Nature is our richest source of pleasing smells. Woody, fruity and floral scents have been used for thousands of years in perfumes, as incense and to freshen the home. Natural aromas have also been used in medicine for millennia, to heal the body and soothe the mind – long before the word ‘aromatherapy’ was coined.
The history of smell
We only have to watch our four-legged, furry friends to see smell is the most primal sense. When we too walked on all fours with our noses to the ground, smell was our first sense. As humans evolved to a standing position, sight pipped smell to the post to become our number one sense and our keenness of smell faded. However, phrases like ‘sniff out the truth’ and ‘smell a rat’ reveal a link between our sense of smell and the intuitive instinct we call our ‘sixth sense’.
The science of smell
Smell is considered the most powerful sense. The inner nose is the only part of the human body where its central nervous system comes into contact with the outside world. A simple scent can provoke a spontaneous emotional reaction, faster than the brain can process the information it is receiving. A smell has the power to make us feel happy or sad, even before we know why.
The magic of smell
Our sense of smell is a magical time machine. A famous philosopher once said that a scent ‘may drown years in the odour it recalls’. Whether it’s the smell of baking taking us back to our grandmother’s kitchen or the cedar wood scent of a pencil reminding us of our school days, smell has the power to transport us back in time, as if no time has passed at all.
An aroma has a unique gift to trigger a surprising moment of delight. If you breathe in the zesty smell of orange peel, you instantly feel rejuvenated and energised. When you close your eyes and smell the sweet scent of a flower, it is as if you are inhaling the fresh air of spring. ‘To inhale’ literally means ‘to inspire’. Now that’s powerful!