THE ACUITY of the olfactory system in early humans was more developed than in today’s population. Modern chemical life has done much to anaesthetise our smell sense and render it more or less redundant.
Yet the human brain can remember more than 50,000 different scents; and every one of these individually shaped smell molecules has to fit like a jigsaw into its own exact space on the olfactory bulb.
Before the man-made chemical world held sway, plants provided most of the smell signatures, which were read discerningly by early peoples to determine certain outcomes.
Even if today’s humans are unaware of it, plant and human pheromones can profoundly affect us subliminally, driving our feelings, actions and habits.
As evolution took shape, smell became relatively less crucial for survival and accordingly the part of the human brain responsible for smell and primitive emotions became less important.
The new, supposedly superior, brain evolved over the primitive ‘old brain’ structures, developing and heightening both old and newly advanced senses and modifying instincts and emotions by the development of mind.
This brain development also created a larger memory storage capacity, expanding to include everything in the vast and complex human experience.
Instinct is the nose of the mind
- Delphine de Girardin
The act of smelling a plant immediately sets the mind to work, transporting the scent here and there; a catalysing complex theatre throughout the brain as old memories and old connections are recognised.
Memories, as well as smell, are stored in the Limbic system of the brain.
This is why memories, imagination and old sentiments are more readily reached through smell than through any other channel.
We become aware of memories and store them from the very first day of our existence and relate them to specific situations and moods.
We each have our own personal connection to every smell. A certain pleasant smell during a memorable childhood experience can be relived many years later when the same smell is smelt again and the same sense of wellbeing is felt.
We can choose to consciously recollect certain smells to intensify old memories, but we are not at the mercy of odour memories.
We can reprogram our smell memory computer in order to enhance our lives. This is where using essential oils comes into play. They support intellectual activity by supporting our memory.
Is the elephant’s legendary long memory due to its extraordinary dependence upon its long nose?
Studies show that long-term odour memory is stronger than visual memory, partly because of our primitive, self-preservation instincts; but also because a subconscious smell connection uses less stimulus discrimination than does conscious sight.
There are more innate preconceptions with smell evaluations that are often irrational and inclined to stimulus generalisation.
The physical and emotional features of human nature are slower to learn, but also slower to forget.
Learned associative smell, which is employed in aversion therapy and positive reinforcement, leaves a lasting impression and smells can be useful therapeutically to recall memory even in cases of amnesia or comatose conditions.
Memory is a very complex process involving far more of the brain than scientists initially thought.
The concept and function of memory involves more than the temporary or permanent, planned or incidental recall; it includes the expansion of memory itself, the increasing capacity to remember and to do so independently and consciously improving our human intelligence.
Essential oils enervate the brain and the entire central nervous system; the smells of basil, peppermint and rosemary have the ability to stimulate not just recall, but the mental powers of memorisation and concentration.
Essential oils evoke and enhance intellectual, emotional and physical faculties of awareness and discrimination, according to character of the oil employed to a corresponding feature of human nature and elsewhere in the body.
The limbic system is a set of interconnected pathways in the brain related to the hippocampus and some primitive areas of the cerebrum having to do with smell, memory, oral movements linked to feeding and primitive exploratory behaviour, fundamental drives for survival and emotional and visceral responses.
The limbic brain also contains the ‘pleasure centre’; which reinforces learning when stimulated.
It works in tandem with the hippocampus where it forms the control centre, coordinating all sensory input into a coherent whole.
The hippocampus is located deep within the brain, behind the eyes and between the ears and pulsates a mysterious theta brain-wave rhythm that signals its functioning in modifying emotion and processing memory.
This is why using essential oils can have such direct and efficacious effects in changing to positive mind states.
The hippocampus has a primary role in processing events and experiences into memories, but it is not the only or final repository of long-term memory.
Memory processing and storage also occurs elsewhere in previously unsuspected areas of the brain.
When a particular sensory stimulus enters the same area of the brain, entire collections of mutually stimulating neurons assemble, into similar and dependable patterns; according to the continual stimulus reinforcement, making memory initially possible.
The important central switchboard of the limbic system and hippocampus connects and coordinates into a coherent whole the different stimuli from the different brain locations: sounds in the auditory cortex, images in the visual cortex.
