Whole Body Scent Receptors

People often ask me how I decide if a product is worthy of being a Hero. While I’ve cultivated and refined my Inspired Curation process over the years, the truth is that it’s my powerful instincts that guide my decision making. When I smell, touch and experience a superior, Hero-worthy product, I feel it throughout my entire body. My skin tingles, my senses become heightened, and I know that I’m holding a master work.

To my utter amazement, I recently discovered that in this way, I’m not special. This moment of realization came as I sat across the table from aromatherapist and Founder of LILFOX, Alexis Rose.  As I gushed about her aromatic collection, sharing that I had experienced full body sensory delight with each product in her range,  she humbly deflected any of the credit and confessed that we all have scent receptors throughout our bodies. Our olfactory receptors that process aromas live not only in our nostrils, but in our heart, lungs, liver, kidneys – all our organs, including our skin.  WHOA! This ‘aha’ moment validated what I always sensed to be true, but didn’t know for sure: Scent is more than aroma. It is a molecular structure that stimulates odor receptors throughout the body, triggering any number of biochemical reactions, from excitement to arousal to a sense of calm.

As a Spa Director, I worked with aromatherapy and essential oils every day. We massaged, soaked and wrapped clients in layers of decadent, scented preparations.  I never tired of seeing the transformation with my own eyes. Clients would enter looking tired, feeling anxious and seeming rushed. They floated out in a bubble of bliss.

Of course, a state of relaxation can be induced at the hands of a skilled massage therapist or esthetician. And I also credit the powerfully effective natural ingredients  featured in our products. But the physical and psychological transformation can be so powerful, I often wondered if it was just the bodywork, or something deeper and more primal. Why do we love the feeling of being completely enveloped in a beautiful scent? It turns out that we have olfactory receptors throughout our whole bodies, meaning not only can we feel smell, but the chemical constituents and healing properties carried in an scent molecule can benefit other biological functions, as well.

Alexis recommended that I look up an article published in the New York Times on the subject, and I was struck to learn how new this scientific discovery actually is!  The olfactory system was just demystified in the 1990’s by two American scientists. And it was only in the last few years that a team of German scientists published their findings showing that skin contains at least 15 types of olfactory receptors, and skin’s regenerating abilities when exposed to a synthetic aroma of sandalwood. Dr. Yehuda Ben Shahar, a biologist at Washington University points out that olfactory receptors are only identified as ‘olfactory’ because they were first discovered in the nose.  This new discovery of studying olfactory receptors and the effects of aromas on them is a whole new field of ‘scent-based medicine’.

I know think about scent, aromatherapy and how I apply my favorite aromatic products in a new light. After years of layering aromatic oils and balms on my body, it’s pleasing to know that perhaps I’ve been intuitively supporting my health in the process. All those years at the spa, cocooning clients in aromatic wraps?  These ‘pampering’ services may have had incremental effects on their whole body health.

And now, as head curator and Hero-hunter, I feel empowered knowing that my whole body is engaged in the process.


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