Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour - Luxury hotel - Healing Scents

Healing Scents

People interact with the world differently.  Some people are auditory.  Some of us need visual cues to connect with concepts and ideas.  Others are kinetic, relying on tactile sensations to learn and communicate.  Most of us are a mix.


For me, I see the world through aroma.  A keen and enthusiastic sense of smell.


I’ve always been intrigued by the mystical allure of essential oils. Entwined through a corporate career was an ever-present interest in health through aromatic oils and infusions. So, I guess it’s no great surprise that the field of Aromatherapy finally found me, ignited my passion and captured my heart. Aroma is my constant comfort, companion and counterpoint.


Interestingly most people think that its sight or sound that are the stronger senses. But in fact, it’s our sense of smell, which dominates our everyday decisions, even those we may not be aware of. The gift of smell also has a gender bias. Women have a more attuned and sensitive nose. Probably explaining much of what is credited to intuition.


Smell governs our primal urges linking into the most primitive part of our brain stem. So, while the effects of essential oils can feel somewhat esoteric, there is strong science standing behind their benefits on not only soothing or stimulating our emotions but the very real impact they have on influencing our body chemistry.


How exactly does our sense of smell work?

When a scent enters the nose, it’s captured in the membranes along the nasal cavity. This area is only about the size of a five-cent piece and houses around 10 million olfactory cells.  Each of these cells contains around 350 hairlike receptors which catch scent detecting signals – we can typically recognise around 10,000 individual smells. Once information about the smell is collected, they transfer this data as an electrical signal into the brain for processing.


Inhaling essential oils can influence measurable changes in heart rate, adrenaline levels and blood pressure.  Because the location of our olfactory bulb is linked so deeply to our brain stem the effect it has on our nervous system is significant, yet regularly overlooked, undervalued or even worse dismissed completely.


When we inhale an aromatic essential oil, we activate our autonomic nervous system. Oils like lavender, rose and patchouli trigger our parasympathetic responses. When inhaled they measurably lower stress hormones, boost immune function, aid digestion, regulate fertility and enhance regeneration and repair responses. This isn’t just fluffy mumbo jumbo.  Scientific research has confirmed that our stress hormone cortisol can be lowered by up to 30% by simply inhaling lavender essential oil for around an hour. Pretty powerful stuff!


Considering the amount of uninterrupted daily stress in our Western lifestyles it’s no surprise we spend huge chunks of time responding to immune depressing sympathetic stimulus. Imagine the impact that has on long term disease and our health over the years.  Consider the effect over a lifetime. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if we could honour our health with small daily rituals that coaxed our body into the mode of rejuvenation and regeneration? If during your GP visit the doctor encouraged you to combat stress by simply ‘reaching for the bottle’… just so long as the label says Lavender!


As we move into an era of empowered health, the Spa Wellness landscape is embracing aromatic essential oils to not only regenerate the skin but also induce deep relaxation while managing stress. Through the use of aromatic therapies we can enhance our immune system and delay the effects of disease and poor health. Lifestyle indicators including improved sleep, mood elevation, minimising depression, enhancing sexuality, self image and social relationships are all happy beneficiaries.


So it seems that the best thing you could potentially be doing for your health today is to really just stop and smell those roses.


Sofitel SPA Darling Harbour partners with Waterlily Australia and provides a range of bespoke treatment using Waterlily products that capture the essence of Spa Wellness with luxurious rituals layered with opulent textures, aromatic touch points and pure aromatherapy


Adapted with permission from Journal article by Michelle Reeve, Founder of Waterlily Australia

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