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Plant Perfumery

Botanical scents bring pleasure, boost well-being and even promote a sense of safety.

The power of scent is undeniable. Certain aromas can instantly transport us back to a specific time and place. It might be the smell of freshly mown grass from our childhood home, the fragrant blossoms of a tropical holiday, or a loved one’s signature perfume. Scent can also evoke powerful emotions, evoking feelings of happiness, sadness, nostalgia, or even fear. In fact, research has shown that the sense of smell is closely linked to memory and emotion.

This is likely because the part of the brain that processes smell, the olfactory bulb, is located close to the limbic system, which is responsible for emotion and memory. So next time you catch a whiff of a certain fragrance, take a moment to stop and breathe it in. You never know what memories it might trigger.

Fragrances can also help you feel more positive, induce a sense of calm, and reduce stress. Doesn’t just the thought of burying your nose among the delicate petals of a heavenly-scented rose make you want to close your eyes and smile dreamily? The power of fragrance is demonstrated by the fact that the worldwide perfume industry is reportedly worth more than $32 billion. People just love inhaling beautiful scents.

Even many household cleaning products, such as detergents, and washing powders, are infused with botanical-based fragrances, showing how enamored we are of scent. With fragrances capable of being so alluring, evocative, and entrancing, it’s fortunate that gardeners have the magnificent opportunity to grow and enjoy the plants that produce many of these scents.

In addition to their wonderful fragrances, many of these plants also boast stunning flowers, making them a visual treat as well as a delight for the senses. Why not choose some fragrant plants for your garden and enjoy the benefits of their scent?

Sensory Experience

Smell is usually ranked as the least valuable of the five senses. However, it is not until a person’s sense of smell is adversely affected that its power is recognized. Smell plays an integral part in the taste and enjoyment of meals (as well as the detection of spoiled food), and losing the ability to smell (called anosmia) has been shown to affect a person’s quality of life, feelings of personal safety, and emotional well-being.

So, the smell may have a low ranking, but it’s definitely a sense that should be valued and appreciated. Sight, hearing, touch, and taste information is processed first by the thalamus, a part of the brain sometimes referred to as the ‘gatekeeper’.

The thalamus then sends this information to the appropriate sensory cortex for further processing. The olfactory system – responsible for the sense of smell – bypasses the thalamus and goes straight to the olfactory cortex. This may be because smell is more closely related to memory and emotion than other senses. As a result, smells have a powerful effect on our mood and behavior.

For example, the scent of lavender has been shown to reduce anxiety levels, while the smell of green apples has been shown to increase alertness. And studies have shown that people who are unable to smell are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. It’s clear that smell plays an important role in our lives, even if we don’t always realize it.

Science of Smells

Scientists have long been intrigued by the sense of smell, and how it influences the brain. Studies with rats have shown that their sense of smell is closely linked to positive and negative brain reactions, which influence their learning and memory formation.

The researchers theorize that this is why the sense of smell plays such a unique role in the formation and retrieval of memories. Further investigation is needed to untangle the science of smell: however, knowledge to date indicates a fascinating link between what we smell and the intricate recesses of our minds.

There is also research that looked at whether a person’s sense of smell could be improved and whether it had wider effects, beyond ‘just’ smell. ‘Smell training’ trials, in which older adults were given different strong odors to smell over several months, saw promising results, with improvements in not only smell detection but also cognitive function overall.

This indicates that the sense of smell is indeed linked to cognitive function and that improving one’s sense of smell could have wide-ranging benefits. The science of smell is still being unraveled; however, what we know so far points to a complex and important relationship between our sense of smell and our brain.

Three Notes

Perfumes were first recorded as being used in ancient civilizations about 5000 years ago, and their popularity continues. Modern-day perfumers are constantly striving for magical combinations of scents to capture the hearts, minds, and noses of consumers.

Many perfumes are designed with three different ‘notes’: the top, middle, and base. The top note is the first (but not long-lasting) scent that is noticed; citrus is often found here. The middle (or heart) note follows; it is usually the most dominant fragrance. Lavender and rose are often used as middle notes. The base note is rich and long-lasting, with patchouli and vanilla being common.

Floral fragrances are composed of a complex blend of constituents, which can vary between plants and even between varieties of the same plant, and the challenge for the perfumer is to capture the essence of the flower in a bottle. The art of perfume-making is one that has been passed down through generations, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Whether it’s a classic floral scent or a modern musk, there’s a perfume out there for everyone – and the perfect scent can make any moment feel truly magical.

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