The Olfactory Memory

Did you ever pick flowers and put them into a jar of water, in an attempt to make your own perfume?  The jar smelled amazing, but it never really worked as a perfume.  Do you remember when people used to line their drawers with scented paper?  Or those little fabric pouches that were filled with lavender? My gran had both.

A single rose

I remember she had this brilliant brush and mirror set, the brush made my hair so soft but so full of static that you could hear it crack as you brushed! There was this great big fluffy powder puff that sat on her dresser, it smelt like roses.

My Grandad used to have the most amazing smelling greenhouse just bursting with plants.  He must have grown more than tomatoes and peas, but it is the smell that I remember, so fresh.

Our Olfactory memory is a fascinating thing. 30+ years down the line and if you put me in a tomato filled greenhouse I am instantly transported and filled with the same joyful emotions that I felt whenever I was with my Grandad. 

The olfactory bulb processes the things that we smell and sends this information on to the limbic system.  It is this part of the brain that is known to play a major role in controlling mood, memory, behaviour and emotion.  It is a primitive part of the brain, that was still present in the brain of the very first mammal.

So this is my first point on why Aromatherapy is so brilliant.  With the right blend of oils you can instantly feel relaxed and comforted, taken back to simpler times.  The same could be said for negative memories but, in my experience, people know which oils are a definite no and they are very clear in letting you know which ones these are.  Take Lavender for example, one of the most popular scents in the world and who’s healing properties are second to none.  Easily grown in many climates and with a very definitive smell it gets used in so many different products.  Overused some might say.  So a blend to aid relaxation, you’d think Lavender right?  The scent definitely relaxes me and chemically speaking that’s what effect it should have on the body BUT, if all you can think about is a family member that you didn’t like and how their bathroom used to wreak of Lavender bleach, then that is going to do nothing for you. 

What I can say for sure is that when a person comes regularly for a massage and you find that blend that works for them, they begin to associate that smell with the relaxed feeling that they get when having a massage.  So, a home blend with these oils may be a perfect remedy for someone with a stressful job, trouble sleeping etc.  Or perhaps you’d chose a more invigorating massage with essential oils that will make you feel more focused and alert.  Then using these oils in the morning. blended into a shower gel might help to take you back to that post massage high.

Rosemary & Lemon

Here’s a top tip that I learned just weeks before finishing college but one that I always like to share with other students.  Rosemary has so many different health benefits but the one’s we want to focus on are its ability to improve memory, reduce headaches and aid concentration.  So put some of the fresh herb, or a few drops of the oil on a tissue, close by whenever you are studying a specific subject (only one).  Then when it comes time to sit the exam for that subject, make sure you have some Rosemary with you.  Let that wonderful smell take you back to all those studious nights, when you were learning, creating all those new synapses.  Theoretically your olfactory memory should kick in and help you find those answers.

Or at the very least it should help you stay more focused!

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