By Françoise Rapp, Certified Natural Perfumer, Aromatherapist and Aromachologist
The term aromachology appeared in the 1980s and it describes the science of the phenomenon that links odors to behavior.
We became aware at that moment of this subtle and profound power and above all, how it affects our daily life in all its aspects, from the intimate to the spiritual and the professional. For almost 26 years, I have been composing natural perfumes taking this dimension into account because it seems to me to be inseparable from the mission of the natural perfumer. My training as a naturopath has meant that I have also worked all these years with patients and therefore have seen what the positive effects of smell on emotions are. When we understand the role that smell plays on inner well-being, we understand the need to compose a natural perfume and its olfactory quality as well because it acts powerfully on the sensory memory.
The olfactory sense is our most reptilian sense, and it is one of the most powerful because it is linked to our survival.
Throughout our lives, we memorize a library of smells that can stay buried for years. The sense of smell is a sense outside the notion of time/space. Therefore, we can have a reaction linked to the very old memory of a person, a place, a situation when we feel a specific scent that reminds us of this. We can even smell so-called “ghost” smells just by reliving this memory. In a fragment of a second we travel in time and in an emotion that we thought had been forgotten.
Smell: a Mental Representation
For a molecule to become an odor, a brain is needed. According to Pierre-Marie Lledo, co-director of the Genes, Synapses and Cognition laboratory, our brain establishes olfactory maps from the combination of receptors activated by such and such a molecule. These cards work like a kind of QR code and allow each chemical stimulus to be associated with a mental representation: the smell. The latter is malleable and evolves according to our experiences and our culture.
The first thing we perceive in a smell is its emotional side
I either like it or I don't like it, before we even ask ourselves any other rational question. And if odors awaken in us such clear and intense emotions and memories, it is because the brain areas they activate are intimately connected with those mobilized by emotions: the hippocampus plays the role in long-term memory term: the hard disk that records our learning from the moment we were in our mother's womb. The amygdala plays a fundamental role in decoding our emotions generated by the different situations of our life. For example, it intervenes in behaviors such as fear, pleasure, or memory. The septal nucleus plays a role in controlling emotions and in feelings of pleasure, it is directly linked to the sense of smell.
Aromachology, a Global Approach to Smell and Feel
This intrinsic link between smells and emotions has been questioned by many scientists who have tested its benefits. Some, like Dr. Aubert, say they know that certain smells can elicit emotional responses capable of transiently increasing the release of certain brain mediators such as serotonin, which promotes a positive mood and builds a state of well-being. Therefore, aromachology and products composed of natural plant essences have great power on the inner well-being of the person. This approach can be broken down into different types of products: from natural perfumes with an alcoholic or non-alcoholic base, to perfumed creams and balms for the body, to home fragrances, candles and even incense, to hygiene products and natural cosmetics. The market clearly shows that for two years during the pandemic period, the new consumer has been looking for sensory experiences in addition to product efficiency. They want an immersion in Nature which brings them benefits for their well-being.
Beyond the Knowledge of Natural Essences
As a creative perfumer, it is essential to acquire knowledge of the aromachological virtues of natural essences on the psyche since their action on the emotions is proven. This dimension adds to our responsibility as creators towards the consumer. Aromachology stands beyond natural perfumery and a simple pleasant scent and even a trained natural perfumer should be aware of it. Here is how natural essences act by simple olfaction. From their liquid state, by chemical reaction in contact with air, they are transformed into etheric gas. Volatile, by their infinitely small and light molecules, they bring to a quantum level a vibratory frequency which, like the photon, carries information. This information is a natural principle or intelligence of nature which has a function, here in this case properties. Therefore, a natural perfume has a dimension far beyond that of simply “smelling good”; it can be balanced and effective or it can be dissonant because certain raw materials will contradict each other. This olfactory dissonance is often unknown to the natural perfumer but not to the aromachologist. When composing the perfume, we set a clear objective on the result or the effect that is desired. From this, stem the selection of each ingredient that will compose it. Aromachological benefits can be substantiated in marketing materials and product claims. Creating natural perfumes, whatever their final form, requires, in my opinion, a knowledge of aromachology.
Therefore, it seems to me necessary that knowing the olfactory and aromachological qualities of natural essences is essential for a natural perfumer
It is obvious that they must master the sensory dimension and the virtues that their perfume will have on the emotions of the consumer.
You can now learn and deepen your knowledge in the new aromachology course which starts on January 9th. It will be taught every first Monday of every month.
Register for the course
Access to the Aromachology Level 1 Masterclass
By Creezy Courtoy, IPF Founder and Chair,
Anthropologist, Historian and Olfaction Trainer
No Sense is More Important than the Olfactory Sense!
I really want you to understand that a perfume is not only a smell, it is much more than that and everyone should really know this before learning to become an olfaction trainer, an aromatherapist or a perfumer.
When you smell a perfume:
-going through your brain, it creates memories and sensations.
-it has an action on your nervous system, regulating organs.
-it is also a gas and what we breathe has immediate access to our blood. While penetrating through the thin membranes of our lungs, fragrances and perfumes reach the bloodstream much more quickly than the absorption of matter by the digestive tracts.
-it influences your hormonal system
-it acts on your organs through your nervous system
-in the bloodstream, it participates to the irrigation of your organs
-it can also modify your DNA and your cell's organization
Digestion and the breaking down of solids, like medicinal pills, take much more time reaching the bloodstream, as the absorbed solids must be digested and pass through the thick intestinal wall.
These are the reasons making a perfume or blending essential oils has responsibilities.
