In many ancient cultures, scent was not just a perfume. Some fragrances had religious and symbolic significance, while others were used as various health remedies. Ancient Chinese and medieval European civilizations, for instance, thought that fragrance purified the air and prevented disease. Ancient Egyptians also knew that sniffing a lotus flower deeply produced a narcotic effect. So, which scents do we still use today to treat symptoms? Read below to discover which fragrances may boost mood, reduce stress, slow down hair thinning, clear brain fog, and ease headaches.
To Lift a Blue Mood: Sprinkle Cinnamon
Since biblical times, cinnamon has been prized in Israel and Jordan for its healing ability. And a scientific article from the Northern American Journal of Psychology noted the aroma may improve mood. The research also found that it may enhance motivation, performance, and alertness. Tip: Follow a Middle Eastern–inspired tradition and sprinkle it on your morning tea, then take a deep whiff as you sip. (Click through for more on getting the benefits of cinnamon in your morning brew.)
To Reduce Cortisol Levels: Scrub With Pine-Scented Soap
To reduce stress and tension that cause a spike in the hormone cortisol, use pine-scented soap. The aroma may cut stress, because a study published in the Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine journal found that taking walks in a pine-tree forest significantly reduced participants’ cortisol levels. Pine’s pinene mimics the ancient Japanese “forest bathing” experience called shinrin yoku, which may cut cortisol levels.
To Slow Down Thinning Hair: Spritz Sandalwood
Ayurvedic medicine practitioners in India add sandalwood oil to hair tonics to encourage growth, and now we may know why. Hair follicles contain receptors similar to those in the nose that help us smell, according to a study published in Nature Communications. When activated by sandalwood, these receptors extend hair’s active growth phase. To get the potential benefits yourself: Add 20 drops of sandalwood oil to a mister bottle filled with 4 ounces of water, then spritz your pillow before bed.
To Clear Brain Fog: Sniff Coffee Beans
Coffee’s scent has been touted for its ability to sharpen thinking since it was harvested in Ethiopia more than 500 years ago. And research published in Consciousness and Cognition says the brain associates the aroma with alertness, which may boost focus enough that you don’t have to sip coffee at all.
To Ease Head Pain: Apply a Mint Compress
The Ancient Roman known as Pliny the Elder believed that wild mint “broths” (warm mint water) applied to the temples to eases head pain. And it may work just as well today: a study published in Frontiers in Neurology found that applying menthol gel to the forehead effectively reduced headache intensity after an acute migraine attack.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.