What is Olfactory and Psycho Aromatherapy?
Olfactory and Psycho Aromatherapy is primarily used to impact mood, emotions and provide a pleasant aroma in a living space.
The effects on mood and emotions in connection to Aromatherapy have been deeply debated and, in some context, praised while in other contexts ridiculed.
The issue with essential oils concerning mood and emotions is that there is no scientific way to study and identify the effects of the essential oils. Because mood and emotions depend on the individual and the association aroma has on the individual, it is nearly impossible to isolate a compound or an aroma and get the same response emotionally and on mood over an extensive populous.
To further explain this principle, you have to understand the perception of a smell. The perception of smell consists of the sensation of the odors themselves and the experiences and emotions associated with these sensations. Smells can evoke strong emotional reactions. In surveys on reactions to fragrances, responses show that many of our olfactory likes and dislikes are based purely on personal associations.
What About Fragrance and Emotions?
The association of fragrance and emotion is not an invention of poets or perfume-makers. Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, thought to be the seat of emotion.
Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where 'cognitive' recognition occurs after our brains' deepest parts have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as, for example, 'vanilla,' the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep-seated emotional responses. This is why a smell can trigger old memories almost immediately.
Although there is convincing evidence that pleasant fragrances can improve our mood and sense of well-being, some of these findings should be viewed cautiously. Recent studies have shown that our expectations about an odor, rather than any direct effects of exposure, may sometimes be responsible for the reported mood and health benefits. In one experiment, researchers found that just telling subjects that a pleasant or unpleasant odor was being administered, which they might not smell, altered their self-reports of mood and well-being. The mere mention of a cheerful scent reduced reports of symptoms related to poor health and increased positive mood reports!
More reliable results have been obtained, however, from experiments using placebos (odorless sprays). These studies have demonstrated that although subjects respond to some extent to odorless placebos that they think are fragrances, the real thing's effect is significant. The thought of a pleasant aroma may be enough to make us a bit more cheerful, but the actual smell can dramatically improve our mood and sense of well-being.
It's undeniable that the positive effects of Olfactory or Phycho Aromatherapy are equally dependent on perception. For this reason, the relaxing aroma of lavender may bring someone to a peaceful place of tranquility while irritating and aggravating another person. The perception of the fragrance is dependent on the experiences previously connected to those aromas.
Aromatherapy offers a unique opportunity to stimulate the limbic system with a new aroma or previously pleasant aroma, allowing the mind to develop new positive emotions.
As you use Aromatherapy to help with mind and mood, it's important to frequently rotate the fragrances. Recent studies have confirmed that the limbic system can become "desensitized" to its often exposed aroma. Desensitization lessens the effect the smell used to have on the mind and mood. To avoid desensitization of the limbic system to a scent, rotate the oils you are using every couple of days. Additionally, research has confirmed that a low to faint aroma in a room has a much more profound effect on the limbic system than a massive, powerful scent. For your best experience, use the timer setting on your essential oil diffuser to ensure you do not overpower the area with the essential oil aroma.
You can learn more about the classifications of Aromatherapy here.