In humans, the part of the brain that processes what we smell (the olfactory bulb) is closely connected to the parts of our brains that handle memory and emotion (the amygdala and hippocampus). This is why we can smell a particular scent — the rain on a hot road, geraniums in bloom, someone’s hairspray — and be immediately transported back to a specific memory associated with that smell.
It’s not just memories that can be affected by scent. Particular fragrances have the ability to evoke specific feelings or states of mind, and can be a powerful tool in creating, enhancing or tempering moods and emotions.
Using scent around your home and in your daily life can help you move through your day with better concentration, greater feelings of wellbeing, and increased calmness and relaxation. This can easily be done using essential oils.
Essential oils are made from the leaves, flowers, stems, seeds and roots of plants, and are collected (most commonly) through a distillation process. The plant material is placed over boiling water, and tiny droplets of oil are collected in the steam. The steam is then cooled (turning it back to water), the oil separates from the water and is collected. Essential oils are very concentrated, and often smell far more intensely than the original plant itself.
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways to bring about health benefits. In fact, aromatherapy’s proven health and wellbeing benefits are so effective, particularly for older people, that SummitCare has partnered with Aromacare, a Victoria based aromatherapy organisation specialising in providing older people with alternative solutions to help optimise their health and wellbeing.
Each SummitCare team now has staff trained by Aromacare to deliver aromatherapy treatments to residents and their families.
Cynthia Payne, CEO of SummitCare, said, “At SummitCare, we are dedicated to enhancing the wellbeing of the people who live in our communities, and the lives of their families. Using aromatherapy is such a gentle and unobtrusive treatment for a range of symptoms. The feedback from residents and family members is overwhelming, and the aromatherapy is having a visible impact on their quality of life.”
At SummitCare, residents can enjoy the mood enhancing effects of different scents through treatments with warmed cloths scented with aromatic oils to bathe the hands, arms, feet and legs, and gentle massage with aromatic creams and lotions. This adds to the power of essential oils, for in addition to aromatherapy uses, many oils also have physical benefits when used topically. Black pepper, ginger and rosemary essential oils can warm the skin and muscles, making them popular ingredients in muscle rubs and joint creams. Others, such as peppermint, have a cooling effect and are helpful
for headaches and treating itchy bites. Chamomile and calendula are both helpful in treating irritated, dry skin.
Essential oils are incredibly versatile and are easy to add to your daily wellbeing regime. Start by incorporating a few scents into your routine, and you’ll be surprised how much difference a smell can make. A whole room can be filled with fragrance using a diffuser, oil burner or a simple spritzing spray. Use a few drops in the shower or bath, or add to a washcloth. Drip some on a cotton ball or hanky for aromatherapy on the move.
The partnership between SummitCare and Aromacare is the first of its kind in Australia and another step towards enhancing the total wellbeing of the residents.
“It’s amazing that such a subtle, simple treatment can bring about such remarkable, immediate improvements,” said Ms Payne. “And it’s so pleasurable, both for the resident and our staff. Everyone seems to benefit.”
Eucalyptus oil has many powerful properties. It is widely used to help clear colds, stuffy noses and sinusitis, and improves blood circulation and oxygenation. It can also be helpful in treating headaches.
The intense, cooling scent of peppermint is useful for enhancing mental clarity and creating feelings of happiness and positivity, great for times when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. It can also help get you going at the beginning of the day, great for people who struggle to wake up or feel sluggish and groggy. Peppermint also has benefits for digestion when rubbed on the belly or taken orally, and can be applied to the temples to ease headaches and migraines.
The distinct aroma of rosemary is uplifting and stimulating, helping to revitalise and improve the mood. Rosemary is believed to improve cognitive performance, making it easier to concentrate and stay on task, particularly helpful in people with dementia.
Lavender has long been associated with relaxation, contentment and calmness, and is believed to promote better sleep. Spritz over your bedsheets, or place a lavender-infused cotton ball under your pillow or next to your bed to help you fall asleep more easily, and sleep more soundly.
The fresh, zesty scent of lemon has an uplifting effect, improving moods and helping to ease stress, tension and anxiety. It can also be taken internally — drop into a glass of water, or mix with olive oil and drizzle on your salad or pasta.