In this manner, the hippocampus serves as a kind of transit station in which memories linger for an extended state between short-term and long-term memory.
Odour or smell memory does not necessarily engage other brain areas involved in the memory process, unless smell occurs coincidental with auditory, visual or thought stimuli and processes.
The more it coincides, the more likely it is to be remembered, retained in the short to long term memory complex to be processed first through the limbic system and hippocampus.
Interestingly, the hippocampus is also the part of the brain with the greatest degree of plasticity and appears to be absolutely necessary for making new memories or creating new neural pathways.
It appears to be very important in converting things that are ‘in your mind’ at the moment (in short-term memory) into things that you will remember for the long run (long-term memory).
If we didn’t have the hippocampus we couldn’t live in the present: we would be stuck in the past of old memories.
Aromatherapy is extremely useful in compensating for any dysfunction in the memory as it not only affect a person’s mood but can also prove powerful enough to evoke memories that we are happy to recall.
Rosemary in particular has been found to increase blood circulation around the body and to the brain, providing an excellent stimulant that enables the memory to function more sharply. It is also an aroma that can help relieve stress and relax worries. When our central nervous system is calm and centred, we are better able to access deeper memories that are meaningful to process so we might progress forward with our lives.
Memory recall is accelerated when a past event is associated with a smell. That’s why a whiff of a certain scent can send us back in time and carry with it images and feelings associated with that event. Next time we need assistance to access some elusive fact, aromatherapy can trigger your memory.
Rosemary, for instance, has a long history of increasing memory, concentration and creativity, while Japanese research has confirmed it to be a brain stimulant. Other mental stimulants are sage, basil and bay laurel.
Rose serves our memory by allowing us to embrace our grief process and let go of the pain that could entrap our hearts for too long.
Jasmine deeply relaxes and removes us from the intense emotional attachment to past hurtful memories.
Inhale one of the recommended essential oils while studying for a test or attending a class and when you need to recall the information, simply smell the same scent.
For many people the scent of certain plants can revive memories with a vividness that nothing else can equal, for the sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that and left the conscious mind.
- Delphine de Girardin
Rosemary, sage, bergamot, clary sage, cypress, peppermint, basil, bay, juniper, lemon, rose, jasmine are very efficacious. In general though, all essential are capable of stimulating memory and brain receptivity.
We discover ourselves to be that light which has no apparent source, yet is the Source of everything.
FOREMOST, Tinderbox prescribes to the underlying principal that all people inherently contain within them a spark of the divine, and that we are all biologically programmed to spiritually evolve.
We are born for illumination, even if we are unaware of this intrinsic human impulse, just like a plant, we are all growing towards the light. At the Tinderbox we are wholly supportive of your journey to Self-awakening and hope that we have something inspirational to offer you as help along the ongoing path; something that encourages you to tend lovingly to the emerging story of your life.
Yes we do make a high quality range of artisanal herbal products with much care and good intention. However that is not all that Tinderbox is about; we very much strive to promote the holistic lifestyle whereby all aspects of the human being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual are honoured. Indeed the products are based on the belief that all human beings are their own healers by nature and that they just need to look within to discover the wherewithal in order for healing to begin.
Tinderbox is about transformation; we create pure botanical products that promote a positive shift in your life in some small or significant way, each item mindfully designed to heal the whole person, to nurture, soothe, relax, indulge and elevate the mood and consciousness of the individual. Real healing is about transformation, about making us whole again and a return to whom we truly are.
Tinderbox - harnessing the wisdom and vitality of plants for human transformation.
Tinderbox is an ever evolving, well-spring of creativity that flows continually, adapting and adjusting to ‘the sea of change’ that is a reality when working with plants.
The rough edges of an old recipe might be refined; a discontinued bottle may catalyse a fresh start; or we awaken new spirit in an existing product with a change of look.
Today we celebrate our new website at tinderbox.com.au which showcases our artwork, proudly displays our products and provides a plethora of information about the plant world.
You can also follow what inspires our staff on facebook and let the Tinderbox Sparks take you behind the scenes of our Balingup workshop.
We invite you to ride the winds of change with us. We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we will.