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Scents & smells

Memories and past experiences can be recalled using the full range of senses - sight, sound, smell, taste & touch. Each of us have one (or more) preferred senses, or senses which most powerfully evoke memories of certain of those past experiences for us. In this post, I'm going to focus on smell (with some overlap into taste).

While some scents are inextricably linked to the emotions felt during a particular remembered experience - for example cloves and cinnamon are the smell of mulled wine and so of autumn & winter, lavender could transport you back to the crepey skin of your Granny's cheek when you kissed her goodbye, homemade chicken soup remind you of being nursed back to health after a particularly bad dose of flu, a whiff of bread baking in the supermarket taking you back to your childhood kitchen after school. Smell and memories just go together, but scents also trigger emotions or feelings all by themselves. The best way to demonstrate this difference is to describe a couple of my personal experiences with scents and smells.

Most people consider Lavender to be a smell enhancing relaxation and sleep, but for me it brings to mind healing and safety. During the diagnostic process for breast cancer, a tricky biopsy left me with blisters. An aromatherapist friend dabbed the blisters with English Lavender oil from Neals Yard, and now that experience of healing, being cared for and feeling safe is ever entwined with the scent. Please note, Lavender is the only essential oil I know which can be applied safely neat - always dilute (see below for information on dilution). Luckily, Lavender isn't the only oil to trigger the feeling of relaxation, I've used Bergamot (the oil in Earl Grey tea), and will be trying Roman Chamomile and Vetiver, as Bergamot has an uplifting element and so can be too stimulating for pre-sleep relaxation.

There's good reasons for having multiple options - oil can smell different at different times, depending upon the state of your emotions. OK, I know this sounds rather woo-woo, but it's something I've experienced myself too often not to accept its truth. Our minds know what we need so well that they can "instruct" our noses to be drawn to the smell we need at the time. For example, my everyday selection of oils for a massage are the uplifting and energising citrus oils - Orange, Mandarin, Grapefruit - but when in a state of shock and experiencing great sadness, the citrus oils smelt of nothing. Instead the oils I could smell and was drawn to were Geranium and Ylang Ylang - the first known for its ability to restore emotional balance and the second to relieve emotional stress. Like I say, our minds know what we need and they tell us via our noses.

As good quality essential oils can prove expensive, if you want to go down this route but have a limited budget, my recommendation is to get together with friends. You can then divide your purchases between you in whatever number makes it practical, allowing each to have their own small stock. Be careful to buy glass bottles, or plastic ones from a quality essential oil supplier, as most plastics are not suitable for storing essential oils.

But you can also get your smell hit from other sources. We all know the power of freshly baked bread and ground coffee - it's why estate agents suggest you use these tricks to engender a feeling of "home" to potential buyers when they view your house. So what other "ordinary" products can give you a smell hit?

As previously mentioned, Earl Grey tea provides Bergamot (both calming and uplifting), and Chai, a proper one like this one from T2 contains Clove and Cardamom (truly excellent for digestion and mental clarity). For an early morning wake-up hit and energy boost, the Body Shop's pink grapefruit range is very affordable. You can grow mint to make your own Peppermint tea, good for both digestion or to give a mid-day lift, Rosemary will boost your memory and concentration (simply rub the leaves between your fingers), and we've already covered the benefit of Lavender - all of which are easy to grow. Still in the garden, the scent from a Jasmine climbing plant or a Rose will also provide a mood uplift.

Many of the fresh spices used in Indian cooking have excellent properties - to those of Clove and Cardamon detailed above, you can add Cinnamon, which helps to maintain a healthy immune system as well as soothe an irritated throat, fresh Ginger for digestion and circulation boosting, Black Pepper (either the oil or freshly ground) not only enhances flavour but aids digestion, as well as soothing and supporting the nervous system, lastly Turmeric - the new superfood - provides metabolic support and improved immune response. Who knew a curry could be so good for you?

Whether you get your scents & smells from essential oils or more everyday sources, do remember to add them to your mental health #self-care box.

Dillution of essential oil

The following are guidelines, but it is recommended that you always start at the lowest end in case of adverse reaction.

5ml = 1 teaspoon (of carrier oil), 10ml = 2 teaspoons (of carrier oil). In order to reduce dilution to 0.25%, you will need to up the amount of carrier oil in which to dilute 1 drop of essential oil to 40ml (or 8 teaspoons), as it is impossible to pour less than 1 drop of oil.

© 2020 Caring Coaching (for the article & header image) © 2020 Doterra (for the dilution guidelines & ratio)