Of your five senses - hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch - it's your sense of smell that comes out on top for its ability to improve your overall health.
It's long been known certain aromas can bring on a flood of memories – evoking everything from joy to nostalgia – and this is because aromas are processed in the limbic system, a part of the brain that deals with emotions.
However, scientists are now discovering certain smells play a role in much more than mood, and may even have the ability to ease migraines, improve cognitive performance and prevent anxiety. So can you use fragrance to influence your health, outside of a research lab? "You can absolutely use scent day-to-day to improve your wellbeing," says Dr Alan Hirsch from the US's The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.
Here are some of the latest research findings and how you can use certain fragrances to your benefit.
Have sweet dreams...
smell the roses
Pleasurable fragrances may help you have a better night's sleep by improving your dreams. When researchers exposed sleeping participants to a rose scent, they reported having pleasant dreams. On the other hand, when the women were exposed to a negative scent, in this case rotten eggs, it provoked unpleasant dreams. Sleep soundly, and wake up on the right side of the bed, by keeping a sachet of rose-scented potpourri on your bedside table.
head for the park
Fresh air definitely has a positive effect on mood. There are a number of explanations why this occurs, and researchers from the University of Queensland have one: freshly cut grass and green leaves release at least five chemicals that contain stress-relieving properties. However, if you're feeling tense and a walk in the park is out of the question, inhaling the scent of lemon, mango or lavender may also help to reduce stress levels, reports a Japanese study.
by peeling an orange
Everyone experiences anxiety and fear at times. However, if you're facing an event that is causing increased anxiety, a whiff of orange may help you relax, reports a study completed by the University of Vienna. The researchers found an ambient odor of orange essential oil reduced anxiety and improved the mood of patients waiting for a dental treatment, compared to a control group with no added aroma.
For more scent therapy, and other ideas for instant calm, pick up the latest issue of Good Health magazine – on sale now! Get a great subscription deal on Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.|