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Smelling the Facts about Aromas for Aromatherapy


While jasmine is commonly known to be energizing and lavender is the leading essential oil for relaxation a therapist must remember that a client must enjoy smelling scents is the first place to use aromatherapy. Some clients may even benefit from an aromatherapy session even though their sense of smell has diminished with age, disease or injury.

By the time a person reaches age sixty about fifty percent (50%) have a reduction in smell ability and by the time a person reaches eighty years old the percentage of those with reduced abilities to smell increases to about seventy-five percent (75%).

If you have a client with a reduced sense of smell there are smell exercises you can suggest. One exercise is when the person is about to have a cup of coffee or tea is to smell the drink before sipping. When this practice is done on a regular basis it can enhance the sense of smell. This aromatherapy exercise can also be performed with foods. It can be likened to neuromuscular therapy for the nose which is to retrain the muscle or in this case the olfactory nerves of the nose which are responsible for smell to peform their job of smelling all the aromas of life.

One interesting fact is that even if a client has lost their sense of smell they still can smell the fragrance of rose. This also includes the ability to still smell an onion and garlic for those with diminished aroma sensors because these two types of foods have the longest lingering scents. When you cook onions for dinner most likely you can still smell the scent the next morning if you avoid using a canned smell freshener. Our sense of smell is sharpest in warmer, humid environments. The ability to smell is most acute after taking a shower.

A common smell test is to soak a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol and hold it just beyond the chin. After inhaling, if the person cannot smell the rubbing alcohol this may be because they have a weakened sense of smell if they do not have a cold or allergy problems. The person with a weakened aroma sense can train their brain to smell again by using these exercises which in turns trains the olfactory nerves to distinguish common household scents.

This next smell exercise calls for placing small amounts of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and pencil shavings (cedar smell) to name a few scents in small jars. Then each day the goal is to smell each container with eyes closed to see if they can identify the various scents. (Hint: Open all jars and mix them around before closing eyes to perform exercise.) Remember to take only two to three inhalations because the olfactory nerves lose their ability to smell the same smell in just six (6) seconds.

Having a weakened sense of smell may explain why some folks have an increased risk for gastrointestinal problems which may occur due to the fact they cannot detect foods that have already spoiled. This would also include not being able to detect a gas leak for those with gas stoves and water heaters and why it would be a good investment to purchase a gas detector with alarms to increase safety and reduce stress.

The degrading of the olfactory nerves for performing their job really begins at age thirty (30) according to the Smell & Taste Treatment & Research Foundation located in Chicago. They claim while a person who is color blind may look at red and green all day and not improve the ability to see those colors, however, this is not the case for someone with a weakened smell ability which those nerves can be exercised to smell again.

Another thing to consider when the ability of smell is diminished is the capability to fully taste foods is also diminished because as we chew foods and swallow the particles must pass through the back of the nasal cavity where the olfactory receptors of smell are located. Just pinch your nose and place some chocolate in your mouth and you will not be able to taste the chocolate.

There are many causes that weaken the smell ability including respiratory infections, pollution, head trauma, cigarette smoke or chemical fumes and diseases including diabetes but unfortunately as we age along with eyesight and hearing tends to lessen so does our sense of smell.

The technical terms for the complete inability to smell is called anosmia and a reduced ability to smell is termed hyposmia. As baby boomers fully bloom these conditions are expected to be in epidemic proportions which will be a boom for marketers selling their wares to address these conditions. Perhaps this also explains why some seniors seem to pour on their perfume or after shave and the fragrance can be smelled for miles away.

As with most things in life is that we do not appreciate it until it is gone and is especially true about aromas. Imagine not being able to smell Christmas or how about when the nose no longer knows when to change the baby’s dirty diaper because the olfactory nerves are no longer performing their job to smell and that leaves that poor baby in a mess.

So, smell the roses everyday and loved ones, favorite foods, the air we breathe, pets, our cars, green grass after being cut, fresh laundry and the list goes on. Smell it all before it is too late to smell what is near and dear to all of us. Keep the brain engaged with the scents of life because we only have one life to live and smell.

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