Fall is the best time of year for many things: Enjoying the dramatic color change of the leaves, getting your cozy sweaters out of storage, and — my favorite — spending extra time in the candle aisle, enjoying fall scents. From apple cider, to warm cinnamon vanilla and pumpkin spice, fall is filled with the most delicious smells. And in happy news, researchers say autumn’s aromas brim with compounds that boost your health and mood. Read on to see how taking a whiff of fall’s yummiest smells could benefit you in more ways than one.
If arthritis pain and stuff hands make it hard to knit or plant fall bulbs, add a drop of clove oil or a pinch of ground cloves to a dollop of unscented hand cream and massage it into sore spots. Brazilian scientists say cloves’ eugenol blocks inflammation the same way prescription COX-2 inhibitors do. The analgesic effects are so impressive, scientists are studying whether cloves will one day replace NSAIDs entirely.
Change of seasons got you feeling blue? To stay summer-sunny all autumn long, light a cinnamon-scented candle and breathe in its sweet scent. Scientists say the comforting aroma helps increase mood-boosting beta brain waves, which noticeably enhances feelings of joy.
If you’re feeling stressed, grab a pumpkin spice-flavored treat. The warming spices used to make pumpkin spice lattes and teas are packed with linalool, a compound Japanese scientists found to be as effective as anti-anxiety drugs at calming stress. When inhaled, the compound spurs the release of the stress-calming brain chemical GABA, soothing the central nervous system and easing tension.
High blood pressure? Get a nice, warm fire going. Cozying up around a backyard campfire while you breathe in the woodsy scent and admire the flickering flame and soft crackling sound lowers your systolic blood pressure by six points in 15 minutes, University of Alabama research reveals. The reason: For thousands of years, our ancestors gathered nightly around campfires to socialize and relax, and over time we evolved to associate the tradition with stress-relief. Tip: Throwing a log in your fireplace works too.
Did you eat too much Halloween candy? It happens to the best of us. If you’re feeling queasy, brew some ginger tea and breathe in its spicy aromas. A sniff of ginger almost instantly calms nausea for 65 percent of folks, research out of Turkey reveals.
For all-over aches, pop a sheet of vanilla sugar cookies into the oven and enjoy the sweet scent as they bake. Japanese research suggests the scent compound vanillin curbs the body’s pain response. No time to bake? Open a bottle of vanilla extract and take a few deep sniffs instead.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.