Aromatherapy – the science and therapy of smell

If the merest whiff of lavender reminds you of your grandmother, or the scent of orange blossom and jasmine instantly transports you back to the beach as a kid with a  bottle of Coppertone, you’re not alone. Olfactory memories are powerful reflexes and happen by way of the limbic system.

The limbic system refers to the interconnected structures in the brain controlling our basic instincts, emotions, memories, hormones, heart rate, blood pressure and physical stimuli.

When we smell granny’s lavender, the scent molecules stimulate the limbic system, the comforting emotional response that you associate with it, even before the aroma connects to the memory.

Aromatherapy, or the therapeutic use of plant-derived aromatic compounds for holistic healing, works precisely because of these emotional responses. Your reaction to an odour happens instantly because the limbic system is responsible for those primitive instincts that kept our ancestors alive. The olfactory response to smell stimulates the brain to release hormones and neurochemicals that will alter our physiology and behaviour. Interestingly, smell registers with the brain faster than sound or sight, so human survival once relied on this sense.

While it’s not new science, the scientific proof that inhaling essential oils can affect your mood is now irrefutable. When Corbin Rd came to choosing an essential oil for our Restorative Cleansing Balm, we wanted an essential oil that, when used at the end of the day, would become a ritual to prepare for sleep. We chose geranium oil for the calming, balancing effect it has when you warm the balm in your hands, pausing and inhaling before massaging onto your face.

The work of essential oils is twofold. Aside from their mood altering abilities upon inhalation, when used topically (they must always be diluted), they can also help improve the skin’s physical condition. As well as wonderfully balancing, geranium oil helps rejuvenate skin and its anti-fungal properties help treat blemishes So next time you smell the geranium-scented Restorative Cleansing Balm, you’ll understand why we called it just that. A lot of science has gone into the restorative side of the balm.

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