Emotion - a very dominant aspect in our daily lives - has a powerful ally you may not be aware of. You will probably be surprised to learn that scents & aromas are significant influences in our everyday feelings, activities and our outlook on any given situation. While some people dismiss home fragrance & aromatherapy items as “foo-foo” or “luxury items”…it is clear that a majority of people worldwide know and acknowledge the importance of fragrances and scents in their lives.
Scents are all around us, good and bad, pleasant and otherwise - so we devote this section of our site to help you better understand scent and the chemistry behind the way our brains interpret smells - which affect our emotions. Bottom line, our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our sense of taste - so choose wisely.
One of the best ways to be completely satisfied with your candle, essential oil or incense selection is to take a moment to educate yourself about the profound effect(s) scents have on our lives, and how to utilize different scents to accentuate or combat certain emotions. Bookmark this page, and come back to it as you have time and read more.
The first thing to understand is that scents (except exhaust and decomposition) are categorized into the following categories (click to explore):
Citrus Scents | Floral Scents | Fruity Scents | Botanicals & Grasses
Strictly Herbal | Mints | Mosses, Saps & Resins | Spicy Scents
Woods & Barks | Sweet & Baking Scents
Do not, however, misinterpret that statement. Consistently, laboratory test results show that the olfactory sense (our sense of smell) is subjective rather than objective. While it does appear people and scientists generally agree on what “smells good” and what doesn?t, there is no evidence to support that any particular scent (no matter its category) will evoke the same emotions in people everytime.
However, once you learn which scents do what, we as consumers can accurately classify the components of the overall fragrance (top, middle and base notes) as we shop…enabling us to pick which scents will be the best for our intended purpose.
The second thing to realize is that certain scents (whether organic or synthetic) have a tremendous impact on individuals - but that impact is unique to each person. There is no credible way to say “strawberry scent makes people happy” because if someone experienced a sad or traumatic experience while a strawberry scent was present ? they will certainly not feel happy when they smell it again. But chemically speaking, certain scents evoke certain responses in a majority of subjects evaluated. Here are some telling insights from leading scientists and researchers about the effect of scent on our minds & emotions:
Dr. Paul Jellinek, a perfumer, may be the best guide to the effects of scent on emotion. He has developed an emotional scent classification system! Jellinek's system places scents that evoke positive reactions in humans into four (4) basic categories.
Category I: aphrodisiacal effects*
These odors are blunt and intense (often described as waxy, fatty, alkaline or rancid when undiluted).
WITH dilution, these aromas blossom into warm and fondly suggestive fragrances that are sweet, low and very deep ? even arousing!
This category contains scents that have been and continue to be treasured by people everywhere from time immemorial.
Includes musk, ambrette, costus root and Canada snake root.
* (note ? this is not the same as romantic scents or classic feminine scents)
Category II: relaxation / intoxicant**
Flowers and balsams can create a very euphoric, blissful and “completely at ease” sensation in the mind.
Sweet & heady, our senses are lulled and slowed from the rush of the day?s activities.
** (don?t misconstrue that ? it just means it has a medicinal effect in very direct, strong doses ? our candles don?t contain anywhere near those levels of oils!)
Category III: refreshing
Causing feelings of physical well being, citrus, evergreens, mints, and citronella / camphor aromas stimulate & awaken our minds.
Characteristics of this category are crisp and clean, high and piercing. These scents cannot only make us feel content and at one with “nature”, in very strong does, can clear sinuses and cause a runny nose!
Category IV: stimulating
Encompassing odors generally described as spicy and dry, their effect is reported to stimulate and boost intellectual & physical performance.
Most roots, leaves and other botanicals like woods, bark and sap/mosses are in this group
But there's more...
Just like people associate certain colors with good and evil (red & black vs. white & blue and so on), people can also “imprint” certain associations into their memories between emotions and scents.
Why and how?
Because of the way our physical brain is laid out, a particular scent or mixture of scents has the capability to bring certain people, places, things and events to the front of our consciousness in a heartbeat. There's a strong connection between smells, emotion, and memory.
"The limbic area of the brain evolved directly from primitive smell structures. In other words, according to Professor Rachel S. Herz, 'the ability to experience and express emotion grew directly out of the brain's ability to process smells.'"
"...smell heads straight for the limbic system, an area so primitive it's sometimes known as the 'reptile brain'."
"The limbic system includes the hippocampus, a brain area closely associated with memory. It also contains the amygdala, which neuroscientists have recently identified as a center for emotions..."
Click to see what Professor Herz is saying...
"Rachel Herz of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia has done a series of studies showing that, of the five senses, smell is unmatched in provoking emotional memories."
(Read more at http://www.s-t.com/daily/07-96/07-28-96/a02wn015.htm)
Very plainly stated, smells are processed in the area of the brain (the olfactory lobe) that is physically located RIGHT NEXT TO our emotional "home base" (amygdala) - the processing unit of our emotions. This is also the area of our brain that handles our memories. Research shows there is a strong link between smell, emotion and memory. With that kind of power, scents have the potential to affect us on a very fundamental level…even influencing our learning processes, our tempers and the way we deal with situations every day. When choosing a candle to suit your mood(s) - make an informed and educated choice.