by Brad C. Davis, Mercury Learning Systems LLC
Olfactory stimulation can change our brain waves and mood in powerful ways, which can affect our ability to learn. Certain types of stimulation like food smells can disrupt the functions of our brain in negative ways. Chemical smells from air fresheners, perfume, and even some essential oils can also be distracting to the point where they block learning.
Smells Can Help Form Powerful Memories
Studies have been done on the effects that certain scents have on our brain chemistry and its tie to our moods and emotions. It's a fascinating subject. I know someone who owns an aroma therapy company that works with major hotels, resorts and casinos. His aroma systems emit pre-selected scents in the environment that are reported to stimulate certain moods in visitors. For example, at one resort, his system releases a special "tropical blend" in the lobby that invokes noticeable happy festive moods in its patrons. He's making a living simply by triggering people's olfactory senses and making them feel happy!
The Science behind Olfactory Stimulation
When we breathe in an aroma, the particles that make up the aroma are detected by the part of our brain that governs our emotions. Often, this has an instantaneous effect on our moods and emotions. Some experts tell us inhalation is the most direct route between the outside world and our brains.
How our Sense of Smell is Important for Learning
Our right brain functions have the ability to help us learn extremely fast. In most people, this potential goes untapped or underdeveloped because the pathways between right and left brain functions haven't been developed. When doing the exercises that build these pathways, we want to incorporate the correct kinds of stimulation. And, when we consider scents, we don't necessarily want the smell of burnt toast, for example, to be associated with the study we're undergoing. It's much better to have the gentle scent of, say, rosemary in the air. See below for a list of scents that stimulate the brian in positive ways.
A Great Olfactory Learning and Brain Strengthening Exercise for Your Baby
A fantastic way of stimulating brain connections in babies is gathering the essences of flowers, herbs, wood, etc. and placing them inside small labeled bottles. Be creative but don't mix two essences together - they need to be pure essences of one item per bottle. Also, don't make your essences too strong.
When your baby is in a happy, receptive mood, sit in front of him/her and announce, "We're going to smell some scents now." Open one of the bottles, smell it yourself and tell your baby what the scent is, then put the bottle under your baby's nose and tell him/her what it is again. Close the bottle and open another, doing the same. Do as many as you can while keeping your baby's attention. Stop when he/she shows any disinterest or looks uncomfortable. We made a box of over 40 different scents for our children. They absolutely loved this exercise!
So, in short, your child's accelerated learning environment should be free of all smells that distract our focus and concentration but include ones that can enhance the learning experience in a positive, memorable way. Some essential oils can be helpful olfactory stimulation if used in the right way.
The Best Essential Oils for Learning
Below is a list of oils that have been known to enhance the brain's learning capabilities. This information comes from: Essential Science Publishing, "Essential Oils Desk Reference".
Frankincense. This oil stimulates the limbic system of the brain as well as the hypothalamus, pineal and pituitary glands. It has also been used to relieve depression.
Rosemary. This helps clarify the mind and emotions.
Peppermint. This is used to awaken the mind and heighten the senses. It is one of the best oils to boost energy, creativity and learning skills.
Vetiver. This oil provides a grounding, stress-relieving and calming action for the mind. It is also used to relieve depression and helps children with ADD and ADHD to focus and learn.
To use these oils, inhale a drop or two from cupped hands or use a diffuser to spread the fragrance through your room or house.
If used topically, put a drop on the back of the neck at the base of the skull. This is the most effective place to apply oils for clear thinking and learning.