How does fragrance influence our emotional state?

…people could close their eyes to greatness, to horror, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent. For scent was a brother to breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate.

He who ruled scent ruled the heart of men.

Parfume: The Story of A Murderer, Patrick Suskind

The sense of smell is set apart from other sensory modalities. Scents possess the ability to immediately trigger strong emotional memories, scents evoke many images and sensations. Odor perception, though olfaction, immediately involves the limbic structures instantaneously evoking emotions and facilitating the encoding of memories. This early involvement is not parallel in other sensory modalities.

Scented oils in the past.

Every major culture through history has used aromatics to create special moods.

In Egypt scented oils and incense has been used from the earliest historical times. Pharaohs indulged in sweet ointments, scented substances were provided for use in the Hereafter, and the Moringa oil used as base oil for perfumes was distributed for the enjoyment of the population outside the palace. In Egypt, perfume wasn’t like the perfume of today, oils were sacred and perfume was holistic, much as aromatherapy today.

It may be for its stronger scent and effect that the blue Lotus has appeared so frequently in Egyptians decorations. The effect of the scent of the lotus flower was used to open the heart of divinities, same as that of ordinary mortals, intimately affected by the ‘divinity ‘of its scent, which could be interpreted as sedative or hypnotic. Documents show as Egyptians were already aware of the use of scents for a specific psychic and spiritual purpose.

At a time when man’s senses had not yet been contaminated with modern artificial preparation, sensitivity to natural scents must have been more acute. For an Egyptian, to indulge on the beautiful smell of a lotus, had to be sufficient to provoke him a considerable effect enough to achieve an alteration of his consciousness.

A considerable number of aromatic plants produce the effect of liberating the mind and altering the emotions, with the ability to cause sedation or excitement, or bring back a memory. Through the sense of smell we can ‘manipulate’ our emotions.