The power of scent: revisiting memories from the past

ElenaThe amazing ability of the sense of smell to bring back past memories is certainly not unheard of and not to be underestimated. Aromatherapy plays a very important role in providing emotional relief very often sought after in the hustle and bustle and stresses of modern life. There are specific behavioural responses to smell translated into positive or negative emotions, which are attached to certain smells.

Releasing these can have an extremely therapeutic effect on the client. Anyone who’s not tried aromatherapy before would be very surprised to realise on the powerful effect the smell of a particular essential oil can have on our brain and hence our emotions. The power of essence to unlock hidden emotions and bring them onto the surface through a past memory is quite an incredible fact and a very important benefit of aromatherapy! I recently saw a new client; let’s call her Olivia for the purpose of confidentiality as I would like to present her case study as a good example to illustrate this point. Following Olivia’s initial consultation involving discussion of medical history, lifestyle and diet we moved to the stage of treatment of essential oil selection for her massage blend.

An Aromatherapist would then consider the factors mentioned before as well as the client’s mood and aroma preferences. Having identified treatment objectives and Olivia’ need to relax, she picked flower-based Ylang ylang and Jasmine (a relaxing and mood balancer respectively).  Finally, I offered her a couple of herbs-based options to round off the essential oil  blend, I randomly picked rosewood, but it was not till I passed the rosewood essential oil bottle to her that I realised the full impact that smell of rosewood had on her emotions. She automatically burst into tears…I then tried to calm her down, gave her a tissue and a glass of water and held her hand whilst she tried to get composure. She then said’ OMG, I’m so sorry for this, what was it that you gave me to smell?’ – ‘Rosewood’ – I said. She added’ it just so reminds me of my grandma’. . I then made the executive decision of carrying on with the treatment once she had given me permission to add rosewood to the blend. I judged it as a good move as by the expression on her face I could tell hers were tears of happiness associated to a nice memory from the past, a memory that the smell of rosewood had facilitated. I then diluted the blend with sweet almond carrier oil and went ahead with the full-body massage treatment. I thought I’d further explore the link between rosewood and her emotional reaction at the end of the treatment when she was even more relaxed and felt emotionally relieved. Olivia then thanked me for helping her ‘digest’ her emotions with aromatherapy. At that point I asked her more about the memories evoked by rosewood. She then confirmed that on smelling it, she instantly thought about her grandma’s garden and how much she actually loved and missed her family (as they don’t live in the UK she does not get to see them often enough)

There is a clear connection between a past experience and the very scent we smell in the present, which affects our behaviour.   Let’s not forget that essential oils do have an effect on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. On smelling rosewood, Olivia felt physically and emotionally relaxed extremely content and at peace.  A past happy memory relived thanks to rosewood helped connect with her family at a more meaningful level. Her sense of smell brought the memory of happy times with her family to the present. Her brain was then stimulated causing a positive emotional reaction (tears of happiness). The power of smell knows no boundaries really: how is our brain so greatly connected to our sense of smell? Our brain does indeed associate certain smells to past memories, revisiting these can lead to a good or bad emotional reaction. Rosewood (see note * below) helped Olivia process pent up feelings of nostalgia and sadness whilst enhancing her feelings of love towards her family. She just needed to acknowledge and release these emotions. The power to heal emotions is one of the many benefits of aromatherapy and with the New Year looming, achieving emotional balance may perhaps be one of your resolutions. Perhaps it’s time for a good emotional check-up…

(note *) Rosewood has anti-bacterial, anti-infectious, antiviral, antifungal, stimulant and anti-parasitic properties – generally used for skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, acne, and dry and oily skin, elasticity, wrinkles), fungal infections (Candida, oral, vaginitis), depression, improves skin elasticity, wounds. Its sweet and woody aroma makes is grounding and relaxing effect on the mind. This oil has interesting spiritual influences and often used in blends used for emotional release, trauma and encouragement. It is said that Rosewood creates peace and security and has been associated with alleviating depression.

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