The first of two part series exploring how fragrance impacts our health. Written by JUSU Body Master Formulator, Karen Van Dyck.
Human beings were born with five senses – one of the most useful is our sense of smell. It can often be overlooked in our world where our sense of sight reigns supreme. I invite you to take another sniff.
Our sense of smell attracts us to nature – anyone who walks through a forest or by the wild ocean is filled with fresh invigorating and uplifting aromas. Natures perfumes are a big part of the joy and richness of the human experience. Nature has an inherent wisdom when it comes to scent – when we are attracted to a person or a meal – it is the nature of scent that forms the connection. In fact, the scent alone of a delicious meal will start the digestive juices flowing. The rich smell of freshly ground coffee beans wakes us up in the morning. We just know that it must be good for us because in some way the body appears to be longing for it.
Scent links us to our memories and our desires. It is like the soundtrack to our life. For instance, when we smell our lover’s perfume, (even when they are nowhere around!) we are filled with another kind of longing, and nature again has initiated a different type of connection.
Men and women of the world have traditionally worn scent to attract and enhance the love experience. A fact that is that is still true today given perfume is one of the highest grossing sales categories in the world.
In the world of plants and trees, scents play hugely important roles. Certain scents can attract insects to begin pollination, or birds - who play a starring role in spreading seeds. The natural essential oils in the leaves, flowers and/or the fruit of a plant can also repel insects and protect the plant from tiny pathogens like mould, bacterial, and fungus. It is a complex dance of aroma and an interweaving of a symphony of natural chemicals.
Studies show that we are attracted to each other (or repelled!) because of the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, natural odour of our bodies. Did you know that when a woman becomes pregnant, her sense of smell significantly increases? That’s so she can smell dangers like fire or bad food in order to protect her infant. In addition, studies show a mother can pick out her infant (and vice versa) by smell alone.
So, if scent is so amazing and part of a full and healthy life – why are so many people becoming sick from it? What is causing allergies, illnesses and the assault on our natural world? The answer is that most fragrance and perfume in our day to day life is artificial – chemical based aromas made largely from petro-chemicals (petroleum); those same culprits that gave us plastics. There are over 3000 chemical fragrance molecules and they are pumped into everything from our dish soap to our dryer sheets. On the label these toxic substances are merely indicated by the words “Fragrance” or “Parfum” but, behind these innocent words lies a huge problem.
We have been fooled to believe “Fragrance” or Parfum” on the label means they are safe. These scents are toxic and hide the nasty trade secrets of big corporations who fill store shelves with their cost-effective products. The real cost is to our health and the health of the planet.
Are scented products dangerous to your health?
Be aware that many brand name products contain these artificial (parfum) molecules; chemicals and over-processed ingredients These artificial fragrance molecules (neurotoxins) disrupt our hormones and our nervous systems. Symptoms can manifest as a loss of sex drive, disturbances in monthly menstrual cycles, reproductive ailments like endometriosis and infertility, a loss of hair, skin conditions, exhaustion and weight gain.
Nervous system disruptions can include depression, sleeplessness and anxiety. In addition these chemicals can cause daily effects such as nausea, tiredness and brain fog. Allergic reactions affect breathing (asthma), cause headaches (including migraines) and skin rashes; including eczema and psoriasis. These toxic fragrance chemicals accumulate in the body where they burden the liver and are stored in our cells, gradually wearing down our immune systems.
Because we are largely unaware, we are breathing them in, spraying them on, and slathering them on our skin daily. We wash our clothes and our dishes in them. We clean our homes and bathe our babies in them. Two of the biggest culprits are shampoo and laundry soap. When they are washed down the drain they continue their destruction by becoming environmental toxins.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn what you can keep out of your daily routine to minimize your body’s accumulation of toxins.