Intro to Aromatherapy; Part 2: Our Brain/Nose Connection


Essential oils enter our bodies in three ways, through the nose, through the skin and sometimes your mouth. * Today we will talk about our noses. Our noses are 10.000 times more sensitive than any other sensory organ we posses. Making it our most direct connection to the environment.

When reading about essential oils, you will often come across the word “volatile”, which comes from the Latin word, “volare” which means to fly. Essential oils are volatile substances because they easily change from a liquid to a gas at room temperatures or higher.

When the essential oils are in the veins and glands of the plant, they are tiny droplets of liquid. When the glands get ruptured, some of the essential oils will turn to a gas and get released into the air. This is why when you brush up against a plant, you will experience it’s aroma that is given off by releasing the essential oils. These glands can also simply be released by warm weather. Which is one reason why you might smell more aromas in the summer time than winter.

You can experience a sense of deja-vu by remembering a familiar scent. For example smelling apples might remind you of playing in an apple orchard when you were little. So why does that happen?

It’s your brain-nose connection. The word olfaction is the scientific term for our sense of smell. The olfactory system is a fancy word for smell apparatus. Behind your nose is a strip of tissue called the olfactory epithelium. It has millions of sensory nerves and on those nerves are “receptors” They bind with odor molecules. Kind of like a lock and key. Some combinations of locks and keys fit better than others.  All those different combinations is what allow us a to detect a variety of smells. Once an odor molecule binds to a receptor, it starts an electrical signal that travels from the sensory neurons to the olfactory bulb that relays the signal to other brain areas for additional processing.

This system allows us to process whether a smell is good or bad too. Which works like an alarm system if something is bad. Sometimes if there is a bad smell is can alert us that it might be poisonous, like a very harmful chemical. Or there could be harmful situation, like if you were smelling smoke.

Memories can play a big role in deciphering whether you like a scent or not. A barn full of animals could smell offensive to someone who has not been around animals, but someone who has loved and cared for animals a lot might find it joyful.

Close your eyes and try to think of a memory you might have associated with a smell.


* I do not recommend ingesting unless you are and experienced aromatherapist or under the care of someone who is