The Emotional Link Between Your Sense of Smell and Your Brain.
There is nothing more powerful than your sense of smell when it comes to conjuring up memories from the past. The smell of places, people, things, and events from your childhood can bring memories rushing back to you in vivid detail. Whether it’s the smell of your childhood bedroom, cookies baking, or your Aunt Grace’s perfume, the fact that these scents can evoke such rich memories makes it clear that there’s an emotional link between your sense of smell and your brain.
Many years ago when aromatherapy appeared on the healing scene, many dismissed it as New Age nonsense. However, more and more evidence is suggesting that the sense of smell can play a role in your ability to heal. For example, several research studies have documented that spending time walking in the woods or natural settings can improve your health. It can decrease your stress, relieve depression, lower your blood pressure, and boost your immunity.
Scientists believe that these health benefits actually come from our smelling chemicals that are released by trees and plants as a form of self-protection from insects and other harmful pests. These chemicals are called phytoncides, and can be experienced when you stand in a grove of pine trees. It smells good, feels relaxing, and is actually good for you.
In Chinese medicine, the sense of smell is related to your Lung organ system, which encompasses your entire respiratory system from your nose to the bottom of your Lungs. The strength of your immunity is closely associated with your Lung system, as your nose, sinuses, and Lungs protect you by filtering the outside world that comes into your body with each breath.
In addition, smelling is considered to be one of the Four Pillars of Diagnosis in Chinese medicine. This means that when your practitioner is assessing your condition, one of the tools they use is smelling. They may notice any unusual body odors, the smell of your breath, your sweat, or any other smells that can help them in their diagnosis.
A method of treatment in Chinese medicine, called moxabustion, combines heat and scent to help speed healing. Moxabustion is the use of the herb artemesia to heat acupuncture points, acupuncture needles, or parts of your body. The idea is to warm and nourish your body and enhance circulation. Moxabustion is great at warming, and its penetrating smell is considered to be part of the healing process, as well.
The use of essential oils can benefit your health, too. Researchers have documented a number of scents that have the power to heal. Among them:
- Lavender is calming and can be used in treating anxiety, stress, and depression. Lavender’s relaxing effects can also be helpful in treating insomnia.
- Menthol and eucalyptus are used in respiratory illnesses, as the strong aroma is effective in opening up clogged nasal passages, and clearing your Lungs.
- Peppermint can be effective in the treatment of headaches and nausea.
- Citrus scents are energizing, and are helpful in treating fatigue and lack of energy.
- Chamomile is calming and useful in the treatment of pain conditions.
The power of your sense of smell shouldn’t be overlooked as a therapeutic tool, whether through the health of your Lung system, walking the woods, or the use of essential oils. While the effects may be subtle, using scent can positively impact your physical and emotional health and support the healing process.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the founder of BodaHealth in Vancouver, BC. She is also a Registered Herbologist, Registered Acupuncturist and is a Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (FABORM), as well as a member of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).