Because your sense of smell is linked to the areas of the brain where emotion and memories are processed, you can use scents and fragrant plants to give yourself an emotional boost, relieve pain, and conjure up pleasant memories.
“Aromatherapy is effective because it works directly on the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center,” says Mehmet Oz, MD, director of integrative medicine center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “This has important consequences because the thinking part of the brain can’t inhibit the effects of the scent, meaning you feel them instantaneously.” Of the many uses of aromatherapy, pain relief is only one; anxiety reduction and rejuvenation are other common objectives.
“Aromas can heal by enhancing our memory and changing emotions that affect the body’s stress response,” says Esther Sternberg, MD, a rheumatologist and author of Healing Spaces. “If you can identify a fragrance that reminds you of a peaceful, pleasant place and puts you in the mood to say, meditate, it can have a very positive effect.”