Holistic Health: Smell Your Way to a Happy Heart
By Jackie Dobrinska
This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. It may be one of the best things you can do to uplift your emotional heart.
The sense of smell gets little respect, but it is the most fascinating in terms of shifting emotional states. Simply recall some of your favorites: cookies baking in the oven, freshly cut grass, the subtle sweetness of a new lover, or, one of my peculiar favorites, faint horse manure. Each one evokes not only distant memories, but also distinct emotional states.
“It’s so primal,” says Daisy Marquis, instructor at Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism. “Smell is the oldest of the senses, and because of the way it moves into the brain, it can make rapid and deep shifts in consciousness.”
The olfactory system is made up of 800 million nerve endings. When molecules are inhaled, they are eventually transported to the limbic system, which, to refresh your memory, is sometimes called the “emotional brain” as it is the seat of basic emotions like fear, pleasure and anger, and drives like hunger, sex and dominance. The olfactory bulb also interacts with the amygdala, which processes emotions, and the hippocampus, responsible for learning.
So specific smells can change our emotional state, which is why essential oils can be helpful in healing. “In that moment of panic or deep grief, essential oils bring you back into the present moment,” continues Marquis. “They are the most dense form of plant medicine we have access to.”
Essential oils are the concentrated hormonal, circulatory and immune systems of a plant. The chemical constituents—some similar to the structures of human tissues—are distilled out of the plant to make the oil. Sometimes it takes a lot of plant material; for example 5,000 pounds of rose petals makes one pound of oil. As a result, essential oils are extremely potent, making some potentially toxic if taken internally, a practice common in Europe.
Both Marquis and Jaye Tisman, an Asheville mother who sells blends at the Herbiary and Home Grown Families, suggest specific scents to detangle some of the biggest challenges to our heart.
- Helichrysum moves quickly and without resistance to awaken and heal the heart. Be forewarned, it may also ask you to face the very things that forced the heart to close.
- Rose encourages the unfolding of the heart while helping to discern appropriate boundaries to protect it.
- Palmarosa makes you feel safe, warm and at home in the heart.
- Frankinscense evokes a sacred space for the heart to reside in.
“One of my favorite words for essential oils is refuge,” continues Tisman. “When you are emotionally upset, they can help move through feelings without pushing anything away.”
It turns out my appreciation for faint horse manure isn’t that odd after all. It simply evokes a feeling of love and safety, like when I was a kid on the family farm.
Jackie Dobrinska is a national wellness coach and lifestyle consultant. For local programs or appointments visit asimplevibrantlife.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 828.337.2737.