The science behind sniffing

Aromatherapy can help heal, at least that's what the industry wants you to believe Story: noko

Left  Scentee's smartphone-controlled diffuser allows activating and changing scent via an app. photo: Global Wellness Summit

In Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche hails his sense of smell by quoting "my genius is in my nostrils". Most people though overlook their olfactory perception and the use of "healing" scents.

A modern approach to age-old aromatherapy, however, is driving one of this year's biggest trends, according to a report released at the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) held in New York, earlier this year.

Technology, fragrance development and neuroscience studies along with evidence-based research have led to what the GWS defines as MediScent that promotes physical and emotional well-being.

Based in Cleveland Clinic's Innovations Lab, Aeroscena has for almost a decade been on a mission to make aromatherapy a viable clinical treatment.

The company's blends of essential oils, termed phyto-inhalants, specifically treat health symptoms, such as pain, nausea and anxiety, with back up by clinical trials.

The Ascents by Aeroscena even include an appetite suppressant based on a grapefruit and peppermint aromatherapy. The science behind the blend -- sniffing limonene -- helps control cravings.

Below  Neom Organics' Wellbeing Pod is designed to deliver the right amount of scent and switch essential oil blends. photo: Global Wellness Summit

Inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, with their molecules affecting the brain's limbic system, linked to breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, hormonal balance as well as emotions, memory and stress.

The resulting holistic effect addresses the needs of today's consumers, who look for natural solutions.

The popularity of essential oils in the home has spurred advances in diffuser technology.

London-based Neom Organics designed its Wellbeing Pod to deliver the right amount of scent, allowing users to switch essential oil blends at the touch of a button for better sleep, less stress, more energy or a mood lift.

Valeur Absolue Harmonie features Areaumat perpetua and semi-precious amethyst for a wellness perfume. photo: Global Wellness Summit

Japanese brand Scentee has developed a smartphone-controlled diffuser for changing scents via an app. Users can even set the diffuser to activate at a certain time, such as starting the day with energising aromas and ending with a sleep aroma at night.

Connected to smartphones and internet, Scentee Machina is an innovative fragrance device, whose cloud-installed AI (artificial intelligence) learns your preferred scent and makes suggestions.

Likewise, Israeli start-up NanoScent is developing smartphone technology that identifies and analyses scents. Once the tech understands your scent profile, it helps select skincare products or perfumes and also serves as a matchmaker by identifying a partner with a harmonising scent.

Besides digitisation of scents, functional fragrances is also a part of the MediScent movement, to boost brain and body performance.

The scent of coffee and lemon, for instance, helps people perform analytical tasks and promotes productivity in the workplace while increasing employee satisfaction.

The British natural supplement company Nue Co has introduced the first anti-stress supplement worn as a functional fragrance. The unisex scent was developed using data insight and research into the connection between cognitive function and the olfactory system.

Infused with natural oils, a scent ring in Szent's water bottle channels out flavours through the sense of smell. photos: Global Wellness Summit

Valeur Absolue includes calming Areaumat perpetua, derived from the immortelle flower, in the composition of Harmonie perfume. You can't smell the stealth scent of the natural extract but it's working in the background, to stimulate the release of feel-good endorphins. The Swiss brand also puts semi-precious amethyst, related to wellness, at the base of the bottle, to shake in before spraying.

Los Angeles-based Szent has developed bottles featuring a scent ring infused with natural oils that channels out flavours through the sense of smell, which is responsible for as much as 80% of what you taste.

Avoiding artificial sweeteners or additives, its innovative product contains nothing more than water yet come in tangerine, tropical, pineapple, mint or passion fruit flavours.