Aromachology is a term which has been created to study the effects of fragrances and aroma’s on the mind. The main purpose of aromachology is to persuade people to buy, or to make them more efficient or compliant. Fragrances used are often synthetic. Aroma psychology or psycho aromatherapy deals specifically with the use of genuine essential oils to have a positive effect on the mind. This can be as simple as improving memory, improving the mood or confidence or reducing anxiety. They are not used to treat serious mental disorders or states.
The psychology of smell is big business for industries. Next time you are shop note how many different products claim to have an aromatherapy purpose or based on essential oils-everything from tissues to toilet cleaner. The holistic triptych (mind/body/spirit) attempts to show the relationship between all three parts of being a human- that each ‘piece’ cannot be viewed in isolation from the others. Within aromatherapy it means that essential oils can affect all parts of the person, whether intended or not. Certainly by relaxing the mind with soothing oils like lavender or chamomile, then it may be possible for the body to begin to heal itself. Another example is that a person who is troubled with anxieties may manifest those anxieties physically (e.g. nail biting, stomach upsets, headaches). If only the ‘physical’ aspect is assisted then it is not addressing the cause of the distress. It is belived that the psychotherapeutic effects of essential oils have four possible mechanisms of actions. The first is the ‘pharmacological’ effect, where the essential oils have a drug like action at a cellular level. They may modulate the action of a nerve cell for example, or affect a gland which produces hormones. The second mechanism is through the semantic effect, which relates to the situation in which a smell is experienced. This can relate to a physical experience as well. The third mechanism is the ‘hedonic valence’ mechanism. This relates to feelings of pleasure or displeasure-positive odours will affect positively and negative odours will affect negatively. The final mechanism is called the ‘placebo effect’. This is when an effect happens without any ‘active’ substance around to initiate the effect. In medical research terms a placebo drug is givening in drug trials-the placebo is identical in taste, colour, etc to the active drug and the patient and administrator do not know whether an active drug or placebo is being given. The purpose of this is to rule out any effect being related to chance only. With essential oils it is harder to show whether something has a placebo effect, as most people know when they smell something. However, it may also be the power of the mind-if we are told and oil will relax us and we trust the person telling us that, then it probably will relax us!
Of course I am not advocating the essential oils can be used as a panacea for all or should replace medical care and attention in certain situations. Indeed if you are suffering from mental illness, or believe yourself to be suffering from a mental disorder, please liaise and work with your registered health professional. Do not stop any prescribed medications. If you are seeing an aromatherapist please let them know what medications you are taking. Certainly some oils may not be suitable or may cause reactions.
A key part of understanding the aromachology or psycho aromatherapy is to appreciate how essential oils enter the body and have an action on the brain. Unless a person has anosmia, or the inability to smell, everything we do with essential oils will enter the brain through our olfactory receptors. People may be born anosmic, or may induce it through smoking and drug abuse. Others may receive trauma to the nasal area or brain damage. Take a moment to think about how smells affect you-maybe you sniff an aftershave or perfume that reminds you of someone from long ago, or perhaps you smell a plant that reminds you of your grandmothers garden. Within our nasal passages the aroma molecules are carried by the hairs and mucous and cilia which extend from the olfactory bulb in the brain. This is the most direct communication of the brain with the outside world. At this point dozens of chemical reactions occur with the nerve ending and messengers which communicate with the limbic system, where all our emotions are stored and processed. We don’t yet fully understand the how aroma molecules are translated into a physical perception of the smell. Humans can identify at least 10,000 aromas, and we have over 50 million receptors. In comparison dogs have over one billion receptors, hence their much sharper sense of smell.We know that essential oils affect the brain on a physical level- brain scans and electrical recordings through EEG’s (electro encephalogram) show changes when people inhale certain aromas. When blending oils for emotional and spiritual purposes a general rule to consider is that less is usually best. In many occasions only one or two oils may be needed and only in low doses <1%. In some cases, such as with aromatic kinesiology it may only be necessary for the oil to be sniffed from a testing strip. With all blending the purposes is to create a synergy of the oils-which the sum of the blend is more effective that the individual oils by themselves. For physical blending, we are still wishing to create a synergy, but we are less concerned with how it smells. For example if you have arthritis and want to apply a pain relieving combination of oils to your foot, your main purpose is to relieve the pain. However, if you have back ache and are stressed then the blend might have both the analgesic oils plus some anti stress type oils. Another ‘trick’ therapists may use in a situation like this, is that they apply specific analgesic blend to the tired and aching muscles whilst giving the client a soothing blend of oils to inhale while the treatment is happening.
How to inhale essential oils
As with any physical concerns, quality of essential oils is important as well. Use the best quality of oils that you can afford. It is much better to have only 3 organic and versatile essential oils, rather than ten cheap and adulterated oils. When you are testing oils to purchase or asking someone to sniff them, do not sniff straight from the bottle. This gives an aroma which is too intense and is not indicative of the true smell of the oil. A simple trick is to sniff the lid-hold it about 10cm from your nose and waft or swing it in a circle. This moves the aromatic molecules around so they can be inhaled easily. Move it under each nostril and sniff intensely each time. Really try and concentrate as you inhale, close your eyes and try and visualise the aroma. You should feel the aroma at the back of the mouth. You should start to feel some sensations in your brain and over your body. If you can record these in a journal, especially if it the first time you have smelt particular oil. Do not sniff more than four oils in one session as you will get sensory overload and not be able to appreciate the differences between each oil. If you use smelling strips, cotton buds or wooden sticks they can be used in your lingerie draw to carry on the fragrance.
Blending a synergistic blend
Use a dark glass bottle with a tight lid for your blending. This stops the oil evaporating before using it. If you are blending and adding to a beaker or dish cover with a tissue paper so the best of the oils don’t disappear. Once you have selected your oils add a drop of each to your bottle, add the lid and then rotate between your hands a few times to mix the oils together. Use the smelling technique described above-gradually add the remaining drops stopping to blend and sniff to check on the result. When you are happy with the result give one last roll between your hands then turn it upside down and right way up. This ensures every molecule is fully mixed. If you are adding carrier oil this is the time to add and note before.
Creating positive states with essential oils
- Alertness/concentration: bergamot, lime, rosemary, pine oils
- Assertiveness: lemon, lemon myrtle, sweet orange
- Happiness/ mood lifitng: sweet orange, lemon myrtle, jasmine, geranium
- Trauma/grief: Rose, bergamot
Websites for specialist Oil purchases
Posted: Monday 2 August 2021