Today we have an interactive blog post!!! This is something I’d like for you to do with me, so read this blog post all the way through, then get prepared and play along!! **Please note: you may choose any essential oil you wish for this experiment.
The article by Stephen Dowthwaithe is an in-depth discussion on how to properly smell with your brain, and not just your nose. This is something that takes years of training – but I thought this might be fun for us to do together. By performing this experiment, you can smell all the subtleties that make up an essential oil – they are very complex!
In order to begin this experiment, it was necessary to choose an essential oil to smell. I chose lemon, as it’s one that is easily identifiable and was part of the ACHS kit. For my first step I gathered materials that could be used as test “strips”. These included a coffee filter, a paper towel and two brands of perfume strips, which can be found here: Test strips. Next, I used these various “strips” to see which would provide the best smell (see table 1). I determined that the strips provided with my student kit and the strips from Plant Therapy were nearly identical. I proceeded with the experiment using the test strips purchased from Plant Therapy. As outlined in the article, the quality of the paper used as a test strip is important to the final product of scent.
Once I had established the best strips to use, I moved onto the preparing my space. I sat at the table with my materials and a notebook. I completed each smelling experiment as noted in the article (Dowthwaithe, 2009). You can see the results for each one in tables 2, 3 and 4.
To begin, find a comfortable chair and sit down in a relaxed posture. Sniff your prepared strip. Then stand up and repeat the sniff. Did you notice anything different?
For the sitting versus standing experiment, I prepared a test strip by dropping 1 drop of lemon onto the end. While sitting, I noticed a bright fresh scent. The scent sparkled and was very sunny. Then, while standing, I sniffed it again. The scent was slightly duller and had less of a sparkle. The article mentions this is a result of a lowering in blood pressure that allows the body to devote more resources to the act of smelling (Dowthwaithe, 2009).
Next, I preformed the experiment with eyes open and then closed. Again, while sitting I sniffed the test strip. I noticed that the scent remained bright and fresh. Once I closed my eyes and sniffed again the scent took on a tang and was deeper, less bright. You can do this as well, finding a comfortable chair. Sniff your prepared strip with your eyes open and then closed. Note any differences.
Finally, I performed the odor fatigue experiment. to do this, prepare a strip with one drop of your essential oil. mark this strip, “strip 1” and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. At the designated time, prepare a second strip, mark it “strip 2” and set aside. Return to strip 1 and sniff slow and deep, keeping a tally of sniffs. When you reach a point where you can no longer smell the essential oil on the strip, set it aside and immediately pick up strip 2 and sniff. Note how they differ.
I kept a tally of sniffs and arrived at 24, on the 25th sniff I noticed no scent. I picked up the second prepared sample and noticed it was very flat and dull, almost no scent whatsoever. After about two minutes I could smell the strip again, although it took a total of 15 minutes for my sense of smell to return to normal. By using odor fatigue, professionals are better able to evaluate samples to note differences or even adulteration (Dowthwaithe, 2009).
This was an interesting experiment; I was quite shocked when the scent disappeared from the strip after 25 sniffs. I can see how this would be useful to someone with the proper training to detect differences and level of quality in samples of essential oils or perfumes. I enjoyed learning more about how to smell with my brain and look forward to applying this in the future.
I hope that you have found this as interesting as I did! If you have questions or comments about this or anything you find on our blog, please contact us by email at Aromatherapist@planttherapy.com
Dowthwaithe, S. (2009) ‘Using the Brain (not the nose) to smell: A systematic approach
to the most fundamental of techniques for perfumers and flavorists’ Perfumers World (34), pp 42-47.