AROMATHERAPY & INCENSE:
A Regular Blog Exploring New Scents
Copyright Aroma Queen 2018
It's really easy to forget just how important our sense of smell is - or to take it for granted. Here at AQ we're surrounded by scents on a daily basis, but often don't remember to stop and smell the roses, which is what Aroma Queen is really all about. So this new ongoing blog will be an exploration of natural scents - taking an oil, incense or perfume and spending some time looking at our own associations and memories, as well as creating new ones.
If you're interested in using scent in your day to day life you might like to step outside the box and trying something new or forgotten: scroll down to view our blogs to date, and check back to see new posts whenever we've made some additions.
WHY IS SCENT SO IMPORTANT TO OUR MEMORIES?
One of the wonderful things about scent is that it can conjure up a memory or a mood, and so can be used to create a relaxing environment, one of concentration or study, or even nostalgia. And it's a truly personal thing: a fragrance that means something to you may feel entirely different to somebody else.
This is because the olfactory bulb - the area of the brain that receives impulses from your nose - is directly linked to the 'limbic system' in the brain. This system is generally regarded as playing a major role in controlling mood, memory, behaviour and emotion. Here is where memories are created, not just from what you see, but also based on the things you smell, touch, hear or taste. And as the olfactory impulses are so closely linked to the area that creates your memories, scents and fragrances can become a really strong part of how you remember an event, person or place.
When you experience something where there is a scent involved - like the smell of damp rainforest on a bushwalk, or your grandmother's perfume as she hugs you - your brain forges a link between the smell and the memory. Later when you experience the same scent, your brain might associate it with your previous experiences and instantly recall that memory - even if you're in a completely different environment. And because we encounter most new odors for the first time throughout our youth, smells often call up childhood memories, from the first times we experienced them. This is why many scents can bring about a feeling of nostalgia. Experiencing past scents can flood back old memories, just as experiencing unfamiliar scents can create new memories and associations.
SCENT MEMORIES: An Ongoing Blog
Sometimes an old familiar scent can remind you of an experience from the past, or during your childhood - be it a place, time or person. And while we grow used to many scents through our exposure to them over our lifetime, there is still room for new ones. As we're lucky enough to be able to experience scents that cover a vast range of origins and types, we're happy to share some of our own sensory explorations with you, to inspire new experiences or to remind you of scents worth revisiting.
If you have your own scent memories to share, we'd love to hear them: please feel free to send them in to us or post them on our Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram Pages.
SMOKY SANDALWOOD SUMMER
I never love the idea of losing Summer. It creeps up on me, making me feel like I should have had another swim or pulled out the kayak a few more times, because the idea of having to wait until next season seems like so far away. It also means that the other thing I love about Summer - spending the evening outdoors with a bbq, friends and a bottle of wine - will have to wind up for another year. On the NSW mid north coast it tends to get wet and humid over the Summer months, which means mossies. So to sit outdoors over dusk, I find the best solution is to burn incense. Bugs - especially mosquitoes - tend to dislike smoke, so any incense will have an effect at keeping them at bay. But Sandalwood is one of my own favourites - a dry, warm and soothing scent. I like to light a stick and pop it into a plant pot near where we're sitting, not too close but enough to get an occasional gentle waft of smoke. After the season has gone, the scent of Sandalwood can still remind me of balmy evenings and contented relaxation, bringing an instant sense of calm.
There was a point a few years ago when I was looking after a very close friend who was, at the time, touch and go with leukaemia. Each afternoon I would have to leave, to return the next day. Nobody knew what might happen inbetween. I introduced her very early on to essential oils, hoping to offer something to make the difficult time a little more pleasant. Very quickly we learnt that Lavender oil could help bring about a feeling of calm which would help the anxiety that came with the nosebleeds, pain or sleeplessness. We added it to an anti-ache oil for her joints, and we burned it - copiously - in a burner (she almost set herself alight a few times, but that's a different story). Opening the door the following day the strong smell of French Lavender would almost push me back down the stairs. It became a ritual, not only to help with the stress and nerves, but to remind her that someone was there, looking after her, even when she was on her own. Even now she burns it every night: a safe smell that helps her sleep through the threat of troubled dreams.
YUZU SPA (Japanese Citrus)
I've always been a fan of Japanese Morning Star incense as it's so subtle; it's about burning incense without filling a room with smoke. My own favourite scents tend to be the woody ones which work so well at a subtle level, but one I've been enjoying lately is Yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, sometimes known as 'Japanese Grapefruit'. In Japan, bathing with yuzu on Tōji, the winter solstice, is a custom that dates to at least the early 18th century. Whole yuzu fruits are floated in the hot water of the bath, sometimes enclosed in a cloth bag, releasing their aroma. The yuzu bath, known commonly as yuzuyu or yuzuburo, is said to guard against colds, treat the roughness of skin, warm the body, and relax the mind. While I haven't got the actual fruit itself to add to the bath, I love burning Japanese Yuzu incense instead - particularly at the end of a tiring day, with the room lit only by a couple of flickering tealight candles - the scent warms the air with subtle hints of mandarin, tangerine and bergamot. Because this is a scent I use regularly, I find that just lighting the incense and breathing in is enough to instantly set off soothing vibes and send me into the headspace of calm and relaxation.
