The Power of Smell

The Power of Smell

We all know that a sudden encounter with a particular smell can trigger a memory and transport us back to our childhood or remind us of a holiday abroad. Various studies have been conducted to understand why such a reaction occurs and what effect it might have over us.

Dr Alan Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment & Research Foundation in the US believes that these nostalgic smells are not as truthful as we would like to believe. Research suggests that our mind acts as a filter over these scents, creating a rose tinted vision of our past. The smell opens a door to our history and our mind distorts these images to create a more favourable picture, possibly because they exist in a time when we were free from adult responsibility.
In our daily lives smell can play a powerful role in finding a potential partner or looking after our young. According to neuroscientist Rachel Herz of Brown University, it is women who tend to be more sensitive to smells, in particular when they are ovulating. Further studies revealed that women can even tell there own babies’ specific odour from others within a few hours of their birth.
Anthropologists believe that our ancestors were also extremely aware of the power of odours - they can trace fragrance production as far back as 7000BC. The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks extracted essential oils from plants for healing as well as cosmetic use. Today we call this aromatherapy and even the most sceptical of us acknowledge its relaxing and calming properties. So next time you are buying a new fragrance, stop to think about what it will mean to wear it and what effect it might have on others!

September 2008
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