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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

The Power of Smell

Sep 27, 2013 07:25PM ● By Marcela Bowie, DOM

When I was a young girl, I lived in an area with a lot of snow and fir trees. Later, having moved to a warmer climate, I no longer was exposed to the winter smells of snow and fir. As an adult, I returned to my birthplace during winter and was overwhelmed by the intense memories and emotions that came as soon as I smelt snow and fir trees. Many of us have had similar experiences of a flood of memories and emotions with a smell from the past. 

The reason for this reaction lies in the part of our brain called the limbic system. Our Olfactory center - or the part of the brain that processes smells is very close to our limbic system's center - amygdala and hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that processes and stores memories and emotions. When we incorporate our sense of smell with an experience, they are stored very closely together and make a strong imprint in our brains.

So how do we incorporate the sense of smell into our daily lives to create healing and wellbeing? If we can create a strong memory or association with a smell, we can use this to create positive, feel-good associations. If someone has a fear of flying for example, they can choose a calming, pleasant smell such lavender and start to create an association with a calm, pleasant experience such as relaxing at the beach. While soaking up the warmth of the sun, the sounds of the ocean and perhaps the support of a dear friend close by, incorporate the smell of lavender over and over until a strong association in the brain is made between the smell of lavender and the memory and experience of a calm, pleasant time. When it is time to fly again, have the same lavender handy to recreate the memory and brain pathway to a calmer, more pleasant time. The sense of smell is often used in many holistic and integrated approaches to treat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and many fears and anxieties.

On a general level, by being able to create a calm, soothing environment we are able to relax the nervous system and benefit our autonomic functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and regular breathing.

Additional ideas and suggestions for incorporating your sense of smell – Aromas that uplift and invigorate are most citrus smells, peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus. Aromas that calm are lavender, vetiver and sandalwood for example. Aromas that aid digestion are fennel, peppermint and grapefruit. Aromatherapy can be enjoyed by the entire family and being noninvasive is a wonderful tool, even for little ones as well as elderly. Next time you 'stop and smell the roses' think of the powerful association you are creating.

Marcela Bowie is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture Physician, and owner of No Worries Natural Medicine. She is also a DoTERRA Essential Oil Product Consultant. Her office is located at 2020 Hwy A1A, Ste 110 in Indian Harbour Beach. For more information call 321-961-8243 or visit