A FOCUS ON FRANKINCENSE - Incense & Oil
Frankincense is one of the most stunning scents we have the pleasure to work with. It's also one of the most versatile - in its raw form it can be used as pellets to burn on charcoal tablets as resin incense, or powdered and pressed into incense stick form; distilled it provides a stunning essential oil which is both a gorgeous scent and a really useful aromatherapy tool that can be used for anything from meditation to oily skin (it's excellent added to creams or lotions for mature skin). The fragrance itself can be found in perfumes and incense, and the powdered resin even added to smudge sticks.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) comes from a small shrub that originates from the Middle East, which yields a natural gum resin that is collected by making incisions into the bark. The resin can be dried and hardened to use as incense, or steam distilled to create the essential oil. Like most other oils extracted from resins, Frankincense oil is effective for respiratory catarrhal discharge and congestion; used in inhalations it may be helpful for asthma sufferers as it eases shortness of breath. Its cytophylacic properties make it an ideal oil for mature, wrinkled skin in need of a lift; its astringent properties may also help balance oily skin condition.
But Frankincense is probably best known for its use in religious and cultural ceremonies since ancient times. It has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, in ancient Egyptian ceremonies and the present day Middle East, and even as a tool for magic. Possibly one reason why people find it so useful and versatile is that Frankincense is known to slow the breathing and help produce feelings of calm. It is known to produce a psycho-active substance called trahydrocannabinole, which expands consciousness, making it an ideal scent to use for meditation. It's a truly unique and beautiful scent with a wide appeal: everybody has their own personal association with Frankincense.
For me, whenever we need to package up Frankincense resin, I look forward to my favourite moment: opening the bulk container and allowing the scent of kilograms of resin to wash over me. I always breathe deeply, relishing as much as I can. It reminds me of when I first began to explore incense years ago, getting my head around the best methods to light and burn the charcoal tablets which would then melt my Frankincense pellets to fill the room with luscious smoke. I had an unusual little decorative censer to burn it in, a terracotta piece of a kneeling monk figure holding up a piece of hollow bamboo; once the charcoal tablet was lit and I'd added a few grains of Frankincense, the smoke inside would escape through the 'bamboo' chimney. The effect would be stunning, along with a sense of accomplishment for the effort. The lingering fragrance that would remain for the following couple of days was an added reward too, leaving the room with a fresh, warm scent. Being probably the world's best known incense, Frankincense was the first resin I ever tried, and it still remains my favourite - a deep, almost 'lemony' scent that is like no other, and difficult to describe if you've never experienced it. Since that time I've heard many stories from others who want to recreate the first time they came across Frankincense - in a church setting, a meditative temple, or while travelling. It's my own personal favourite, but what I truly love is that it means something different to everybody.
If you haven't yet experienced Frankincense, it's well worth trying. The resin is available in a range of grades, but even the most basic grade is quite beautiful, and very inexpensive. If resin burning is a little daunting there are plenty of incense sticks that feature the ground resins, and take the work out of preparing your incense. To use therapeutically, you're best using Frankincense oil, which can also be very useful as a 'base note' fixative in your perfume or oil blends. Frankincense is also available as a perfume, or even blended into mountain sage smudge sticks.
For me Honeysuckle is Spring. A scent of promise. I love it in the cooler months, just as Winter is drawing to a close and I'm feeling the first hint of warmer weather to come. Burning the oil in the chilly morning while I work is enough to make me forget my cold fingers as they try to type, and instead think of balmy evenings when the scents of Spring flowers carry over even after the sun has gone down. The fragrance is honey and sweet, but deeply floral as well. An uplifting, rich and warming scent that always makes me smile. Other floral scents work too - Jasmine, Rose or gentle Neroli - sometimes catching me by surprise as they remind me of a certain place I lived that might have had those flowers nearby. But when I'm specifically looking to capture Spring, I find that Honeysuckle is the oil that I always reach for.
WHITE SAGE WINTER
Imagine a cool Winters' evening; a blazing fire, a favourite CD playing in the background at a volume just right for humming along to. A glass of red sitting comfortably in one hand as you lay back against the lounge cushions trying to remember the next lyric. It's a Friday, which means there's no need to think about work for a couple of days, so it's easy to slip into a complete mood of relaxation. For me this is the perfect scenario to burn incense, and in particular white sage. I like to burn loose leaves on a charcoal tablet, and tend to break a few pieces off a smudge stick to add to the charcoal once it's smouldering. You don't need much - it's quite strong, and the smoke can fill the room if you use more than you need to, so just a leaf or two works for me. The scent of smouldering sage is unique - I find it to be quite 'warming' which is why I enjoy it in cooler times; but at the same time it's crisp and fresh. It's a cleansing scent, which lingers into the following day, leaving reminders of a relaxing evening even after the time has passed.
Most people haven't heard of Niaouli oil, which comes from an evergreen tree native to Australia and New Caledonia. It's generally stimulating and uplifting, with a sweet, fresh camphoraceous scent - a herbal scent that reminds you of something slightly medicinal, like tea tree or eucalyptus, but also with a sweetness of its own - I find it very pleasant. It's an oil that reminds me of trust and safety as I've been using it for many years as my go-to essential oil for keeping germs at bay - something very important when your partner has a severely reduced immune system. It's become habit to pop a few drops of Niaouli or Lemon Myrtle oil onto the pad of an aroma pendant when stepping out of the car towards the shops; or for all of the times the pendant wasn't remembered, a drop or two on a tissue tucked into the collar has been our alternate solution. The scent would always be strongest whenever there were bugs about, or visitors from areas known to be suffering the flu, just as an added precaution. And with great success, which is why I tend to think of the oil so fondly. Just opening the bottle reminds me of potentially life saving near misses, and the scent no longer reminds me of 'medicine', but of safety and care.
MORE SCENT MEMORIES WILL BE ADDED ON A REGULAR BASIS.
CHECK BACK NEXT VISIT FOR MORE SENSORY INSPIRATION.