Smell Your Way to a Better Brain

Smell Your Way to a Better Brain

Smell Your Way to a Better Brain


In search of lost smells-


Scientists have described the Proust phenomenon. A memory, especially an autobiographical memory, that is sparked by an aroma is more vivid than a memory evoked by other cues, such as words, images or sounds.

Essential oils-

Clinical studies have demonstrated Aromatherapy, using essential oils, has multiple beneficial effects on the brain and mental health. Scientists have reported treatment with various essential oils is potentially effective for anxiety and depression. Aromatherapy also may be helpful in relieving  pain in labor/childbirth; stress, depression, and sleep in hemodialysis patients; stress in healthy adults; anxiety in perioperative patients; and sleep quality in various populations.


Popular anxiolytic essential oils are generally rich in terpenoid alcohols like linalool, geraniol and citronellol, and the monoterpene limonene (or citral). More than 20 compounds derived from essential oils have shown an anxiolytic effect. Aromatherapy seems to reduce anxiety by altering communication between (brain cells) neurons by chemical signals  (monoamine neurotransmitters (GABA), amino acid neurotransmitters (glutamate). Hormone control centers of the brain (the hypothalamus and pituitary gland) then change the level of stress hormone in the body (adrenal gland).




Lavender is a beautiful flower and scientists have reported that its fragrance is good for your brain: improved quality of sleep, reduced depression, reduced anxiety and increased sexual desire.

A group of researchers studied menopausal and post-menopausal women and reported their findings. Aromatherapy significantly improved the above measures. The vast majority of women involved also reported feelings of relaxation, happiness and physical well being.

Aromatherapy, with Lavender essential oil has been the focus of clinical studies for the alleviation of depressive symptoms. A group of scientists studied the brains of laboratory rats to determine the possible mechanism of action. The researchers reported that lavender improved the depressed and anxious behavior in the rats. It also enhanced the brain structure of the animals with improved connection (synapse/dendrite neuroplasticity) between the cells (neurons) and increased production of new neurons (neurogenesis). It also increased the level of oxytocin (known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone,” because it is released when people snuggle or bond socially) and BDNF ((brain derived neurotrophic factor) a protein essential in allowing neurons to thrive, grow and mature) in the rats’ brains.




Lemon essential oil (LEO) may be beneficial to your brain. Scientists have reported that LEO may improve many conditions such as inflammation and depression. LEO may also improve cognitive dysfunction induced by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). 


One group of researchers investigated the effects of LEO on learning and memory in mice afflicted with an Alzheimer’s like condition. They found that treatment with LEO enhanced memory and improved the connections between brain cells (neurons). The scientists used a Water Maze test and an object recognition test. They measured brain chemicals including neurotransmitters (brain signaling chemicals), a nerve growth factor (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF), and studied anatomical changes in the rodents’ brains. 


Aromatherapy and childbirth


More than a dozen studies, involving thousands of postpartum women (women who have just given birth) in multiple countries have demonstrated that aromatherapy may be beneficial to the new mothers’ mental health and well being. The researchers reported positive effects on anxiety, depression, distress, fatigue, mood, physical pain, nausea, sleep quality, and stress. Most of the studies reported no serious aromatherapy side effects.