If stress has you overdosing on snacks or pouring yourself that third glass of wine at night, a new study from the Warwick Olfaction Research Group in England offers a saner solution: Simply smelling certain fragrances has a stress-reducing effect on the brain that’s similar to food and even some mood-altering drugs. “Some scents can trigger your pituitary gland to release hormones specific to easing many health-related ailments,” says Michael Finkelstein, MD, a holistic physician in Westchester, New York. Three scents to sniff:
Vanilla. Many people find vanilla calming because it boosts serotonin levels in the brain. “Just like comfort food, vanilla can bring us back to a place of security and peace,” says Finkelstein.
Try it: Infuse a carrier oil with vanilla beans, or try some pure vanilla extract on your wrists or a handkerchief.
Lavender. “Lavender contains linalool, a substance that blocks the stress response in the body and relaxes the muscles,” says Ruth Knill, PhD, an herbalist specializing in Oriental medicine in Boston. Perfect if you have neck and shoulder pains.
Try It: Grab a sprig and sniff–or add six drops of pure lavender essential oil to your moisturizing lotion.
Peppermint. Scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia report that peppermint oil-infused air reduces fatigue. “Inhaling peppermint causes capillaries–the body’s blood pathways–to constrict and then dilate, sending a rush of blood through the body and, as a result, a rush of energizing oxygen,” says Bianca Beldini, an Oriental medicine practitioner in New York City.
Try It: Place a few drops of pure peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball, and attach it to an air vent in your car.
Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living. Click here for a free sample issue.