Scent and Emotions – Your Scent Brain

The Mood Perfumes range was created in 2009  to support me with difficult emotions. Their effects were so transformative and immediate, that I felt urged to study and gain an understanding of the effects it had on me and others.

The “scent brain”  or Limbic system is the seat of subconscious drives and where scent is processed in the brain. Your sense of smell is a tool you can use to self-heal and release old, unhelpful patterns and heal painful memories.

Scent and emotion are intimately connected on a biological level. As a matter of fact we are hard-wired to have an association between the two.

Naturally, we create most of our first scent memories as children and this explains why so many scents bring up childhood memories. This process starts in the womb. The scent and tastes your mother are exposed to and even her favourite foods are hardwired in your brain before birth.(5)

When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain creates a link between the smell and a memory, for instance, associating the smell of vanilla with ice-cream on hot days or Lily of the Valley with Grandma. When you smell the same scent again the association is instantaneous, bringing on a memory or a mood, be they happy or sad.

We will only experience a trigger of emotion and memory if the scent has been hardwired by an emotional reaction, which I’ll elaborate on in a bit. This explains why we have such strong reactions to some scents and none to others.

The olfactory bulb is the link between smell, memory and behaviour as it’s seated in the limbic system closely connected to the amygdala, which processes emotion and the hippocampus, which creates associations.

The pathways of the olfactory system come together in the Limbic system. The limbic system is made up of 122 regions.

It is a “bridge” between the two brain hemispheres and it enables fast responses that affect the central nervous system and the body. It initiates and governs primitive drives and is a part of the Primitive/Reptilian-brain; the seat of memory, emotions, sexual drives, hunger and thirst. It also causes us to behave in certain ways and can drive states of anger, sorrow, revulsion, sexual attraction and fear.

The result is that a smell can instantaneously bring on strong feelings and memories and affect your behaviour and performance without your conscious control.

Both sides of the brain are stimulated by odour. The left brain identifies an odour and is affected by some scents in ways that increase logic, concentration, judgement and reason. The right brain responds in turn with memories, emotions, images and moods.

The amygdala and hippocampus, all part of the Limbic system, play important roles in memory.

The Amygdala is an almond-shaped mass of nuclei. It decides which memories are stored and where they’re stored in the brain. We’re not exactly sure why some memories are stored and others not, but it is thought that the intensity of emotion we associate with a memory has something to do with this. It’s involved in emotional responses, hormonal secretions, and memory.

The Hippocampus sends memories to the correct long-term storage place in the cerebral hemisphere and also retrieves them when necessary. We may be unable to form new memories when this area is damaged.

Part of the forebrain known as the Diencephalon is also included in the limbic system. The diencephalon is located beneath the cerebral hemispheres and contains the thalamus and hypothalamus.

The Thalamus is involved in sensory perception and regulation of motor functions like movement. It connects areas of the cerebral cortex that are involved in sensory perception and movement with other parts of the brain and spinal cord that also have a role in sensation and movement.

The pearl-sized Hypothalamus is an important component of the diencephalon. It controls many important functions such as waking you up and pumping adrenaline into your bloodstream in a crisis. It’s also an important emotional center, controlling neuropeptides that make you feel happy, sad or angry. It plays a major role in regulating hormones, the pituitary gland, body temperature, the adrenal glands, and many other vital activities.

The Cingulate is a fold in the brain involved with sensory input concerning emotions and the regulation of aggressive behaviour.

I feel our sense of smell gives us access to the subconscious mind, by bypassing the ‘critical factor’ or gatekeeper to the critical mind. Just as some healers induce trance-states to access the subconscious, our sense of smell can induce altered states of being and create opportunities for healing.

l have utterly embraced this association between scent and emotion as a gift to use to support the healing process of painful emotional conditions such as stress, anxiety, mania, depression and C-PTSD. My belief is that natural perfumes can be tools to aid in emotional and physical healing.

Here’s more info on the emotionally supportive natural perfume preparations for calmer and integrated emotional states.

Seeing as fragrance association is so personal I’m here to create bespoke preparations just for you. Call me on 072 134 9872 or fill in my form below.

