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​Aromas and Fragrances: How Our Sense of Smell Affects Our Body

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We are led by our noses. Cinnamon and apple pie reminds us of home and mom, cooking for the holidays!

Aromas evoke feelings, sometimes bringing back memories. They can remind us of happy times or sad times. Smells do affect our moods, emotions and even our behavior.

Aromas and Flavors

Real or artificial, herbs, spices and salts have been used for centuries to flavor foods. In some cases, food technology has produced novel, fake chemicals to replace traditional ingredients. This has caused addictive patterns, the desire to eat these perfectly flavored and great smelling foods; like all the time, like those darn chips, right!

They say the scent of chamomile, even though it is a light apple scent, has a pronounced effect on the mind and nervous system. Its scent is rejuvenating and refreshing helping with depression and soothing irritability.

Our Sense of Smell

Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any of our other senses.

The powerful sense of smell is interpreted in the Limbic part of the brain, which is, surprise, related to feelings and memory. Vaporized odor molecules floating in the air reach our nostrils and dissolve in the mucous. From there the olfactory neurons detect up to a thousand different odors. Neurons send information to the brain which will recall a response or memory. This memory causes our body to respond quickly to emotions like happy or sad.

These fragrant aromas cause us to perceive odors and access memories about places, people or events associated from these smell sensations at any time in our life.

Scents of Herbs and Spices

Just walking into a pizza parlor you get the heady Italian scents of oregano and basil. Or perhaps an Indian restaurant the spicy smells of cumin, ginger, mint and fennel; let’s you know the kind of foods being served.

Basil has a rich and fiery scent, it is the herb of Kings and Queens and is said to stimulate the adrenals. In foods, fresh or dried basil, adds great flavor on pizza, salads, pastas and dressings. It may possibly be helpful for treating shingles and herpes. Use as a tea, or a compress, by soaking a cloth in the tea and placing on skin areas affected. You can also use basil oil, but it is very strong, dilute it and use very little.

Chamomile was also used in the Middle Ages, as a “strewing herb” to sweeten the air in the rooms. It is good for the digestive system. In some countries, Chamomile is used in facials to cleanse pores and reduce puffiness around the face.

Ginger is warm, strong and spicy; known to “warm the heart”. It can be used for gas pains, stomachache from overeating, of arthritis, colds and flu symptoms. For traveling, ginger comes in as a good overall aide. Many use it to calm nausea, even during chemotherapy.

You can use ginger as a tea, tonic or powder to your foods, drinks or smoothies.

Peppermint is cooling and has a heady sweet scent due to its menthol compound. It probably reminds you of the Christmas holidays with peppermint sticks and minty potpourri. Now Spearmint is the savory mint, either mint is a potent healer.

Mints are good for the digestive tracts, like Irritable Bowel (IBS), and indigestion. Do use caution if you have heartburn due to reflux (GERD) or hiatal hernias, mint may be contradictory and make you feel worse with these issues.

Of course, mint is also good to control bad breath, pain relief, headaches, cavities and gum disease.

Studies show that Cinnamon has been found to help control glucose in diabetes.

In summary, the sense of smell, just like the sense of taste, is the result of a chemical sensed in our environment. Smell can work at dramatically larger distances than taste. Our central nervous system and our brain are directly exposed to our environment by our nose.

This fact can cause chemical sensitivity sickness and even seizures because of its effect on our brain.

Now you can be more aware of these aromas and fragrances; and how they bring back those memories you thought have been forgotten.

Cindy Burrows, B.S., M.T., Herbalist, is a Natural Health Consultant helping individuals start health programs to improve their life, wellness and happiness. Cindy is a speaker, writer and entrepreneur of several businesses. 

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