Scents and sensibility….

“Smell is important. It reminds a person of all the things he’s been through; it is a sheath of memories and security.”

Tove Jansson. author

When doing my NLP training, we were taught to draw upon all our senses, and I found myself somewhat lacking in the area of smell. I could recall only two memories associated with smell that first session but, as the training continued, I started connecting with my sense of smell, and found that smells started to trigger memories.

When shopping for tea, I walked into the corner of a shop, smelt Chai and shot straight back to childhood Indian train journeys. I traced my long-held antipathy to Lavender to the memory of the crepey texture of my slightly scary, elderly great-grandmother’s cheek, when I dutifully kissed her as a small child.

Of course, scents also generate a feeling without there being a memory attached. It’s the reason why shower products come in citrus scents as they’re known to energise, and bath oils predominate in scents from the restful end of the spectrum – things like rose, lavender, sandalwood and geranium – as they’re are more usually indulged in at the end of the day.

But did you know that essential oils can smell different depending upon the state of your emotions? OK, I know this sounds a bit out there, but it’s widely known in the aromatherapy community and is something I’ve experienced myself.

I’m very spoilt in having an aromatherapy masseuse friend. Her standard practice is to have clients sniff the wide range of essential oils on offer, asking that they select the ones which smell most appealing. Those she mixes with a carrier oil to use for their massage. While noticing a slight variation, my selection was always drawn from the uplifting and energising citrus oils. But when I went for a scheduled massage after having a shock and feeling great sadness, all the citrus oils smelt literally of nothing. Instead the oils I could smell and was drawn to were Geranium and Ylang Ylang – the first known for its ability to restore emotional balance and the second to relieve emotional stress. I now have a selection of essential oils myself, and have noticed there’s always been an emotional shift when I’m drawn to something different.

After developing allergies in my late thirties, perfumes have a tendency to make me sneeze or my eyes itch, so quality essential oils and natural smells are my only option. As a result, I keep an eye – or is that a nose 😉 – out for stuff based upon its smell and how it makes me feel.

In my everyday life, these include: the smell of freshly ground coffee as Himself is a coffee fiend, so our kitchen smells heavenly. There’s also Earl Grey tea – my favourite teabag brand is literally drenched with Bergamot oil, and I inhale the scent each time I make my afternoon cup. Another favourite is the Chai tea I sniffed out in that shop – its Clove and Cardamom being fantastic for my dodgy digestion, and providing mental clarity (it’s what I drink first thing in the morning). For an early morning wake-up hit, there’s a couple of companies who do grapefruit smelling bathing products which I rotate. In the past, I’ve grown mint in a pot on the windowsill to make my own Peppermint tea, good for a mid-day lift, and I also love brushing my hands along fresh Rosemary (it grows by the door of our apartment building) for a concentration boost.

With my background, you can imagine how delighted it was to discover just how many of the fresh spices used in Indian cooking have excellent properties. I’ve already mentioned Clove and Cardamon above, but a cold, cough or sore throat sees me substitute hot water, honey and a chunk of fresh Ginger for tea. Cinnamon is purported to be a metabolism boost, so if anyone can tell me how to get the powdered variety to absorb into hot liquid rather than simply float on top of it, I’d be delighted. Black Pepper is said to soothe and support the nervous system (I don’t know what it says about me that I use a lot!). Lastly there’s Turmeric – the new superfood – which is said to provides metabolic support and improved immune response. Who knew a curry would end up being so good for you? 😀

What scent or smell do you like? Is there a reason behind any of your preferences, or do any of them have an associated memory?

© Debra Carey, 2022

22 thoughts on “Scents and sensibility….

