The Science of Smell

Mindfulness meditation


The psychological effect of aromas. 


Your sense of perception is a collection of systems working together in patterns of receptivity. Our olfaction (the sense of smell) connects to our central nervous system and influences our brain chemistry.


Think about cookies baking in the oven, the aroma of your Grandpa, the scent of a pine tree, or, yep, I’m going there… stepping in dog poop. These aromas are unmistakable and have a psychological effect on us. Let’s talk about it more.


When we inhale, we are experiencing our most ancient sense: smell. Before we could see, hear, or touch, we could smell. Our nasal passages have a patch of tissue called the olfactory epithelium. Aroma dissolves into the tissue when we inhale, chew, or swallow. According to Dr. Amir Vokshoor, this tissue is “only a few centimeters wide, it contains over 100 million olfactory receptor cells.”


These olfactory receptor cells have nerve endings that behave as hooks on the end of a fishing line; they can attach to aromatics swimming through the air. With approximately 450 different olfactory receptors, we can tell the difference between at least 1 trillion different odorants. That’s a lot of different smells!

cute African American boy smelling cookies

The human nose can distinguish 1 trillion smells.  


This ancient system is synchronized with the part of our brains responsible for adrenaline flow, emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction. We literally integrate our emotions and behaviors through our sense of smell.


A large body of current research supports aromatics’ positive effect on stress levels, cognitive processes, brain chemistry, behavior, perception, and emotional states. For instance, research showed that inhalation of rosemary, lemon, basil, and peppermint essential oils increased energy.


In another study, there was an increase in cerebral blood flow after inhalation of cineole, leading to increased efficiency and precision of work performance. There have also been numerous studies on the effectiveness of peppermint oil in promoting increased mental ability, attention, word learning, and recall.


The psychological effects of aromas are numerous and can play a vital role in improving our awareness. This can have lasting effects and enhance our lives.

Here are a couple of companies we love for essential oils.


erin body care


Ha.Lé Integrative is a holistic wellness practice, serving the greater Midtown area of Nashville, TN. Click here to learn about our services.

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