For those who celebrate the Christmas season, and for all who are surrounded by the ambience it creates each year, we most likely are aware of the powerful sensory and emotional experiences it creates: nostalgic memories of childhood, cozy feelings from the presence of extended family and relatives, and a visual carnival of lights, decorations, and seasonal icons and symbols. But have you noticed that Christmas also has a particular “scent” – or scents – that also contribute to the festive mood of the season? Have you ever wondered why scent is such a powerful influencer of mood, emotion, and memory?
If someone were to ask you which scents you most associate with Christmas, perhaps you’d think of the luscious fragrance of a fresh Christmas tree or wreath, or the wafting scent of cinnamon, ginger and cloves from pumpkin pie. You might also think of the exotic and sacred scents of frankincense and myrrh, which are often used in religious services, or something bright and invigorating, like peppermint or fresh citrus.
To increase your enjoyment of this wonderful time of the year, here are the fascinating profiles behind a handful of scents most closely linked to the joys of the season.
Douglas and White Fir. The fir tree is highly regarded for its fragrant scent and has been valued through the ages for its ability to help support the respiratory system. This beautiful aroma can also help promote a feeling of grounding, anchoring, and promotes a sense of focus. It can help balance the emotions while helping stimulate the mind, and relax the body. This is understandable, since fir creates the symbolic effect of an umbrella of protection under which the animals in the wild find shelter and rejuvenation at night. No wonder so many important events take place around the Christmas tree.
Cardamom. In the ginger botanical family, cardamom has broad therapeutic properties for the digestive and respiratory systems. Cardamom is uplifting, refreshing and invigorating, and may be beneficial from clearing the mental fog and cloudiness associated with overexertion in the busy days leading to Christmas. The next time you make a cup of Chai tea, the cardamom might just help you refocus and refresh.
Cinnamon and Clove. These distinct scents are warm and sweet; cinnamon was included in just about every prescription issued in ancient China. A small human study suggests that merely smelling cinnamon can improve performance of several memory and mental tasks. It also enhances the actions and activities of other oils. Aromatically, clove may influence healing, improve memory, and create a feeling of protection and courage. No wonder pumpkin pie is one of the most popular desserts at this time of year.
Wild Orange. A personal favorite of many of my clients, wild orange is a festive and cheery aroma that blends well with other oils to create complex scent profiles that purify the air and elevate mood. Orange connects the warmth of autumn to the cool of winter, and is reminiscent of treats, ciders, and fresh fruit. It truly is hard to remain despondent in the presence of orange oil. It works especially well when paired with vanilla and cinnamon to add warmth and spice.
Science has helped us to understand that our olfactory bulbs are connected to the parts of our brain that process emotion and associative learning. In fact, no other sensory system (sight, sound, touch) has this relationship with the neural areas of emotion and associative learning. It’s no wonder that the scents of the season provoke the feelings of the season. So, take some time this season to slow down and appreciate the scents of the season while celebrating with those that you love.
Paige Koeberle is a holistic health coach, essential oil educator, and member of the AADP (American Association of Drugless Practitioners) and the owner of Clean Slate Essentials, LLC in Pawling, NY. For a personal health and wellness assessment or for more information, call (732) 735-7314 or visit CSEssentials.com online.