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Essential Oils and smell

Written by Hannah Parry

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Posted on December 02 2019

Essential oils are closely related to the sense of smell, to the point that aromatherapy is a recognized form of therapy, since it acts on our sense of smell and through absorption into the bloodstream.

The volatility of essences

Volatility is the speed with which the essences evaporate once exposed to the air. Essences have different evaporation rates. Some are very light and volatile (for example, eucalyptus and orange ), others are heavier and slower ( patchouli and sandalwood ). Perfume composition experts have established a classification of essences depending on the rate of dispersion in the air. This evaporation scale comprises three classes: upper class, formed by the lighter oils, that is, they evaporate faster (higher index); middle class (middle index), and lower class, consisting of essences that evaporate more slowly (basic index).

The aromas of the upper class are those that are most appreciated when smelling a perfume, while those of the lower class are used as fixatives, to retain the most volatile and make the perfume last for longer.

When applying this knowledge to aromatherapy, it has been observed that there is a relationship between the rate of evaporation and the effect that the essences have on the mind and body: the higher essences, which evaporate rapidly, act faster and faster. general stimulate the mind (for example, rosemary or sage ); on the other hand, lower oils, which volatilize more slowly, are essentially sedative and relaxing. Most of the woods and resins are part of the latter group and are very effective in chronic states.
Medium index oils, which have an intermediate evaporation rate, are mainly related to the functions of different organs and metabolism ( lavender ,mint , cardamom , pepper , basil and hyssop ).

The essences and smell

The essences enter into relationship with man through two peculiar ways, which distinguishes them specifically from the rest of healing substances from the plant world. It is the olfactory system and the skin.
Through these two pathways, essences penetrate the body and influence both the mind and the body.
It is believed that through smell they exert their action mainly thanks to the nervous system and therefore have an action on the mind, on psychic functions such as memory, on the ability to learn, and on the neurovegetative system. All this translates into an influence on psychosomatic functions between mental states and organ health. Instead, it seems that through the skin they exert mainly an action on the cells and tissues. But that will be discussed in another article.

Essential oils use the sensory activity of smell as an access route. The aromatic substance is melted in the atmosphere that surrounds us through an expansion process that is received by the person with a gesture of internalization and recollection, so that the subtle qualities of the substance are transmitted to those who perceive them. Olfactory perception is something extremely subtle and is closely related to psychic states. The action of the essential oil can be understood, in this case, as an energetic vibration that acts beyond the physical plane.

It is interesting to note that the progressive increase in environmental pollution has led to a decrease in olfactory capacities and, therefore, the ability to recognize odors (anosmia). With the increase in visual and acoustic stimuli (television and noise pollution), man is losing the ability to perceive sensory stimuli, while his senses become harder and less and less subtle.

Aromatherapy, since it requires the sense of smell, so old and fine, can be a good opportunity to overcome materialism and reconcile with the spiritual ground. To perceive odors, it is necessary that the inhaled air contained in volatile molecules - the most material part, the essence of a thing - reaches the upper part of the nostrils where the nerve fibers of olfactory neurons are found. These nerve cells, once reached by the odorous molecules, transform chemical energy into electrical impulses that stimulate the olfactory centers of the bulbs - located in the brain, in the front, approximately at eye level. Hence, the olfactory message travels to other regions of the brain, where the acquired data is elaborated and emotional reactions take place.

Unlike the rest of the senses, olfactory stimuli are the only ones that reach the cerebral cortex directly, without going through the thalamus filter (receiving center) to undergo a preliminary analysis. This explains why an odor or perfume can instantly evoke extremely vivid memories of experiences that may be very distant. More than a memory, in this case it is about reliving practically a past experience, which reappears manifestly, saving space-time distances, with the same affective intensity of then, even, if in appearance, it is a forgotten experience and buried in the past.

The memory triggered by a smell is much more intense than that evoked by an image or a sound. The perception of a smell contains in itself all the energy of an existential reality. In Chinese acupuncture, the nose is crossed on its surface by the main energy channel of mental and emotional life. For Hindu Ayurvedic medicine, it is the door of the brain and of consciousness, and is related, in its sensory function, with the action of intestinal excretion and with the anus. Therefore, according to this medical philosophy, a person suffering from constipation and impure colon will have a sense of smell. To purify the energy channels of the nose, they advise massage with oil and wash with water and salt from the nostrils.

To sharpen smell it is useful to smell basil, in the form of a plant, if possible, or of essence. On the evolutionary scale, the olfactory apparatus represents the oldest sensory organ. In many animal species it is of fundamental importance in the search for food and in mating.

In man there is still a close relationship between olfactory stimuli and sexuality: a perfume or the smell emitted by a body can induce attraction or repulsion. It has been shown that odors are able to modulate the hormonal response. The instinctive attraction that is perceived towards a certain person seems to be also caused by messages that run through the olfactory canal, in particular, by pheromones (substances secreted by certain sweat glands, present in animal species, where they develop an important function of sexual claim ). In man this instinct represents the vestiges of his past, but the production of these pheromones, even if it is not consciously appreciable, continues to transmit decodable messages through our mind unconsciously,

The aromas and perfumes are already part of the history of man, who has taken advantage of his persuasive and evocative magic, jumping from the sacred to the profane, from the censers burning before the altars of the gods, which helped the soul to rise towards heaven, until the search for aromatic compositions to increase the fascination and sexual attraction.
We can affirm, therefore, that smell is related at the same time to the physical and spiritual bodies. Smell is in turn linked to the instinct and the unconscious, is in a subtle dimension of existence. It has the power to evoke the past, in the same way that it can awaken deep creative energies and bring back contact with the forces that enliven the imagination. Following this "fragrant wake", the perfumes of the essences, overflow with an intrinsic power and symbolic and energetic values, which can help man to find himself and open himself to new expressive possibilities.

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