I distinctly remember one particular class during my aromatherapy training. Our teacher sent two different bottles of rose essential oil around the room and he asked which one of the two we liked better and why.
The majority of the class picked the oil which seemed to have a sweeter and more ‘rosy’ aroma because they felt that the scent was more pleasing.
To the surprise of most, this happened to be the lab engineered rose substance which is toxic and disruptive to our health but commonly used. The genuine and organic rose essential oil in the other bottle appealed only to a few in the class. It had more of a medicinal scent and did not smell sweet as everyone would expect rose essential oil to smell.
Since then, I have learned over and over again that it is a common occurrence for people to pick a lab engineered aromatic substance over the real thing created by nature.
This is something worth talking about because it appears that our nose is in trouble and it can’t tell right from wrong any more.
Let us start with what our sense of smell does for us and why it is so important to keep it in tact.
The workings of our sense of smell are very complex. Our sense of smell impacts our life on many levels. Without going into serious anatomy, we can confidently say that our sense of smell is there to protect us from danger. It helps us to detect fire, or a gas leek. It warns us of food gone bad and pollution levels in our environment being high. It truly is one of our survival mechanisms which is vital to our existence.
But it does not stop there. Our sense of smell is linked to the part of the brain which stores our past memories. That’s why certain smells will immediately bring you back to your experiences from the past, some as far back as your childhood. This is thanks to the amazing apparatus of the limbic system. The limbic system is made up of various parts of the brain which help us create and sense emotions. This is why we refer to the limbic system as the ‘emotional’ brain.
Also, did you know that your nose helps you pick your partners in life? You are not consciously aware of this but your nose can smell the distinct chemicals called pheromones which we all secrete into the environment to send signals to elicit attraction, arousal and sexual desire.
When you happen to smell the beautiful aroma of flowers, your nose can take you on a creative journey. Some have written poetry about the scent of flowers or the scent of a woman…
I could go on about this and give many more examples but the point I am trying to make is that it is absolutely necessary for our nose to work very well. I am sure that you get the picture.
So going back to my aromatherapy class, how come our nose is in so much trouble that it can not tell right from wrong? The answer is very simple. We are bombarded with thousands of chemicals every single day and our sense of smell is deeply confused. The invisible toxic brew is everywhere you go and it even lingers in your home. Beauty products, especially perfume, are a big contributor to your nose’s perplexity. Bounce and Febreeze, cleaning products that you use are loaded with lab-engendered scents. That ‘lovely’ pine or lavender scented product never saw pine nor lavender.
And how about the aromas you smell as you walk into stores? Did you know that there are laboratories which design scents which will make you into a compulsive buyer? Remember the limbic system - your ‘emotional’ brain? Studies have been done which suggest that when people are exposed to citrus smell they feel compelled to clean. Other scents can prompt you to shop. There is a whole science created around this subject very much like the taste manipulation in many processed foods. Eat a little and you will feel compulsion to eat more….
Artificial aroma is the way to go for the beauty industry simply because it is cost effective and assures a fixed and stable aromatic profile of the product. First, true essential oils are very expensive to produce and secondly the aromatic profile can change from year to year depending on weather conditions in which plants grew, the health of the soil and such.
In that sense, the production of genuine essential oils is very much like that of wine. Like beauty companies, some wine producers use chemical additives to create a consistent flavour and more recognizable brand. Sadly, when the focus of the company is on profits rather than your wellbeing this is what takes place.
I know that this may sound a bit like doom and gloom but there are actions we can consciously take to help our nose regain its virtues.
Maybe at the moment you don’t feel like there is much to do about scent you are exposed to in the stores and outside of your home. But remember that in your personal life and in your home it is totally up to you. First and foremost, remove toxicity from your personal and beauty care products. You may have to say goodbye to your favourite department store bought perfume but don’t fret! There are amazing genuine essential oil based products which can replace them. There is a movement taking place towards artisan genuine essential oil based perfume making. It is very exciting!
Make sure to read your labels and don’t be shy to ask questions about the source of scent in the product you want to purchase.
Splurge on a bottle or two of organic essential oil and from time to time simply smell it. Close your eyes and inhale. There is a very big difference in the effect a natural scent has on you compared to lab-made perfume. You will be amazed at how quickly you can become an expert on reading a scent’s authenticity.
As a botanical product formulator I am very hopeful and I trust that ultimately we all want to be healthy, we want our planet to thrive and once made aware, we will make wholesome choices. The simple truth is that there is no comparison between a scent that is made in a lab and a scent that is produced in nature. The first is a substance devoid of life and disruptive to our health; it is a burden to the environment and will totally mess up your nose and your health. The second is full of life and healing on many levels.
For example, one essential oil can improve the health of your skin and uplift your mood at the same time.
I believe that when you make a conscious decision to choose aromatic products which are supportive to your life and your health, you and your nose will slowly become more in tune with that which is true and that which is not. Your nose will no longer be fooled by toxic brews which pretend to be something they are not and genuine scents of plants will grace your life as they were meant to.