“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?
Remember in a previous post when we talked about those volatile molecules, the ones that are so light that they can evaporate into your nose? These molecules travel into your nasal cavity and touch your olfactory bulb, the “smelling bulb.”
The olfactory bulb, with fifty million receptor cells, is right between your eyebrows and about the size of a postage stamp. Who says that bigger is better?
“Olfactory” comes from the Latin olfacere which means “to smell.”
Did you know that your sense of smell is 15% more powerful than your sense of sight when it comes to recalling long-term memories. That’s pretty impressive.
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. Thanks to the limbic system, we feel hunger, thirst, fear, and even sexual stimulation. Maybe that’s why certain odours make us hungry, whereas other scents create fear.
While we may not normally think of it that way, the nose is the only open pathway that leads directly to our brain.
This can be both good and bad. We sometimes cannot stand the smell of a food that once made us sick, but the smell of our grandmother’s perfume still makes us feel like we are getting a hug.
I've never met a single person who hasn't encountered some type of smell that has instantly triggered a memory.
My own example is when I was in a B&B in France a couple of years ago and I was washing my hands with a soap that contained neroli essential oil. Instantly the smell of this hand wash took me back to a time 12 years ago, transporting me to the hotel room 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.
Fragrance can also have a direct impact on your most primitive behaviors. It can make you feel sad or fearful, angry or anxious, or even nauseous. On the flip side a smell can also make you feel happy, lustful, reminiscent and joyful.
Our sense of smell allows us to detect danger and even find a mate without knowing it (true story, even though it is completely subconscious), much as for the animal kingdom.
We might assume that our sense of smell is poor and that it takes a sniffer dog or a perfume expert to make sense of smells. But this 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 or audible or touchable.
“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 FREE FRAGRANCE 101 MASTERCLASS TO LEARN MORE!
*Melanie Jane's recommended books about discovering our enigmatic sense of smell:
The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw
The Scent of Desire By Rachel Herz