The Self Care Series — Scent
written by Caitlin Smit — Nutritionsprout
The power to transport
When we first set out to share this self-care series with you it was with the intention of encouraging you to reconnect with yourself, and for you to take these rituals and easily recreate them in your own home. Our homes are after all our sanctuaries and this is why these simple yet effective rituals are an easy way of leaning into a quiet moment and reconnecting with yourself — body, mind, and spirit.
Scent when incorporated into a self-care ritual, does this for me. It soothes me. It’s always around us but it’s often not something we consciously tap into or recognise as a tool in our self-care regime, yet it can be one of the most powerful time machines, as it transports us with its aroma.
I can vividly remember scents that I experienced at specific times in my life and where I was or what I was doing. My mother has always joked about my sense of smell and how heightened it’s always been.
I can recall the damp, mossy floor beneath the Conifer tree at the bottom of my parent’s garden where I’d spend hours digging my hands into the dark soil and recreating little worlds for myself, the smell of freshly cut grass on a summer’s day while alternating between swimming and lying on the sun warmed tiles around the pool, the scent of orange blossom drifting across the breeze from the orchard when it was close to citrus season, the smell of neroli immediately transports me to the bush where I worked in the wellness centre, the smell of a stranger’s perfume which reminds you of a close friend or family member. I’m certain that there are many you can name for yourself as well, it is scent’s profound transporting effect on the memory that I find so remarkable.
It may be important to ask what makes scent so powerful?
Scent is believed to be one of the strongest memory banks we have as humans and this is due to the connection between the brain and the olfactory Bulb, “moms can recognise their own children from others by smell alone within an hour after they are born” (Time, 2018)
What we will be focusing on specifically today is how you can use essential oils as a means of self-care, a moment of pause to allow yourself to be transported. When you inhale an Aroma (essential oil ) those molecules interact with the central part of our brain known as the amygdala, “ this is part of the limbic system and was at a time known as the “ smell brain”. The receptors in your nose that receive scent then interact with your limbic system and the specific parts of your brain relating to memory. This is often why when we smell something it can trigger a memory.
“ Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived” - Helen Keller
When we choose to create a purposeful regime regularly, through slowing down and using scent as a vehicle to infuse a quiet moment, this can encourage the body to come to know this scent and moment as a time of inducing the rest and digest response in the body. A time to relax and be intentional with our time.
We hope that by using these thoughtful rituals and blends they become a tool that you can come back to time and again, which will over time allow the body to be reminded of a time to relax. Just as old memories are triggered by past smells.
There are different ways that one can bring scent into their lives and self-care routine.
place 1- 6 drops of essential oil into your diffuser. It’s always nice to light the diffusor a little before you want to be spending time in that chosen space of your house, that way when you return after 5 minutes it’s already begun to diffuse into the air. Quietly read a book or do something relaxing like stretch or meditate while you enjoy the space.
1-9 drops, add the essential oil to the water, humidifiers allow the essential aromas to be distributed beautifully throughout a room. These are always a good option in a bedroom, they are also nice in that they do not heat or damage the essential oils.
mix essential oils with Epsom salts and place in your bath,. It’s always lovely to run the bath, add the oils and close the door in order to trap all the aromas in the bathroom.
sometimes when you’re short on time, it’s really effective to place one drop of essential oil in the palm of your hand, find a quiet spot to sit in your home and gently inhale and exhale the aroma for 5 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how calming and effective this can be. Deep breathing stimulates the rest and digest response in the body, telling the body ‘it is safe’. This is a powerful tool coupled with some essential oil.
press one drop of essential oil onto your clothes over your heart and smell that scent as you go about your day.
Here are just a few of our favourite calming and peace inducing essential oils that you can bring into your routine :
Roman chamomile, Lavender, Rose, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Neroli, Clary sage, Pink grapefruit.
Note: there are however certain essential oils that should be avoided altogether if pregnant and breastfeeding.The rest should definitely be avoided for the first trimester, to be safe. The following are to be avoided altogether according to Essential oils researcher and author Kac Young :
Parsley seed or leaf
A great and trusted source for essential oils is Faithful to Nature. Alternatively look for the Soil Organic range of essential oils at any health store.
Enjoy being transported.
Caitlin is a qualified INHC health coach with the New York school of Integrative Nutrition and co-founder of Glow alongside Marize Albertyn. Her passion lies in women's wellness and helping women make positive and sustainable changes to their lives in order to 'come home to themselves and their cycle'.
Social Media — @nutritionsprout
1 — Majid,A.(2018) ‘Humans are neglecting our sense of smell.Here’s what we can gain by fixing that’. [online] Time.
2— Young, K. (2017). The healing art of essential oils, a guide to 50 oils for remedy, ritual, and everyday use.Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications. P17-19
3 — Young, K. (2017). The healing art of essential oils, a guide to 50 oils for remedy, ritual, and everyday use.Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications. P43
4 — Wormwood, VA. (1991). The Fragrant pharmacy, a complete guide to aromatherapy & essential oils.London: Macmillan Ltd. P14-16
5 — Stafford,T. (2012) ‘Why can smell unlock forgotten memories’. [online]