“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” – Helen Keller
Smell matters. It's as simple as that. But just how powerful is our most underestimated sense? Some volatile, aromatic molecules are so light they can travel through your nasal cavity and connect with the olfactory bulb, otherwise known as the "smelling bulb." The olfactory bulb, with fifty million receptor cells, is between your eyebrows and is about the size of a postage stamp.
“Olfactory” comes from the Latin olfacere which means “to smell.”
The nose is the only open pathway that leads directly to our brain. The olfactory bulb links to the temporal lobe of the limbic system of the brain (the most primitive part of our brain), and is directly connected to three main functions: emotions, memories, and arousal. This connection to our limbic system gives us the ability to instantly recall, events, places and people. Unlike other senses where we might have to think about what that song, or image reminds us of, with smell the recollection is instantaneous.
Your sense of smell is 15% more powerful than your sense of sight when it comes to recalling long-term memories.
A powerful scent memory of mine occurred in France several years ago. Whilst washing my hands with a neroli scented soap, the fragrance instantly transported me back to a time, 12 years ago, to the hotel in New York where I fell in love with my husband. In a split second I was there again, in that room, with that overwhelming feeling of romance, from smell alone.
What's your most impactful smell memory?
Fragrance has a direct impact on your most primitive behaviours. It can make you feel melancholy, fearful, angry, anxious, or even nauseous. On the flip side, a smell can also make you feel joyful, lustful, reminiscent and exhilarated. Your sense of smell allows you to detect danger and even subconsciously seek out a perfect mate, much like the animal kingdom.
We often wrongly assume that our sense of smell is inferior and that it takes a sniffer dog or a perfume expert to make sense of smells. But this assumption doesn’t give our noses the credit they deserve. Most of us have noses that are really rather brilliant, which can detect minute traces of chemicals that are too tiny to be visible, audible or tangible.
“Without knowing it, we are using our noses every day to interpret the world around us in the finest detail, and we are unconsciously discriminating between aromas with the greatest subtlety.” - Barney Shaw, The Smell of Fresh Rain
Never underestimate the power of a smell. It can transport us to the past, create life-long memories for the future, keep us from danger and help us find our perfect mate.
ENROL ONTO THE FRAGRANCE 101 MASTERCLASS TO LEARN MORE!
*Melanie's recommended books about discovering our enigmatic sense of smell: