Olfactotherapy: when smells make us feel better

olfactotherapy is an alternative medicine that aims to achieve emotional balance through the powers of scent

If the power of odors is no longer to be proven, scents have not yet finished revealing all their virtues and benefits. Long neglected in favor of the other senses, the sense of smell nevertheless presents formidable therapeutic opportunities. Calming pain, reducing anxiety, treating trauma and even detecting illnesses: the use of odors in our daily lives is constantly increasing. Through olfactotherapy, the science of smell and well-being, and other medical and olfactory experiments, let’s discover the scents that do us good.

Olfactotherapy: the sense of smell and our emotions

A method with flair

Olfactotherapy is a therapeutic method created in 1992 by Gilles Fournil, transpersonal therapist, energeticist and somatologist. The principle of this “science of smell” is to use the scents of certain essential oils to reach our unconscious. This allows us to create a psycho-emotional balance by releasing and regulating our emotions. Beware, this approach should not be confused with aromatherapy. This one also uses essential oils, but with the aim of physically treating certain ailments. It is not the same method as aromachology which studies the influence of odors on our behavior. Olfactotherapy is considered today as an alternative and complementary medicine that can in no way substitute a medical treatment.

How does it work?

Olfactotherapy is practiced through the inhalation of certain essential oils which act as true messengers. Sixteen essences, selected by Gilles Fournil, are thus defined as the basis of olfactory therapy. We find for example clove, lavender, clary sage or ylang-ylang. Once breathed in, the odorant molecules will make their way to the limbic system of our brain, the seat of our emotions and memories. Thanks to this transmission, the smell will tickle our long-term memory. Olfactotherapy therefore relies on odors to “short-circuit” the mind by accessing our emotional memory. This method allows us to bring back certain emotions that are responsible for an unhappy situation or a particular blockage in order to associate pleasant and soothing scents with them, and therefore a positive emotion.

The benefits of olfactotherapy

During a session, the olfactotherapist will encourage the person to express what he or she feels when in contact with the smell. The essential oils that are felt and smelt to be pleasant are used as support. Those that are considered unpleasant, revealing a blockage, are tamed little by little. This brief therapy generally takes place over several sessions to maximize the benefits. Olfactotherapy would thus allow to work on traumas, to learn to better manage and apprehend our emotions. The method is also used to help free oneself from certain addictions (food, tobacco…) but also to improve self-confidence. Olfactotherapy needs to be practiced by a trained therapist because it is an approach that can be very powerful. It is beginning to be used in the medical field for a few years.

Smells that heal

Curative virtues of scents

The connivance between odors and emotional memory is used in a multitude of hospital services (cancerology, geriatrics, traumatology…). The Cosmetic Executive Women France practices different olfactory workshops to relieve patients and bring them a bit of conviviality.. More than 150 scents are used: childhood perfumes, candies, cakes, and olfactory atmospheres of a walk in the forest for example. There are also individual workshops to support neurological rehabilitation treatments. For patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, a scent can sometimes manage to awaken parts of the memory, remembered far away. Olfactotherapists also accompany people in palliative care to work on their negative emotions.

In nursing homes, olfactotherapy is becoming more and more popular. Some establishments diffuse the enticing scents of warm bread and pancakes at mealtime to restore residents’ appetite. Some smells are also known to comfort and soothe.It is the case of the vanilla, which reminds our olfactory memory of the sweetness of mother’s milk. An experiment was conducted in the neonatal department of the University Hospital of Strasbourg in France. By subtly diffusing a vanilla perfume, the researchers observed a significant decrease in respiratory apneas and in the length of stay of babies. The benefits of this smell would be perceived in an almost innate way.

Disease detection by smell

Olfactotherapy has proven that the scents carried by essential oils can do us good emotionally. Beyond this newfound balance, the power of odors still seems to have a lot to show us. Indeed, according to some studies, they could also give us precious information on our health. Thus, more and more protocols are set up to detect cancers in an early way by analyzing the odors released by our body. This detection using olfaction is done with trained dogs and even ants! The animals are able to detect breast, prostate or ovarian cancers by sniffing urine or wipes that have been in contact with the patient’s skin. This growing field could be used on a larger scale in a few years.

Did you know about olfactotherapy?


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