When you teach olfaction training, when you train yourselves, when you create natural perfumes or when you blend essential oils, always study the particularity of the oils. Do not use products without knowing their origins.
Olfaction can be dangerous. With essential oils, you can always find data and talk to the person in front of you.
With synthetic substances you have no historical data like we have for flowers and plants. Natural Perfumes are more expensive but it is worth to consider !
Perfume, by simple olfaction, sends messages to the nervous system, especially, to the area called "the big sympathetic" which plays a very important role in the maintenance of the health balance of humans.
The nervous system is the supreme organizer of matter, where life emanates. Its actions spread to all the organs where it regulates the different functions to achieve this harmonious whole that is the human body.
Besides, it assures the defense of the organism in protecting the body from external attacks.
”The big sympathetic” is made of a double chain of joint ganglia, situated at each side of the backbone. From these ganglia emerge many nerve connections terminating at the vegetative life organs: liver, spleen, lungs, heart, blood vessels, etc.
In some regions of the body nerves also form real networks, and insure the communication of the big sympathetic with the central nervous system.
The nervous system presides in exchanges, warns of failings, provides the various organ needs and rescues those that are threatened.
It directs the natural defenders: the white blood cells or leukocytes, also called phagocytes.
The stronger the microbial attack the stronger the defense.
Different conditions, by their suddenness or duration, can cause an abrupt disruption in the balance of the nervous system and also on the entire organism. A failing nervous system can occur in different ways: tiredness, insomnia, unaccustomed emotional stress, sudden weight loss, or an uncharacteristic tendency to exaggerate or discourage. If, at this moment, a bacterial attack occurs, the nervous system would not have the necessary strength to fight it.
Within the nervous system is the autonomic nervous system, which then contains the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
These two systems are involuntarily, meaning our body does not have control over what it is being performed.
The sympathetic nervous system is known as “fight-or-flight”, while parasympathetic is known as “rest and digest”.
Even though they are different, these systems still work hand in hand with one another to help control the way our body works.
Sympathetic is almost like an alarm clock, as it arouses the body and stimulates the nerves to start working. On the other hand, parasympathetic helps calm the body down, as it brings the body back to its normal state.
Natural essential oils can rebalance your nervous system, therefore it is important to learn aromatherapy and olfaction training before learning natural perfumery.
If you want to learn more about the importance of your olfactory sense, if you want to learn how to train, preserve or restore your olfactory sense, enrol for Creezy Courtoy's 8 weeks Olfaction Course.
By Françoise RAPP, IPF France Chair,
Natural French Aromatherapist and Natural Perfumer Expert
Essential oils are natural products used by different industries, among which stand out pharmaceutical and food industries.
Due to the variability inherent to all-natural products and growing problems of adulteration, the 8 marker points listed below aim to draw attention to the main criteria determining the quality of an essential oil. Purchasing and using a quality essential oil have a strong impact all along the production and consumer chain.
From respect of the producers work to the impact upon human health, it is vital to be vigilant in what you purchase as a natural perfumer, therapist and consumer.
1. What are the quality criteria?
The quality criteria of an essential oil are established after in-depth analysis which certifies compliance with standards well established by AFNOR (body for the development of French, European and international standards) which is based on chemotypes (its biochemical ingredients), its density, appearance and odor.
2. What are the regulations around the world?
3. What technical documents prove the quality of an essential oil?
Each batch of essential oil (the batch number must be written on each bottle) has technical documents certifying that the product meets compliance criteria certified by a specialized analysis laboratory. Be sure to find it on the brand's website or ask for the essential oil analysis sheet if you want more transparency about the quality of your product. More and more brands clearly display this data on the product sheet of their website.
4. What quality tests are essential oils subjected to?
Essential oils are subjected to in-depth analyzes in specialized laboratories for this purpose.
• Gas chromatography to map the precise chemical identity of the essential oil and display all of its chemotypes.
• The hydrometer to measure the exact density of the essential oil.
• The rotatory power makes it possible to demonstrate that the essential oil is pure and natural with reference to AFNOR standards.
• The flash point to measure the flash point and check if the essential oil has not been "diluted" with a vegetable oil or a less natural solvent.
5. Is there a market price?
The market price is dependent on tariff fluctuations which are frequent because they depend on criteria linked to various external constraints like any agricultural raw material. Among these, we note the following:
• The seasonality which is essential to obtain favorable prices during the harvest period.
• geopolitics or crises that can ignite the price of local raw materials.
• Quotas decided for ecological reasons (eg rosewood in Brazil).
• the climate which can be devastating or on the contrary help to produce an exceptional crop quality.
• the “fad” phenomenon which can fuel certain venalities or a rise in prices due to excessive consumer demand.
6. What does "100% pure and natural" mean on the bottle label?
This mention often written on the labels of the bottles of essential oil means that this one has not undergone any transformation and that it is not diluted, not rectified, not deterpenated, not rectified (100% pure) and that it comes from a "natural" raw material (the plant).
7. What are the mandatory inscriptions on the label of a bottle of essential oil?
• The best before date or expiration date after opening
• Chemotypes or the essential oil identity card. The main 3 must be listed as ingredients.
• The full botanical name in Latin of the plant
• The origin or provenance of the plant
• The plant organ used to obtain the essential oil
8. What can impact the quality of an essential oil?
In a world where essential oils can be purchased in large food stores and products can be sold such as this while this is not at all… Caution is definitely required and this is what you are going to learn through the French Natural Aromatherapy course starting on February 7th.