We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!
Certain scents can help memory, mood, energy, and libido
By: Sarah Mahoney, Prevention
Did you know that the human sense of smell can identify thousands of aromas and is 10,000 times more precise than our sense of taste?
We have millions of smell receptors in our noses. When they detect a scent, they shoot the information to the olfactory bulb — a pea-size cluster in the brain, which sorts the signals and relays them to the limbic system. This primitive part of the brain governs many memories and emotions; some of our most basic behaviors — feeding, fighting, or fleeing; as well as sexual arousal, pleasure, and maybe even addiction. Because of their close proximity, the neurological controls for these behaviors often become entangled. That's why, for instance, during the early stages of attraction, dinner is often a prelude to sex.
It also explains how odor can help
lower stress levels, improve mental and physical performance, ease pain, end insomnia, and even help us lose weight, research shows. Here’s how to use your sense of smell to your advantage.
To Resist a Snack Attack
Sniff: Green Apple or Another Favorite Scent
A fragrance you love can help manage cravings, according Alan Hirsch, MD, founder of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. In one study, Hirsch gave overweight people banana, green apple, and peppermint to sniff when they felt a craving; they lost more weight than non-sniffers.
Try this: Keep a bottle of a favorite scent handy throughout the day and try sniffing instead of snacking.
To Calm Down
Sniff: Orange or Lavender
In an Austrian study, researchers wafted the smell of oranges before some participants and lavender before others. The two groups felt less anxious, more positive, and calmer, compared with participants who were exposed to no fragrance at all.
Try this: Add a few drops of either oil to a room diffuser and use in your office on stressful days.
Learn more soothing scents after the break.
To Learn Something New
Next time a presentation or new software program drives you crazy, think of Shakespeare’s poor Ophelia. After Hamlet made her nuts, she toddled around the castle picking rosemary, muttering, "That's for remembrance." Researchers at the University of Northumbria in the United Kingdom found she was on to something. After exposure to rosemary oil, 48 college students outperformed a control group on memory tests and felt more alert throughout.
Try this: Buy a plant or two for your windowsill, so you can pluck a branch to smell while you're studying or memorizing something for work.
To Fight Pain
Sniff: Lavender or Peppermint
Looking for ways to use less pain medication, doctors at New York University Medical Center exposed patients undergoing laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery to lavender oil (applied to the anesthesiology face masks they wore during surgery). Those patients required substantially less morphine and needed fewer analgesics afterward. Peppermint helps too. After a review of several studies, a Wheeling Jesuit University researcher concluded that it can ease headache pain, and German headache researchers report that the brisk smell is as effective as acetaminophen.
Try this: Next time you have a headache, inhale the scent from a handkerchief sprinkled with a few drops of lavender or peppermint.
To Soothe Menstrual Cramps
Sniff: Essential Oils
A 2006 study in Korea divided women with intense menstrual cramps into three groups. One group received a daily 15-minute abdominal massage with essential oils for one week before their periods, another group got the same massages without fragrance, and the last group received no therapy. Those in the aromatherapy group reported that their discomfort decreased by half.
Try this: Add two drops of lavender oil, one drop of clary sage oil, and one drop of rose oil to an almond oil base and massage into your abdomen once a day for a week before your period.
To Rev Your Libido
Sniff: Baby Powder
This, along with cucumber and licorice, has been shown to turn women on, increasing vaginal blood flow by 13 percent. Pumpkin pie and lavender increase blood flow by 11 percent.
Try this: Soften your skin with some baby powder after showering. Or to cap a romantic dinner, serve pumpkin pie and keep a cucumber-scented sachet next to your pillow.