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Sensing Health (part 1)

A driving force in my life, my strongest sense, is smell. Sometimes I am blown away how I can make decisions based on smell, alone, and these decisions always turn out to be the right ones for me. I am influenced by smell all day, every day; my unique smell, that I often receive great comments about, my kitchen, the smell of the man who is lying next to me every night, my home, my work environment (my daughter says I smell like a spa when I get home).

In connection, I am also known to have a great memory. Indeed, scientists have discovered the close relationship between the loss of smell and the simultaneous loss of memory associated with dementia. Smell is the most sophisticated of the five senses. It is 10,000 times more acute than other senses, essentially forming a direct communication line to the parts of the brain responsible for learning, memories, and emotion. In turn, learning, memories, and emotions are part of our wellness, health, and sense of well-being.

It is no secret that certain diseases have a unique smell such as diabetes, maple syrup urine disease, arsenic poisoning, bacterial infections, Parkinson’s disease, and more. This is how dogs pick up on the scent and thereby alert their owners.

To me, a good scent is therapy, health, wellness, and simply a great way to induce joy in my life! Think about when you light a candle to get into the desired mood, receive a gift of your favorite perfume, burn incense, or when you pour yourself a bubble bath – all of these are acts of love and joy, to yourself or someone else. They soothe sorrow, wash away the stresses of your day, cleanse, and ultimately, bring moments of joy. I believe that when you take good care of yourself, inside and out, your sense of smell will be accurate and will guide you well.

No one will argue that Yael Alkalay is an expert for scents and holistic wellness & beauty. I love and appreciate her wisdom and her deep understanding of botanicals and aromas. So, without further ado, below is Yael’s part one (of three) of her exclusive blog for InnerMederi about scents, health, and well-being.

I invite you to light your favorite candle, cook a nutritious and delicious meal, take a deep breath, sink into a moment of joy and inhale love and exhale gratitude.


Sensing Health - part 1

Yael Alkalay, CEO and Founder, Red Flower

I have been obsessed with smell for as long as I can remember. Of the senses, it is my strength. I always said that if I was lost, the fastest way for me to find my way would be to smell my way. I remember the smell of everything I love - southern Japan in the rainy season when water rushes out of the sky over the early summer bloom. In Japanese, the rainy season is called tsuyu which means plum rain because it coincides with the season of plums ripening. I love the smell of an August thunderstorm in New England, when the heat builds up in the sky before it crashes together and releases over a hot ground and the scent of lightning, rain and steam combine. Smelling the scent of certain flowers is nothing short of exhilarating. It feels like now - more than ever - I am craving to surround myself with scent. I brought daffodils into the house for their color - I never noticed that they are fragrant. I am lighting candles in the morning, a new habit. I want my hair to smell good, so I apply moonflower conditioner to the ends throughout the day. I keep applying every oil I have over my skin, rubbing lavender from the petal-topped candle between my fingers, applying my last bottle of guaiac perfume over my wrists bare of any jewelry, over and over again. I have noticed that sales of certain products indicate that I am in good company, people are sensory seeking scent. We cannot keep up with the demand for moonflower diffusers (or anything moonflower), cardamom amber oil and palo santo candles I am thinking about why for myself and for others. Smell goes directly into your limbic system; it is the one sense that doesn't need to be processed by the brain - it just happens.

Now smell means one more thing to many; it is a sign of good health. “A lost sense of smell, known medically as anosmia, is increasingly being noted as a symptom of the coronavirus.” *

I might be lighting my favorite candles (Ocean, French Lavender, Palo Santo and Italian Blood Orange) because light is life or because I want to confirm that my sense of smell is in healthy working order, but most of all it must be because more than any other sense, smell directly affects mood. In humans, about three hundred active olfactory receptor genes work to detect thousands of different scent molecules. The sense of smell plays an important role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, and focus capacity. I feel more than ever that scent is keeping me aware, giving cadence to my day, fulfilling some deep need for pleasure. Stimulating the senses at their peak is about pleasure. In the case of aromatherapy, it is certainly about fulfilling potential, better sleep, mood boost, feeling calm…

But it's also simpler - it's about being open to the pleasure of inhaling something natural and beautiful and connecting to that feeling.

*American Academy of Otolaryngology


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