherapy massage, the hypothalamus receives impulses signaling safety and harmony and, in its turn, the body receives the signal that all is well and that the body and mind are in balance.

The effects of essential oils and massage on the various activities of the nervous system form a major part of aromatherapy. We use analgesic oils to relieve pain by damping down the activity of the pain-transmitting nerve endings.

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