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  1. I heard yesterday that the first 7 years of our lives, smell is the predominant sense…isn’t that wild? Cinnamon, lavender, anything floral for me

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I didn’t know that LA, how interesting. You know I’m going to go down a rabbit hole while I research that! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I remember my husband telling me that our newborn Baby D would be able to smell me–and my milk. He was very proud of learning this fact, and when Baby D woke up at night, husband would change the diaper before bringing Baby D to nurse–all so the alway-hungry Baby D would not grow more agitated smelling his yummy mother and not being able to eat just yet. The system actually worked pretty well.

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  4. The smell of chlorine takes me back to summers at the pool. Almond extract means Christmas, because of the Spritz cookies only made during holidays. Other than that…well, I think my white childhood was not very fragrant!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My writing class focused on description yesterday and the teacher tossed out that little nugget


  6. Glad to know curry is so good for you. It’s one of my favorite things to cook.

    When I was a kid, we used to go to a certain ice cream shop. There would always be a big crowd of people smoking outside. As a result, to this day, every time I smell cigarette smoke, I have a sudden craving for ice cream.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh nice work on Andy’s part – both the taking part in the night disturbance and the finding out 🙂

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  8. Autumn, that’s exactly how I was that first session – I found my smell memory banks really low. But it’s surprising how it can be activated. For me, chlorine is connected to horrid indoor swimming pools in the UK, as it’s so overpowering. Of course, there was chlorine in outdoor pools overseas, but it could dissipate into the air.

    Never heard of those cookies, but they sound good 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh that’s an unexpected memory James! 😀 When I gave up smoking, I still hung around with the smokers outside the pub. So, to me, smoke reminds me of the good old British pub, the chatter & the laughter 🙂 Thanks, that brought back a lovely memory.

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  10. I’ve read that smell more than any other sense can bring back vivid memories and I believe it. There’s a certain smell associated with a Dutch deli/grocery store (my dad owned one when i was a child) and every time I walk into one, I am instantly transported to my first job, working at my dad’s.


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  11. I only yesterday was reading an article about how perfume is going to increase in price because due to global warming, fewer fields of flowers are surviving droughts around the world so they cannot make traditional fragrances cost effectively. I wondered as I read it why there weren’t more scents based on Clove and Cardamon and Ginger which are warm inviting scents. A rhetorical question, but certainly one that’ll be answered in the future.

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  12. Love your creative title for this one, Debs. I have a sister who claims she gets headaches from all essential oils. Curiously, I’ve found that peppermint oil is a great reliever of headaches. I have great memories of how a baseball glove smelled after it was properly oiled — it’s one of the smells of summer, I guess. – Marty

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  13. I hadn’t seen that Ally, so thank you for drawing it to my attention. Sadly, it does make sense. I seem to remember – back in the dawn of time – that floral scents were seen a young while spicy ones were seen as suitable for the more mature woman. This morning I’ve got peppermint oil on my desk to give me a pep up (and to clear a slight lingering headache). I do miss the annual sniffing of new perfumes around the upcoming festive season, but these days I give those perfume sprayers in department stores a wide berth as they can – quite literally – ruin the rest of my day if they pounce without asking.

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  14. Mark, I wish I could claim it was my own idea but, in truth, while casting around for something suitable, I came across an article with that title! Instant ah ha moment on my part. But thank you for appreciating it, I was rather pleased with it 🙂


  15. Marty, I hate to admit it but I stole it from an article. This post has been lurking around in my drafts for a while so when I saw the title, I dusted off the post, updated it a bit et voila! But thanks for appreciating it – I was very pleased with it 🙂

    Interesting about baseball gloves, I can’t remember the smell myself, although that may have been because of the many other strong smells around when I played. I played as a child in India, although never as catcher (that was always someone older). What oil is used, do you know?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Well, you noticed it and that’s all that matters. It’s a great title. I believe the main ingredient in the baseball glove oil is lanolin. I don’t get much of a whiff of it anymore, but it nevertheless remains an evocative smell on those rare occasions when I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Marty, I went to take a look and the smell of lanolin is described as that of sheep and grass, which when put together with leather, sounds lovely (and I’m not being snarky 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

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