Science of Scent

Aromatherapy’s psychological effects are now being used for some remarkable purposes.

Dr. Alan Hirsch M.D. F.A.C.P. Neurologist and Psychiatrist, is the Neurological Director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. The author of more than 100 articles on the psychological power of scent his studies have been published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and other prestigious publications.
He has presented his findings on several eminent network television shows and his work has been widely written about in consumer trade magazines in the US and abroad.

Through years of research Dr. Alan Hirsch has found that what we smell can influence what and how much we eat. In his revolutionary new book, Scentsational Weight Loss, he reveals findings which substantiate why we overeat and how we can break patterns that lead to excessive weight gain. His “scentsational” discoveries are presented in simple terms everyone can understand and use, to help change eating habits learned over a lifetime.

As he has explained on Oprah, Dateline, and other primetime shows, the urge to eat too much is governed not by the stomach, as most people believe, but by a specific location in the brain called the satiety center.

Once you understand how taste and smell affect this center, you can learn to appease cravings by sniffing certain scents whenever you feel the urge to overeat.

If you have questions regarding the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, Ltd., would like more information on smell and taste disorders, would like to inquire about participation in an ongoing research study, or would like to purchase Dr. Hirsh’s books, please access:

Clinical Study: Researchers at St George’s Hospital in London tested a skin aroma patch that releases the aroma of vanilla and other scents to help reduce cravings for chocolate and other high-calorie sweet foods and drinks. People who wore the patch on the back of their hand in early tests experienced a change in appetite and lost an average of 4.5 pounds. “It halved their intake of chocolate,” said Catherine Collins, the hospital’s Chief Dietician who led the study. “Sugary drinks were also significantly reduced,” she added.

The dieticians randomly divided 200 overweight volunteers into three groups, which received either a vanilla patch, a lemon or dummy patch or no patch. After four weeks the weight loss in the controlled groups – the lemon and no-patch groups – was only a fraction of the loss by people who wore the vanilla patches.

Collins, who presented her findings to the 13th International Congress of Dietetics in Edinburgh, Scotland, is unsure how the vanilla patch works but she thinks it may influence satiety. “We know that taste and aroma do have feedback on brain biochemistry fairly immediately to tell you to stop eating. In psychological literature there has been a lot of work on this but it has never been applied to over-weight patients before,” she explained.

The vanilla is released from the patch and not absorbed through the skin. Although a few people said the smell made them feel a bit nauseous, Collins said the patches do not cause any serious side effects.

Clinical Study: An in-house study was carried out to determine the effectiveness of wearing a vanilla self-adhesive aroma patch on 22 participants (average age was 41) overweight by at least 15 pounds and who were not following a calorie controlled diet or exercising excessively. The vanilla patch hypothesis is that people overweight experience strong food desires even cravings, which is difficult for dieters to stay within a healthy eating program. By forming an association between a specific smell and a desire to manage your food intake, it seems possible for people to reduce their strong desire for sweet high-calorie foods and even eliminate them in some cases.

Twelve people wore a vanilla aroma patch and ten wore a placebo.
Whilst the study was only for two months the results were significant. The test group wearing the vanilla aroma patches lost more weight - average 5lbs a month - than the placebo group - average 2lbs a month. Evidence showed people wearing the vanilla aroma patches reported a positive eating change in their diet and felt more in control of what they ate compared to the placebo group.

Facts and Notes from leading Institutions:
The Society for Neuroscience, Washington writes - scientists are discovering: Smell processes thought to underlie odor recognition. The way odors may affect human behavior. Strategies for helping people whose sense of smell is diminished or lost. Scientists don’t necessarily disagree that essential oils can be helpful; they just think that many scents, plant-derived or not, can trigger physiological responses.

“The scents of natural products are often more complex and beautiful,” says psychologist Avery Gilbert, former president of the Sense of Smell Institute, a research and educational organization in New York. “But much of the scent research shows that whether the particular molecule is derived from a plant or synthesized, you get the same effect.”

What both sides do agree on is paying attention to scents and how they affect us and can open up new and pleasurable pathways to health. While particular odors tend to have predictable effects – lavender usually makes people feel calmer – research suggests that individual experiences and preferences also play a major role.

In a study on migraine patients performed by physician Dr. Alan Hirsch at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago: The odor of green apple reduced the severity of symptoms in those who liked the smell but had no effect on those who didn’t.

Japanese company Shiseido in a 10 year study found when Citrus essential oils were diffused in the atmosphere of a class room, 67% of students improved their grades and found concentration easier.

In France scientists have found the aroma of Chamomile and Lavender essential oils very effective as a natural way to soothe nervousness and encourage a fretful child to sleep.

Researchers in the US have found that slot-machines in Las Vegas attract 45% more custom when a pleasant aroma is diffused in the air.

Lavender essential oil is not only relaxing but researchers and medical professionals increasingly recognize its therapeutic value. Today Lavender is widely used as an effective natural help to improve conditions such as PMS, menopause and uncomfortable menstrual periods, stress and sleep disorders.

The above references are for educational and information purposes only. We enforce and support the professional work being undertaken by all institutions on the science of smell and aromatherapy. In no way do we suggest the above companies or individuals support our products.


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