Unlike sight, hearing, taste, or touch, your sense of smell has a direct effect on your brain and the programming of your emotions, memory, energy level, and even endurance, says Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University who has studied scent extensively. Scientists are now discovering that smell doesn’t just involve your nose. In fact, “more than half of your olfactory receptors are distributed throughout the body, including the skin, muscles, gut, and lungs,” says Hanns Hatt, Ph.D., a researcher from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. When exposed to the right aromas, these scent receptors can speed your recovery from injury or illness, improve your your digestion, and even help you breathe more deeply. These are gains you definitely want to get in on – and these tips will show you how.
1. Rev up
Sniff peppermint for an instant edge in the gym. In Raudenbush’s research, people who inhaled this scent before running on a treadmill said they felt like their jog finished faster; others were able to spend more time lifting weights. Peppermint aromas (cinnamon too) turn on a series of nerve pathways in the body called the reticular activating system (RAS), which regulates alertness. “That makes you more focused on what you’re doing, distracts you from any discomfort so you can exercise longer, and stimulates your muscle to perform better,” Raudenbush explains. Chewing cinnamon or peppermint gum or taking a few whiffs of either scent before your workout delivers that boost.
2. Recover faster
After working out, inhale the sweet and restorative scent of jasmine. “The aroma quiets the body’s RAS to help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, both of which become elevated when you exercise,” Raudenbush says. That encourages your body’s repair processes to kick in faster. Keep a bottle of jasmine essential oil in your gym bag and take a sniff, or lather up with jasmine-scented soap in the shower.
3. Look younger and healthier
Your skin uses the scent of sandalwood to rejuvenate itself, says Hatt, whose team was the first to discover that skin cells contain olfactory receptors. When he and his researchers exposed those receptors to a synthetic sandalwood odor, new skin cell grew 30 percent faster than normal. Apply lotion with sandalwood daily to prevent and treat skin irritation and for its anti-aging benefits, Hatt suggests.
4. Curb your appetite
Certain aroma compunds, such as those in olive oil, cam help you feel full, scientist from the German Research Centre for Food Chemistry report. In their study, they found that people who ate yogurt with an olive oil aroma added to it consumed 176 fewer calories a day than those who ate plan yogurt. The researchers believe that scent compound in olive oil slow the absorption of glucose from the blood in liver cells, which makes you feel full longer. Italian oils tend to be the most aromatic; try drizzling a small amount over your food before digging in – or simply take a sniff from the bottle before meals.
5. Beat bloat
Herbs like thyme and cloves may help flatten your belly. “Olfactory receptors in your gut cells respond to certain scents by dramatically increasing the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate digestion,” Hatt says. just inhaling them, however, may not be enough to do the trick, he added. Instead, try drinking thyme tea or chewing on a few cloves whenever you feel bloated in order to keep you GI system running smoothly.