The Subtle Sense of Smell

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People who cannot smell, are called ‘anosmic’. In America alone, more than two million people suffer from ‘anosmia’.

The average healthy person can distinguish between ten to forty thousand scents. Most of us, most of the time, are only partly conscious of our sense of smell. Yet, it is most definitely there, and it is linked to sexuality.

The amygdala, which receives messages about scents, deep within the brain, in not only concerned with the expression of emotion, but has a direct link with the release of hormones that control sexual development and activity. A quarter of those people suffering from ‘anosmia’ also experience a loss of libido.

One of the interesting things about smell is that it involves olfactory cells that are technically brain cells. Just behind the bridge of your nose, there’s a small, spoon-like structure that extends out from and is actually a part of the brain. This extraordinary object is called the olfactory bulb and from it olfactory nerve cells reach down to the inside of your nose. When an aromatic particle floats into your nostril, it makes a direct connection with these nerves and sparks off an immediate reaction in the brain.

Aroma molecules set into action the limbic system, which is a complex network of structures and nerves constituting a neuronal circuit in which we find our center for emotion and a crucial ‘bottleneck’ for memory. In other words, aroma, emotion, and memory are inextricably linked; but that’s not all. Through the limbic system, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands are stimulated, causing reactions in the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system, thus exerting an influence on appetite, body temperature, digestion, hormones, insulin production, nerves, repulsion, stress, thirst, sexual arousal, and sex.

As if all this were not enough, the limbic system also connects with the thalamus and neocortex, giving aromas the ability to affect conscious thought and reaction. To summarize, what you smell affects just about everything from your emotions, hormone levels, and memories to a whole range of vital physical processes, plus it can affect whether you think straight, or not.

For further reading on how aromatherapy affects the body’s systems, visit:

Debra Mauldin
Certified Aromatherapist

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have:

Scents & Scentuality
By Valerie Ann Worwood

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