Aromatherapy Healing ~ Aromatic Research

Aromatherapy can help a person to cope with psychological issues, from depression and anxiety to poor memory. That something as noninvasive as natural fragrances can affect our thoughts is quite exciting. Medical researchers hope someday to treat a number of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders, with fragrance. This idea is not as far out as it may seem. When we smell, the information that we receive is sent to specific areas of the brain that influence memory, learning, basic emotions, hormonal balances and even our basic survival mechanisms, such as the “fight or flight” response. Researchers have found that fragrance can even improve interaction and communication among people: Pleasant smells can put people in better moods and even make them more willing to negotiate, cooperate and compromise. Put these same people in an unscented room, and avoidance, competition, and conflict are more likely.

Scientific evidence supporting aromatherapy is just beginning to surface. In a 1992 issue of the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, aromatherapy is described as a treatment to “promote health and well-being” through massage, inhalation, baths and the application of compresses, creams, and lotions. The author of this article suggests that fragrance can reduce stress and depression, sedate or invigorate, stimulate sensory awareness and provide pain relief. Working with International Fragrance and Flavor {IFF}, a New York-based fragrance company that has made a multi-million dollar commitment to research, Gary Schwartz, M.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, studied how fragrances can be used to alleviate fatigue, migraine headaches, food cravings, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and irregular heartbeat. Another scientist funded by IFF, Craig Warren, PhD., tested more than 2,000 subjects in order to better understand how some fragrances can relieve pain, call up deep-seated memories and generally affect personality and behavior. He is particularly interested in discovering which scents prevent insomnia.

IFF officials believe that companies will eventually market stress-relieving perfumes and that it will someday be commonplace for people to chose everyday items such as shampoo according to their emotional needs as well as their cosmetic requirements. In fact, the mainstreaming of aromatherapy has already begun.

Aromatherapy has captured the imagination not only of medical researchers but also of marketers, who find that fragrance sells. Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., the director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago and a psychiatrist and neurologist at the University of Illinois, is studying how different odors change a consumer’s reactions.

You may not realize it, but you have probably already experienced aromatherapy – maybe when you bought a car or a house, or even laundry detergent. Most of the products we purchase are scented to make them more appealing. Real estate agents know that the smell of freshly baked brownies makes a house more appealing to a buyer. Similarly, used-car salespeople spray a fragrance into cars because customers are more likely to think that the vehicle is in good shape if it smells new. Most detergents are lemon-scented to associate the smell of citrus with cleanliness.