The Power of Scents: Science & Heart At Play
Hello, everyone! My name is Stefanie M. Valverde, and I am the lucky girl who gets to show off her wonderful role as Marketing Assistant at Rocky Mountain Oils. Today I will be sharing my story of a marvelous world of discoveries around the mighty transcendent properties of our sense of smell.
There’s nothing more powerful than our senses. Our senses take us on immediate trips, traveling through time and suddenly bringing us to age 5 again, or 17, or just yesterday. They influence our mood and thereby our choices every day—every second. For me, the biggest memory trigger has usually been smells. Scents. Magical signifiers of put-away memories and impressionistic experiences.
We take a look into why this happens and what exactly is going on inside our systems that create such vivid “flashbacks” if you will, of moments in our lives. What we discover has neuroscientists happy to point out the obvious that we’ve been missing! According to the Harvard Gazette:
“Smells are handled by the olfactory bulb, the structure in the front of the brain that sends information to the other areas of the body’s central command for further processing. Odors take a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory. 'The olfactory signals [travel] very quickly...to the limbic system...'”
Thus, creating rapid connections to the memories we form as we smell new things and re-smell other things throughout our lives.
I once stumbled upon the smell of a running grill. The smoke of the cooking meat slowly invaded my nostrils and shoved me back to Ecuador and our family’s get-away concrete and wooden cottage. It was like in the movies, this little montage of happy memories: playing with my cousins, seeing my parents outside, being surrounded by an all-natural environment, great music. I just knew I needed more days like those in my life, I needed to reconnect with my family roots and what made my heart full.
As it turns out, the sense of smell also plays a huge role in the sense of taste and the memories we connect to those tastes! Spoil alert: the “tastes” we remember, are actually the smells we recorded in our brains. We discover that,
“When you chew, molecules in the food...make their way back...to your nasal epithelium,” meaning that essentially, ‘all of what you consider flavor is smell. When you are eating all the beautiful, complicated flavors … they are all smell.’ Murthy said you can test that theory by pinching your nose when eating something such as vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Instead of tasting the flavor, he said, ‘all you can taste is sweet.’”
In our lives we come across moments that make powerful impacts on our hearts, happiness, and peace of mind. Sometimes it happens that the memory jolted by a specific sense only lasts a few seconds. If you’re like me, super curious and easily impressionable by senses, suddenly you find yourself on an interesting quest hoping to get a small glimpse of what you were able to encounter.
For instance, this curiosity could send you on a funny journey of inhaling your pup (my baby "Titan" to the right here) because he smells just like your first fur baby did when you were three and you ran so fast your legs couldn’t keep up!
Side note: Lavender is one of the safer oils to diffuse in your house if you have pets! Other times that may mean inhaling that little area in the air of a coffee shop that takes you back to cold winter nights studying and having nothing else to worry about other than being young and enjoying your twenties! Tip: Cedarwood EO is amazing for late-night studies and creating comforting auras around you. And even more, it could take you to the strangest places like walking down an aisle at the supermarket almost savoring that one dish your grandmother used to cook for you every day after school.
In those moments I just wish I could bottle up that scent, that trigger, and have the chance to revisit it again. Little did I know back then that essential oils are literally the embodiment of my ever-longing wish! Little bottled-up extractions of auras, environments, and in some ways, memories...right at your disposal.
Whether it’s the smell of raindrops, the calming nature of Chamomile, or the strong presence of a specific kind of minty freshness, essential oils keep our spirits in mind. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or just want to get into a space of serenity, I tend to keep a little bottle of oil that my mother gave me, at arm’s reach, and I just have to say it smells like confidence, roses, and freedom. Never fails to leave me feeling completely safe and beautiful.
One last bit of science--as Discovery states:
“...not only does your brain's smell center connect right to its memory center, but it also stores long-term memories in-house. [So] Go ahead, take a nice long whiff of that old bottle of perfume or the paperbacks in that used bookstore. The memories that come flooding back to you are a happy side effect of the way your brain is wired.”
What an amazing thing to know, that our long-term memories will be happily stored within the transcendental abilities of scents. It’s a whole new world out there, and the more we take in new smells, the more we exercise our memories and revisit our emotional states.
Try one of our little bottles of magical scents; let it take you places. And let us know about your favorite travel in time! How old were you there? Could you remember your surroundings? How long did your memory last? If you could bottle up a small time capsule, what scents would it have?
*The Harvard Gazette. “What the Nose Knows.” How scent, emotion, and memory are intertwined and exploited. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/02/how-scent-emotion-and-memory-are-intertwined-and-exploited/. (accessed February 2, 2021).
*Hamer, Ashley. “Here's Why Smells Trigger Such Vivid Memories.” Discovery Science. https://www.discovery.com/science/Why-Smells-Trigger-Such-Vivid-Memories. (accessed February 2, 2021).