May 29, 2015

The Power of Aromatherapy

Alan Hirsch M.D., F.A.C.P. is a neurologist and psychiatrist working on the treatment of smell and taste loss. Dr. Hirsch is the Neurological Director of the Smell & Taste Research and Treatment Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. Here are some excerpts from his article, The Power of Aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy can be a remarkable remedy. When a patient smells a particular odor, scent molecules bind to the surface of cell walls at the top of the nose. This triggers the release of neurotransmitters and other chemicals that stimulate different parts of the brain. Scents that patients enjoy are more effective remedies than those that they find unpleasant. Many health conditions can be improved with aromatherapy. Whether or not these problems can be prevented with aromatherapy is still being researched.

Anxiety: Green apple and/or cucumber have been shown to reduce anxiety by about 18%. Also, patients who sniff lavender have an increase in alpha waves, a sign of heightened relaxation.

Energy: People who smell a peppermint scent or chew a piece of peppermint gum or candy experience a sudden burst of energy. Also helpful: The smell of strawberries or buttered popcorn. Both cause an increase in energy as well as metabolism.

Obesity: A number of studies have shown that particular odors can help people lose weight. Some scents stimulate the part of the hypothalamus that controls appetite. Odors also may act as a displacement mechanism--a reminder to eat less. Peppermint and green apple have been shown to be effective. One large study found that people who sniffed either one of these scents when they felt hungry lost an average of 30 pounds over a six-month period. It's also helpful to take frequent deep sniffs of food while eating. Odor molecules, regardless of the food they come from, can fool the brain into thinking that more has been consumed, which helps suppress the appetite.

Concentration and memory: Aromatherapy can be used to accelerate learning speed and promote better concentration and memory. Sniffing a floral essential oil triggers the release of norepinephrine and adrenocorticotropic hormone, hormones that increase attention. Floral scents have been shown to improve memory and learning speed by about 17%. In one study, people were exposed to different scents prior to bowling. Those who smelled jasmine knocked down 28% more pins, probably because it improved their concentration and hand/eye coordination.
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