Saturday, September 6, 2008

Love is in the air

Perfume sales are extremely high this week. Why is this? It’s because people have come to understand the intense connection between smell and romance. I am not talking about the pheromone-scent that is given off by the opposite sex and that lures us in without being consciously aware (and which cheesy infomercials say you can now buy to help make your wildest dreams come true!). I am referring to the scents around us that we can choose to use to our advantage.
Our olfactory nerves connect directly to the limbic brain where many of our emotions and memories are stored. Because of this, a scent can instantly trigger a very vivid memory or conversely, serve to make you unforgettable. Perfume manufacturers know this, and include a variety of odd notes to create signature scents that will appeal on a chemical level to a wide mix of people. You don’t need to buy an expensive label to get this effect though; you can do it yourself with a few oils and spices.
There are many essential oils that are reported to have aphrodisiac qualities. One that you’ll find in most blends is ylang-ylang. Its scent is hard to classify as it is floral, yet spicy, rich and sweet. Because of this it is used extensively in cosmetics, soaps, bubble baths, etc. There is a tradition in Indonesia to spread these flowers on the bed of a newly married couple. Ylang-ylang’s reputation as an aphrodisiac may come from its healing affects on the nervous system: neutralizing stress, depression and tension. Its beneficial affects on the circulatory system probably help in this respect too. The writer of one aromatherapy book stated that this oil “soothes and inhibits anger born of frustration.”
In one large survey done with men of a variety of ages, it was discovered that the scent most likely to arouse young men is cinnamon. In older men the most attractive smell is vanilla. Don’t ask me where the cut off is between the two! It kind of makes you want to bake something though, doesn’t it?
I have written extensively on cinnamon as it relates to blood sugar and how it heals the digestive system, but never on the perks it could have for your love life. Cinnamon is recognized as a general stimulant, encouraging good circulation and overall health. Like ylang-ylang, it helps the body deal with stress more efficiently, easing nervous tension and exhaustion. The two oils complement each other rather well and are often paired together in perfume blends. One note of caution is that cinnamon oil can irritate the skin and should only be used well diluted with some form of carrier oil (grapeseed oil works very well for massage) or unscented lotion.
Vanilla is harder to find good information on as it is usually not considered a true aromatherapy oil. The scent is very relaxing and will usually evoke pleasant memories. People report a sense of being transported “home” when they breathe it in.
Many other oils fall into this category, including rose, neroli, jasmine, and plain old black pepper. Whether you choose to add these scents to oil for a special massage, diffuse them through the room to set the atmosphere, wear them on your skin as your own unique perfume, or create a meal with attention to spices, the results are sure to be spectacular.

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