No sense of smell? Can aromatherapy still work?
What happens if you can't smell anything, does aromatherapy still work? What an amazing question!
Yesterday I taught two aromatherapy classes at a local college and one of the pupils asked me that question which left me contemplating.
Aromatherapy works with two essential senses, our sense of smell and our sense of touch. I call them “the senses of the heart” because we respond to what we smell and what we touch with our emotions, more than with our mind. It’s more simple for us to determine if we like or dislike a particular scent than to describe in words that scent.
Our sense of smell
In my classes, firstly, I ask my students how do you call a person who can’t see? Everybody knows the answer, blind.
Secondly, I ask them how do you call a person who can’t hear? The answer is deaf, correct?
Now, how do you call a person who can’t smell? – Very, very rarely somebody knows the answer. Do you know the answer? The person who can’t smell is called anosmic.
Anosmia is a total loss of the ability to smell. Some people lost their sense of smell as a consequence of a nasal condition or brain injury, while others are anosmic from birth.
What happens if you have no sense of smell?
An anosmic person, a person with no sense of smell is a person who has many disadvantages compared to those of us who can smell.
They can’t taste: Did you know that 80% of our sense of taste comes from our sense of smell?
Our sense of taste can just determine the following flavors: salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami. But when you can’t smell, you can’t tell the difference between a chocolate and a vanilla ice cream. It’s just sweet, no difference.
They are exposed to particular dangers – our sense of smell is like a radar, always telling if there are dangers around us (e.g., smoke, gas, rotten food)
They may have a low sexual response: Our sense of smell is part of the limbic system of the brain, the part of the brain that is in responsible for our memory, our sexual response, and our appetite control.
They tend to be more depressed: They feel that life is unenjoyable. Life is full of odors and tastes that they can’t enjoy.
The sense of touch
Another sense that people forget is vital is the sense of touch, here are some reminders about how useful our sense of touch is:
Our sense of touch lets us communicate with each other and with our surroundings.
It plays an important role in emotional interaction between people.
It’s the first sense we experience in the womb and the last one we lose before death.
Physical touch not only feels good, but it’s also vital for our well-being.
Aromatherapy, combining the sense of smell and the sense of touch for complete well-being
Let’s put an example here:
Your partner is having trouble sleeping, and before they go to sleep, you will give them a quick massage on their neck, the soles of the feet and the solar plexus area with an essential oil for sleep. The relaxing and sedative traits of the essential oils in this product, lavender, mandarin, marjoram, and palo santo, are going to be perceived by the olfactory receptors of your partner’s nose, therefore inducing a sense of rest, peace, and relaxation.
At the same time, your soft strokes on their skin, are allowing the same essential oils to penetrate through the different skin layers, to the blood vessels, to the rest of the body.
Now what if your partner has no sense of smell?
What if I tell you that even with no sense of smell, our body can perceive the benefits of these wonderful oils? Actually, essential oils are made out of many chemical compounds. Research shows that the detection of chemical odors isn’t limited to the nose, but other organs of the body, such as the skin, the heart, liver, and gut.
In conclusion, even with no sense of smell, the loving application of diluted essential oils into the skin, through massage, will create a positive effect on the person. In other words, not only the person will get the well know benefits of massage, but also, through this application, the essential oils can travel through the skin to our bloodstream, and interact with our olfactory receptors in our skin.
Moreover, you’ll find that many older adults have lost their sense of smell, however, they will be very receptive to receive a soothing massage on their hands, arms, feet, legs. Go ahead and give it a try, there’s nothing to lose here.
References: The Impact of Olfactory Disorders in the United Kingdom