The Relationship Between Scent and Emotion
Fragrance is medicine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is very little difference between spices, perfumes, herbs, and incense. Fragrance contains the essence of the plant and can activate the mind and body in powerful ways. When using a plant’s essential oil you access elements inaccessible through other plant preparations. In Chinese Medicine, an aroma produced by these oils is like our body’s Wei Qi, the Qi that defends us from the outer world. When we smell a scent, it directly speaks to the brain, creating a wave of stimulating connections.
The art of blending fragrances is the same as creating a medicinal formula. Each component adds to the whole by stimulation a certain system in the body. For example, rose has the medicinal effect of nourishing the Yin in the body and therapeutically affects the Heart, Liver, and Kidney meridians. The Heart is connected to the emotions of joy and anxiety. By smelling a rose, you are tenderly assisting the heart, inspiring joy and easing anxiety.
Our relationship to a scent evolves as we change year to year, season to season and even day to day. The winter is connected the Kidneys (physically and energetically). It is the time of year when our Yang energy (the hot, bright, and active energy) is naturally low and our Yin (cool, passive, and dark) is at its peak. This is when we turn inwards and regenerate by eating more root vegetables or stews. In winter we may find ourselves gravitating towards scents that ground us. Ones that remind us of our connection to the earth, like cedar wood, juniper, and nutmeg.
As the season passes and hints of spring emerge, our environment and our bodies are eager to transform and boldly burst out of hibernation. For this reason, in spring the scent of lavender, bergamot, and lime can become naturally more attractive.
“Mood mapping” is a system that was created to categorize scents depending on how they affect our emotions. When trying to understand our infinitely complex nature I always return to Chinese medicine, it resonates with me as it turns to the cycles of the natural world for answers. I believe that the “mood mapping” technique has similar properties to how I blend my topical products together.
When I created my formula Libido Vita, I first looked at the goal of the formula…to relieve a weight we carry physical and emotionally and rekindle joy at a deep level. I choose herbs that had the attributes I desired and combined them in ratios that made sense to the formula using traditional formulating techniques. How you put them together directly affects the outcome. Who is the leader in the formula, who will assist, where is the formula going in the body, etc. The outcome is a scent that is very unique, and I hear it often described as intoxicating. We smell it once and we smell it again, isn’t that like joy…we feel it and we just want more!
Rose speaks to the heart. If we can relieve anxiety and promote joy, our day gets instantly better. Jasmine is another floral scent that speaks to our emotions. Flowers in Chinese medicine connect with the Shen (spirit). They offer us the gift of working directly with our spirit in ways that leaves, roots, and bark do not. Jasmine, a nocturnal flower, feeds our Yin (the cooling, deep introspective part of our hearts) calming our emotions and uplifting the heart. Both herbs are also in the Libido Vita formula, they work well together. Not all herbs work well together so just like people the formula depends on how they communicate and their goals.
If you are feeling heavy during the winter, like nothing excites you and your body doesn’t want to move I would do something to spark a little fire. It is possible that you have indulged in too many heavy foods or are feeling the cold of winter in your bones. Bring in a little heat to help everything function a little better. Summer is the opposite season to winter and the season of fire, use this energy to bring balance into your body. Ginger and cardamom are great options as they deeply warm and stoke the Yang (hot, bright, and active energy). Enjoy as a scent or internally as a tea.
I want to mention that it is so important to be gentle with ourselves. We may choose a scent with the hopes that it will change everything. This creates expectations and expectations control the flow of Qi. Free flow of Qi is essential to happiness. When I give talks about libido and sexual self-care, I first mention the interconnectedness of our natural world. Often, we go through life picking up beliefs that are not ours, and eventually these influences alter our perception of the self. The first steps to reconnecting with joy are to drain the vessel (our mind and body), question what is really ours and what is not, and do our best to let it go (damp draining herbs and scents). Only then can we fill the cracks with gold, flowers, and scents that touch our spirit.