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Our sense of smell is highly underrated. The body’s limbic system is responsible for our sense of smell, and can be trained to distinguish between and recognise over 10 000 different scents!
How does fragrance influence your mood?
Aromatherapy essential oils are extremely volatile, which means they evaporate quickly. As these molecules float into the air they reach an ingenious patch of neurons about the size of a postage stamp, located at the top of your nasal passage. These neurons are unique in that they interface directly with the air. They possess hair-like projections called cilia, which increase their surface area. Odour-laden molecules bind to these cilia, triggering the neurons to cause you to perceive an aroma. The olfactory nerves then carry this information to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls your mood, memory and ability to learn. Once stimulated by the olfactory nerve, the limbic system releases endorphins, neurotransmitters and other “feel-good” chemicals into the blood stream.
It doesn’t take much imagination to realise how valuable mood-enhancers are in everyday life, and you can experience the benefits of aromatherapy at home. Here are some guidelines to bear in mind when purchasing essential oils:
- Quality oils are sold in dark blue or brown protective glass bottles, to help preserve the oils’ potency as they are sensitive to heat and light exposure.
- Labelling on the bottle should provide both the common and botanical name for the oil.
- Steer clear of concentrated oils with rubber eyedroppers, since the oils react with the rubber causing contamination of the oil.
- Certain brands label their products as Essential Oil but they are in fact Pot-Pourri Oils lovely for their aroma, but unsuitable for application to the skin. Oils such as vanilla, sweet pea, lily of the valley, wisteria, and peach, to name but a few, are available. If you are unsure, shop for your oils in a specialty store, staffed by salespeople with aromatherapy knowledge.