Since the beginning of time, if it smelt good, we wanted to eat it, wear it or hug it. The effect of scent on our sense of health and wellbeing, is a biological, psychological and physiological part of what makes us human.
The history of the fragrance industry
Around the turn of the 16th century, French tanneries figured out how to mask the not-so-attractive odour of cured leather with natural fragrance to make fashionable luxury gloves. This was the beginning of a movement towards creating signature scents that conveyed personality and prestige. By the end of the 19th century, the isolation of specific fragrant compounds led to the possibility of man-made imitations. In other words, synthetic fragrance.
As soon as synthetics were introduced the playing field changed. New smells, previously unattainable, were developed and the traditionally time-consuming, unpredictable process of producing natural aromatic oils was replaced by convenient laboratory cloning.
Since then, the fragrance industry has exploded beyond all proportion into an imposing global fragrance market, projected to reach USD $X by 2026. Today, scent is used to sell everything from toilet paper to cosmetics. But this proliferation of synthetic fragrances could be hugely detrimental to our collective health.
A swing back to basics
The flip side to this worrying trend is the growing global interest in natural fragrance. We now know that the human relationship with scent is intimately connected with hormone and nervous system responses – hence it can actually make us feel good. Natural scent has the power to relax us, stimulate us and help us focus. The evolving science of olfaction tells us that this is because the plant pheromones in pure essential oils can directly access the limbic system of the brain and drive positive autonomic nervous system responses such as decreased blood pressure.
So, not only are synthetic fragrances potentially harming your health, they do not provide any of the therapeutic efficacy of natural plant oils. No matter how cleverly recreated, a synthetic compound will never have the life forces of a plant essence to integrate with your body's own natural processes. In fact, even some natural fragrances available today are rendered inferior by high-speed production practices that do not preserve the therapeutic molecules.
The trick? Look for pure, therapeutic-grade essential plant oils that have been extracted using lower heat and slower distillation process. It’s this meticulous extraction that preserves the plant’s precious phyto-hormones to guarantee maximum efficacy.
Smells like good scents to us.