The power of smell

As part of my current training programme, I’ve been working with the power of our 5 senses – those of sight, sound, feeling, smell and taste. If asked, I’d probably say that my least developed sense is that of smell. So I was surprised to experience a powerful smell trigger whilst in a shop selling tea.

Now whilst I know that taste is a huge amount to do with smell, I’d never chosen tea with my nose before … until last week. I’d gone in looking for a digestif – peppermint, fennel or nettle – but my nose took me in an unexpected direction.

As I walked into one area of the shop, I was hit with an aroma that took me straight back to my childhood. Completely floored by the experience, I walked away and started to sniff some of my previously chosen candidates, then my usual preferred tea blend of Earl Grey, but nothing zinged. So I went back … and the memory that aroma brought vividly to life was travelling on trains in India. The tea? It was Chai – a proper one – with a strong nose of cardamom. I left clutching a small box of it and the smell is like heaven in a box (and the taste is pretty darn good too).

So, what about smell then? A friend’s training as an aromatherapy masseuse taught me that our reaction to smell changes. One day we’re drawn to citrus scents, another to something more flowery. Nothing new there you say, just a matter of what tickles our fancy. But is it just fancy? What I’ve learned from experience is that we choose scent with our emotions, and our magnificent brains have us choose the scent we need at that time. And when our needs change, our nose smell scents differently. So that’s why I trusted my nose on that day in the tea shop.

Citrus smells – like orange and grapefruit – are uplifting, mood-enhancing and energising, whilst lavender is a by-word for relaxation and sleep. Nothing new there do I hear you say? True. But do you know about the power of geranium, or frankincense? Oh, and whilst we’re at it, how about cardamom? When I looked it up, I discovered it’s recommended for improved digestion, and also for respiratory problems. Whilst I was actively seeking a digestif, my brain also selected something to deal with the respiratory issues I’m experiencing as well. Remarkable things brains. Whilst our conscious minds can only manage a small number of things at a time (7 +/- 2 if you’re interested), our unconscious minds are busy working away with a massive amount of stuff, most of it to do with taking care of us. So, you know when they say trust your gut or go with your instincts? That’s our unconscious mind right there … doing it’s job.

And although aromatherapy is often swept aside as just one more hippy-dippy practice, it isn’t. For all you sceptics out there, aromatherapy is simply tapping in to the power of your brain – unconsciously.


© Debra Carey, 2017

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