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Do emotions have a scent?

I recently came across an article written by Dr. Kate McLean for the Guardian a few years ago. Kate is an urban smellscape researcher and mapper who organises public ‘smellwalks’ in cities around the world. She collects data retrieved on the walks and maps it to describe a city’s smellscape. ‘’Edinburgh smells of the brewery and penguin poo, New York’s summer is ripe with garlic and spilled beer, while Amsterdam smells of… damp.’’

It made me think about how important olfaction, the sense of smell, is in our everyday lives, my relationship with scent, and how aroma is at the heart of our products at Flower and Spice. 

Scientists studying olfaction have elucidated how our sense of smell works and it’s far more complex than previously believed. Until recently it was thought that the human brain could distinguish approximately 10,000 odours, however, a 2014 study suggests a significantly higher number – at least a trillion.

Airborne molecules activate the sense of smell when they enter our body via our nose and mouth and make contact with olfactory receptor cells lining the mucous membranes at the back of our nose.  The molecules attach to the olfactory receptors in a particular pattern. Once the pattern is formed, a minute electrical impulse is generated and enters the complex brain network, where it is processed first by the primary olfactory cortex, and within a tenth of second, the aroma is recognised.


"The world of scents is at least as rich as the world of sight.”
Diane Ackerman



But how do scents have the power to transport us back in time and trigger strong emotions and memories? Mulled wine and woody spices, like cloves and cinnamon, are reminiscent of Christmas, while chlorine takes us back to family holidays spent by the swimming pool and baking aromas conjure up memories of Sunday afternoons spent in the kitchen with our grandmother.

Pamela Dalton, a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, explained that one of the reasons that smell is so tightly interwoven with memory is because of how olfactory signals are processed.

Scents can enter our brains and attach to memories without us knowingly realising or processing them because scent bypasses the thalamus, which is responsible for the regulation of consciousness and alertness. “We know that people often report that smells are particularly evocative in bringing back memories, often from childhood. Odors are processed a little bit differently than the other sensory systems because all other sensory systems are routed through a structure in the brain called the thalamus, which is sort of like a gatekeeper,” Dalton said. However, smell skips the thalamus, which Dalton calls the ‘consciousness detector’ and goes directly to the primary olfactory cortex, and ‘’that may be why we experience odors in a different way than we do other kinds of sensory stimuli.” Dalton said.


Do emotions have a scent?

A 2015 research study suggests that maybe you really can smell human emotion. The study proposes that emotions themselves have a scent and that their scent may be transmissible. The study used electrodes to measure the facial movements of volunteers who sniffed sweat samples of people who had watched either enjoyable or frightening videos – happy scenes from Disney’s The Jungle Book versus terrifying clips from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Jasper de Groot, a psychologist from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said that after breathing in the scent of The Jungle Book viewers, participants “assumed a genuine happy facial expression. It was subtle, yet significant.’’

It’s obvious, therefore, that aromas and fragrances affect us in a way that is both primitive and alluring, which is why, we choose to fragrance our products using pure essential oils, which offer a huge array of skincare benefits and are also wonderfully therapeutic.



Aromatherapy is the art and science of using extracted aromatic plant essences, known as essential oils, to benefit and complement our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Helping us to relax, provide mental clarity, assist in coping with emotional conflicts, and energise physically and mentally.

Aromatherapy works through the sense of smell and skin absorption. Essential oils are readily absorbed by and penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, making them effective for treating many skin conditions, while their beautiful aromas help evoke a sense of calm and relaxation.

Using skincare products containing essential oils can have a profound impact on the health of the skin; from improving skin elasticity, reducing scarring, balancing oil production to stimulating cell regeneration, while their beautiful scents help create a unique daily ritual, a moment to relax and take care of yourself.

We love rose essential oil for its intoxicating scent and its regenerative skincare benefits. Our Midnight Beauty Rich Revitalising Serum contains this gentle powerhouse, an antioxidant that improves circulation, fights free radicals, and is at the same time relaxing and mood lifting.


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