Sense of smell and purpose of scents

The way we interpret smells is affected by our genes and the culture we live in.

Pleasant smells are associated with pleasure. Your nose and sense of smell also warn you about bad and dangerous odours.

Scent preferences are hereditary. Our sense of smell is also connected to our sense of taste. If the mucous membrane in your nasal cavity is swollen and the receptors fail to detect smells, this will make the culinary experience a lot more monotonous.

Tasting is an intensive process that engages the mouth, nose, and brain. The brain assembles all the sensory stimuli to form a whole, which can also be seen in an MRI. A pregnant mother’s taste preferences may be passed down to the child. A parent’s smell may be enough to calm a baby. 

Over the course of history, the purpose of fragrances has been to bring luxury to people’s lives. Originally, fragrances were part of the lives of monarchs and the upper class.

People used to eliminate unpleasant odours by, for example, using bottled scents to counteract bad odours. These unpleasant smells may have emanated from people’s bodies, cooking, or similar everyday sources. 

The most well-known natural fragrances of all time are rose petals and rose oil, jasmine, violet, lilac, lavender, lily of the valley, vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon.

The smells that have generally been perceived as unpleasant are spoiled food and smoke, which also signals a fire hazard. Over the last century, the number of scents that people use has significantly increased. The spirit of each era determines the ratio between natural and artificial fragrances. 

Different perfumes are distinguished by dividing them into categories. Perfumes are divided into citrus, fruity, floral, oriental, aromatic, and woody notes. Perfume notes are usually divided into three classes: head notes, which dissipate rapidly; heart notes, which are often floral scents; and base notes, which last the longest. Fragrances often use wood or animal-derived ingredients as a base.

Fashion and trends affect how light or heavy new fragrances are. Fashion and trends, in turn, are affected by cultural codes and conventions. Men and women’s fragrances emphasise different notes. The skin’s mildly acidic pH value, natural fats, and micro-organisms affect fragrances differently for everyone.

Fragrances evoke many memories in us. They can bring back both good and bad life experiences. Scents can summon surprising memories from the subconscious, memories that you thought you had already forgotten.

The smell of freshly baked buns can take you back to childhood and give you a nice feeling of security. The smell of fried herring, on the other hand, can evoke memories of austerity-era Finland, whereas lilies may remind people of grief.

Scent memories are triggered arbitrarily, much like involuntary reactions. Scent memories can provoke both physical and emotional reactions.

Scents can trigger the body’s own hormones and affect your mood. Coffee drinkers can feel how caffeine increases their happiness and alleviates headaches. To have this reaction, the person has to have pre-existing memories of drinking coffee.

The smell of chocolate is thought to calm the brain and release happiness hormones. The effect that scents have on appetite has been researched, but no good practices for regulating appetite have yet been found. Scents do not contain calories.

Sweat may or may not smell. Everyone has 3–4 million sweat glands that secrete up to 10 litres of sweat per day. Sweat is 99% water. The remainder consists of salt, ammonia, sugar, and an individual mixture of acids and fragrances. The so-called smell of sweat only occurs when bacteria start breaking down the sweat.

The purpose of sweating is to keep the body cool in hot weather. Fear and anxiety can also cause sweating. Fear sweat is thought to enhance concentration and perception. When sweating is caused by an emotion, the hormones affect the sebaceous glands that secrete sebum. This is why this type of sweat smells different from exercise-induced sweat.

The sebaceous glands are what make babies, children, adolescents, adults, and old people smell different.  

You can cultivate your sense of smell by smelling different scents and avoiding exposure to nicotine products.

Tips for cultivating your sense of smell:

  • You can activate your sense of smell by practising smelling different scents regularly. This also activates the network between different parts of your brain.
  • The best way to improve your sense of smell is to avoid smoking and nicotine products. Nicotine destroys smell receptors, and snuff affects the link between smell and taste sensations.
  • When the nasal mucous membrane is moist, this helps odour molecules bind to the smell receptors. Drinking water will help. 
  • Rinsing the nose with saline removes bacteria, pollen, and dust from the nose and keeps the mucous membrane in good condition. 
  • Use decongestant nasal sprays only when necessary and as instructed. Corticosteroid nasal sprays, on the other hand, are mostly safe for long-term use.