Scents, Essential Oils, Emotions and Hormones

Instinctively, there are certain scents that I gravitate to when it comes to choosing my personal perfume and scented candles. I find that my favorite scents do wonders for my mood – especially after a bad day. The link between scent and emotions has been attributed to the fact that our body’s scent center in the brain, called the olfactory bulb, is intrinsically connected to where our emotional memories are stored. Joy, sorrow, anxiety, fear, rage – all these reside in one place and can be accessed through scent.

Moreover, these areas are also connected to parts of the brain that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, stress levels and even the balance of hormones. What this means is that fragrance CAN impact not just emotion, but the body’s physical response to it. This phenomenon has been studied by numerous scientists and researchers. In clinical studies on essential oils, doctors have discovered that certain scents can influence weight loss, increase learning and even assist in releasing emotional trauma. In market research, it was found that when a consumer actually smells a product, there is greater recall for the products other attributes. And, in psychological circles, studies have been made on the impact of scent on sexual attraction.

Truly, the power of scent cannot be discounted. In the art of aromatherapy, scent takes on another dimension. Practitioners believe that by smelling, applying, inhaling or massaging essential oils, we can benefit from the healing qualities of those oils. Aromatherapy believes that a whole range of illness or negative experiences/emotions can be relieved through the power of smell.

There is a scientific basis to this. The natural chemicals in essential oils, released through scent, are the ones that actually trigger our emotional and physical responses. Certain aldehydes, a powdery scent (think Chanel No. 5) are actually very calming to our central nervous system. Terpenes, a main component of natural essential oils, are also present in human metabolism. While the scent of peppermint, cardamom and rosemary contain stimulants that trigger the brain to receive learning. The presence of scent in our home can tremendously alter mood, even diffuse an emotionally charged situation.

Research has also found that scent can help regulate our glands and hormones. When scent triggers nerves in the brain, it also stimulates the release of hormones from our hypothalamus. Hormones affect reproductive growth, sex drive, our fight or flight response, digestion and also our heart rate. Since the endocrine system, where our glands and hormones belong, is extremely sensitive, one imbalance affects the whole system. Scent from essential oils assist in balancing hormone levels in our glands, including our thyroid, which governs metabolism and energy; reproductive organs and others.

It is because of this that fragrance can influence our energy levels, change our mood, and, even, kindle romance. It is also said that the right scent can impact how long we live!

I’d like to share with you a list of the most common scents and their uses in aromatherapy. This list can help inform your choices when it comes to choosing not just candle scents, but other fragranced products as well.

1.) If you are feeling angry, smell: bergamot, cedar, lemon, orange, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang.

2.) If you are feeling anxious, smell: lavender, chamomile, orange, ylang-ylang.

3.) If you are feeling depressed, smell: grapefruit, frankincense, lemon, lavender, orage, white angelica.

4.) If you are feeling sad, smell: bergamot, sage, eucalyptus, juniper, lavender.

5.) If you are feeling agitated, smell: bergamot, rosewood, rose, sage, ylang-ylang, sandalwood.

6.) If you are feeling bored, smell: cedar, spruce, thyme, cypress, black pepper.

7.) For concentration, smell: basil, peppermint, cypress, lemon

Aromatherapy practitioners recommend using essential oils in their pure form – through massage, application, diffusion and inhalation. Practitioners also believe that only therapeutic grade essential oils should be used.

If our favorite candle uses essential oils for fragrance, then we not only enjoy candles for their glow and beauty but we can also benefit from their aroma-therapeutic qualities. These candles have been specially formulated with 100% therapeutic grade essential oils. Moreover, product development and research focus on different types of fragrances, their benefits and the characteristics of each type.

Nonetheless, according to one candle company, not all scents we love can be derived from natural essential oils. Some amount of synthetic fragrances must be used either to imitate natural scents or to create totally new ones. What’s important is that candlemakers, make sure that the scents they use are safe for humans and that our favorite candle brands are labeled correctly. While not all candle scents are made from 100% pure essential oils and not all candles can be used for aromatherapy, science still points out the reality that smell is a powerful sense and that scents can indeed transform the mood and feel of a place. Smell can also link you to potent memories and can even influence your body’s responses. If you want to take advantage of the many benefits your olfactory sense can offer, start paying attention to what you smell. Read labels, patronize manufacturers who use healthy, safe ingredients and processes. Because, in this day and age of increasing awareness about synthetics, pesticides, and environmental degradation, maybe what this is saying is that we should also extend our care for ourselves and for the planet to what we smell.


1.) “Fragrances, vitamins and hormones – the ABC of terpenes.”
2.) “Essential Oils…more than aromatherapy”
3.) “Emotional response with therapeutic grade essential oils.”