Pine, mulled wine, mince pies and cinnamon are all smells we associate with this time of year and bring a feeling of stress release, peace, warmth and happiness to many.
It’s been said of the gifts brought by the three wise men, that gold was the least valuable because Frankincense and Myrrh heal on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.
At this potentially stressful time of year, we thought we would take a brief look at how certain smells might help our wellbeing.
What is the importance of smell?
When compared to other animals, our sense of smell is feeble, although still acute. We have two patches made up of about 5 or 6 million cells high up in our nose which detect odours. This compares with 220 million cells in a dog which may explain to dog walkers why their pooch will often take off in the opposite direction to the one you thought you were both travelling!
Bizarrely, our noses are also our main organ for taste. The taste buds on our tongues can only distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter and salt, all other tastes are discovered by the olfactory receptors high up our nasal passages.
Some scientists believe our sense of smell declines with age whilst other believe it is dependent on our mental and physical health. Certain smell receptors in our nose communicate with the areas of our brain where emotional responses and memories are stored.
Smells to help our health and wellbeing
For over 5000 years, the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of aromatic essential oils have been used to help treat a variety of complaints including poor quality sleep, stress and pain.
So why not try to use the gift of smell all year round to help keep calm and soothe your mind.
Which oils might help?
To go back to the gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh, both have been used medicinally and spiritually for many thousands of years. Of the two it is the smell of frankincense which is recognisable and fitting with this time of year as it has a warm, woody aroma. Myrrh is mainly known for healing skin conditions and wounds and easing respiratory problems. Frankincense, however, is said to soothe feelings of anxiety and provide stress release, calming our minds and helping us relax.
Lavender has been shown to reduce activation of the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our fight or flight response. Inhaling the smell of lavender prior to a stressful event is reported to help reduce feelings of a racing heart or sweaty palms.
Chamomile is used to create a calm environment and help you feel sleepy. Some people find that adding a few drops of chamomile oil to a diffuser or oil burner in their bedroom an hour before heading to bed helps them prepare for a good night’s sleep.
Ylang-ylang has a sweet, floral and spicy scent which is often used in combination with other scents. It is reported to be both stimulating and calming and some find it induces sleep.
Sandalwood is said to promote calmness of the mind and body by appeasing anger and anxiety, it is also said help with insomnia.
A word of caution – it is best to seek advice before using essential oils either topically or by ingestion. Inhaling the aroma produced from using oils in a diffuser is a much more common way of reaping the benefits these oils can bring or by using a ready-made scented candle, soap, bath oil, or bath salt.
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