Perfume and scent are seen as a luxury item and part of the beauty world rather than as something which can affect your health. However, many of us are very sensitive to the smells around us and our mood can be affected by the fragrance we use on our bodies and in our homes. Fragrance can be a powerful tool to re-balance the mind and body.
Avincenna, a 10th century physician, writer and philosopher, was the first person to divide the internal senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.
” The interest in using excellent odours is that it fortifies the senses. When the senses are strong, the thoughts are strong. If the senses become weak, the senses are imbalanced and confused” -Avincenna
I have talked about perfumes making you happy and setting a mood, so can scent also have positive qualities on our health? Certain aromas and scents have been used for centuries in an attempt to calm us down. So, if you’re looking for a way to help you to sooth your worries away and stop feeling overwhelmed, some scents are known to have sedative qualities: Sandalwood, which is sweet and woody and can be worn by men or women, has been used for almost 4,000 years in the ancient civilizations of India, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The Hindus, were the first culture to recognize the properties of sandalwood and used it in incense and scent. Buddhists also burnt sandalwood incense to transform desires and promote human mindfulness. Its aroma is said to calm the mind and alleviate worry by relaxing the central nervous system. Using sandalwood in a fragrance offers the wearer a magical olfactory carpet ride into a far- away, exotic land.
You often feel the most relaxed on holiday, so many of the smells you experienced whilst away if replicated at home can help to trigger a similar sense of calm and a truly relaxing escape.
Other harmonising aromas include ylang-ylang and bergamot, both of which are found to decrease blood pressure, as well as oud, jasmine and rose, which can lower depressive moods. I always find the aroma of rose gives me an instant feeling of well-being and jasmine a sense of confidence. Oud has been used for centuries in spiritual and religious practices to remove negative energy and create harmony.
Sometimes you need to invigorated, Citrus elements like oranges, bergamot, neroli and grapefruit all give an energy boost (an effervescent Vitamin C fix) and also make you smile, in my case they remind me of warm, summer days. The smell of freshly cut grass can have a positive impact on your mental state and give a boost when needed as can green tea, I bring this perfume back from France as I always feel uplifted by the smell. Green, herby scents like basil can give a boast and blend really well with citrus notes. Peppermint can increase alertness at work and a touch of Cedar can revive tiredness.
Plague doctors carried vials with rosemary and lavender to protect them, whilst pomanders, perfumed balls, were carried by woman to ward off the plague and hide the awful stench around them. Smell has always been a component in treating infections as medics often rely on their olfactory abilities to detect ailments as well as cure. In 1869, Joseph Burnett’s Language of Flower handbooks, linked the qualities of flowers to certain health conditions, using this symbolism to sell cologne waters and beauty products.
Your night-time routine can also be enhanced by specific smells. Soft, powdery and musky perfumes soothe and aid sleep. Lavender, chamomile, vanilla, jasmine and patchouli are the most popular scents that are suggested to help you sleep. While some of these are more pungent than others, you can often combine them with other notes that offset the strong scent. Lavender can sometimes invigorate if too much is used rather than relax you. Spraying your pillows, using a body product or a room diffuser are some of the ways to use fragrance in the bedroom. Usually the scents you enjoy most will help encourage peachful memories. Going to your “happy place” is a great stress reducer, which allows you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
So, can perfume have medicinal properties? Well for centuries, in many countries it has been thought that it does, even Hippocrates in the 5th century, believed in a clinical connection between mind, body and spirit and smell and treated his patients with aromatics like myrrh and cinnamon. What I would say is that scent has the power to relax and uplift, remind you of happy memories and places and transport to a different imaginary world.
So yes, I do think that would aid healing!