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2. Upledger 1998
3. Pert 1997
6. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy – Salvatore Battaglia ISBN 0 646 42896 9

Influence of Personality on Natural Perfumery

Contact Antoinette on 072 134 9872

Perfume can bring balance to the emotional body or cause intense discomfort. Our unique responses are on a spectrum that may can cause intense feelings of attraction to aversion or conversely, pass by without notice.

We assign deep meanings and associations to certain aromas. Our cultural conditioning, memories, environment, health and emotions all play a role in our relationship to scent.


Perfuming with natural botanicals explores the concept of relationship. The relationship between elements in a blend and our deeply personal history with those scents. Early childhood memories can create strong associations. Scent creates ‘time capsules’ stored in our personal scent library, filled with emotions and memories, people, places and events.

We have a relationship with our cultural history and environment. We are influenced by our heritage to identify certain aromas as pleasant and desirable. The context of our scented encounters provide unique meaning and associations.

We also have a constantly evolving relationship between our bodies and the botanical elements we use in our blends. From objective analysis we know that Lavender is supposed to have a sedative and calming effect on us (3), but for some it may not have a pleasant physical effect at all. A scent you used to love in the past may not work so well for you anymore.

There is a relationship between the aromas themselves. Some aromas don’t combine or “dance” well together, as they may blend undesirable qualities and create a note that is jarring or overpowering. Or they might not have the desired therapeutic effect as they are not in synergy with your intention for the blend. The result may turn out just plain blah 😉

The carrier material and the blend of aromas are also relating. As an example, a perfume in a balm will capture the perfume as a static moment in time, whereas a perfume in alcohol or jojoba will develop and change over time. Some carriers we choose might not be ideal for our intentions of use, such as a carrier for a massage oil vs. a carrier for a perfume oil. Every carrier also has its own scent profile, which might interfere with the desired result.

Plant Personality Profile

Our forefathers sometimes ascribed personalities to certain plants, based on millenia of oral history and experiences with these plants.

For instance: “Atlas Cedarwood’s personality is someone gliding through life as if they had a royal charter. They may actually appear haughty and just too grand to approached about anything mundane, but this assumption is usually incorrect as they are a tower of strength in almost all situations. Cedarwood personalities instil confidence and security in people less able to cope with life’s stresses and strains.” (1)

Ylang Ylang personality is said to be a seductive, passionate, temperamental, confident and radiant personality, that likes to wear colourful clothes and bright jewellery.(2)

You might find are drawn to perfume with certain plants, because you need more of these qualities in your life.


Classification Systems

There are numerous systems in existence which we may choose from to gain a deeper understanding of our scent personality. One such a system is the “fragrance wheel”. The wheel categorises fragrances as fresh, floral, oriental and woody aromas; each with their own subdivisions.

We could include other systems such as chakras, colour therapy, yin/yang, astrology, Ayurveda (vatta, pitta, kapha) and the elements (Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Ether).

Have a look at the families or systems your favourite fragrances or oils belongs to. For instance, see which “colour” fragrance you like. Do you like green perfumes or brown ones? Is it woody or powdery, do you like florals or floral orientals?

You may have a few synthesized perfumes as favourites. To get a better idea of potential natural alternatives and to get to know your likes and dislikes, Fragrantica is a good place to start. You can do a search for the name of a favourite perfume and read the interpretation by other perfumers and noses. As we discovered, scent is subjective and what you read on Fragrantica about a perfume’s scent profile might not be the same as your interpretation and response.

It is a pleasure to share my experiences. If you need assistance in determining your unique scent personality and to make fragrances that transform your  perception of reality, please fill in my form or call me on 072 134 9872.

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1. Worwood V. The Fragrant Mind. Doubleday, Great Brittain, 1995
2. Fischer-Rizzi S. Complete Aromatherapy Handbook. Sterling Publishing Company, USA, 1990

3. Diego et al. 1998 International Journal of Neuroscience Essential oil of Lavender and Rosemary.

4. International Journal of Neuroscience, 119:263–290, 2009