World leading aromatherapist Danièle Ryman talks to SLOAN! Magazine about the effect that fragrance has on our mood and how we can use aromatherapy to create a different environment and mood in the home.
What do different aromas consist of, and how do they work to have such a profound effect on behaviour and mood?
During our lifetime the degree to which we use our sense of smell changes. Babies rely heavily on the olfactory organ to help them seek nourishment, whilst in early childhood we react spontaneously to different smells. Interestingly, studies show that children with a sharp sense of smell are often the most intelligent. It is not until later we are able to naturally differentiate between a good smell and a bad one.
Unfortunately nowadays we try to camouflage many unpleasant odours with synthetic flowery commercial sprays which only make matters worse. Some manufacturers of air fresheners use chemical compounds with anaesthetic properties such as glyoxal which deaden the sense of smell for more than an hour and can also irritate the bronchial tubes.
If we wish to surround ourselves with pleasant aromas we should turn to nature. All essential oils whether they come from flowers, fruits, resins or barks, have antibiotic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. The ancient Egyptians used them for many purposes including embalming because they knew of their ability to slow down decomposition!
Chamomile and Lavender essential oils reduce and calm and they are often used to provide a relaxing and restful atmosphere in homes, hotels and spas.
Neroli comes from the fresh flowers of the bitter orange tree and thus is a very expensive oil to produce. It has a slightly hypnotic effect and can induce sleep and act as a natural tranquiliser. Again used as a relaxant.
In contrast, rose has been used over the years as a stimulant. It is said that Cleopatra ordered her bedroom to be carpeted in an inch of fresh rose petals when she first met Anthony as rose is thought to heighten the force of attraction. This might have helped win him over.
In England the idea of perfumery did not really catch on until the time of Elizabeth I. She was so delighted with the perfumed gloves and other scented fineries brought to her by visiting noblemen that she instructed the ladies of her court to learn the art of making aromatic waters to use within her residents. Special gardens were cultivated for this purpose and rooms were set aside for the creation of such preparations.
Today the practice of creating fragrances has reached a peak of sophistication. The perfumer – known as the ‘nose’ has at his disposal 2,000 aromatic substances which he can use to mix in an infinite number of ways. They usually have such a highly trained nose that they can identify at least half of all known aromatic ingredients.
I travel extensively and I remember particularly in Mayasia being awestruck by the perfume that pervaded the markets. It was an exotic mix of spicy essences such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. It was quite an experience. When I returned to the UK my first impression was commercial antiseptic. It would be much more pleasant if visitors were welcomed by cloves which also has antiseptic properties. Hospitals would do better if they did the same and it might encourage relaxation in their patients and visitors.
You can create a different environment and mood in your home by using different aromas. For example to lift the mood basil, lemon, coriander, ginger and mint are very effective.
To feel more energised rosemary, ylang, ylang and eucalyptus are blended. Carnation and bergamot can really help your concentration so if you are studying these aromas can be extremely beneficial, whilst marjoram and rosemary can help alleviate anxiety.
My grandmother always used lily of the valley. This is often associated with the older generation. Years later I discovered that this does contain a substance which is used in the treatment of heart condition by many France herbalists. By planting them near her windows my grandmother’s palpitations and dizzy spells were considerably lessened.
When trying to create a romantic environment at home flowers can be a great way to create that perfect atmosphere. Try rose, Jasmine or gardenia.
I have been extremely fortunate to have a refined sense of smell which I have trained over the years to develop many beautiful fragrances. With a little thought and experiment you too can create that perfect environment within your home which will allow you to feel uplifted, relaxed or stimulated and enjoy life to the full.
French-born Danièle Ryman is a world leading aromatherapist and a global media authority on aromatherapy, aromacology and health and beauty. She is the author of six books (printed in 18 languages) and creates products for major companies, her own brand and private clients, as well as giving advice and lectures on industry issues and trends in health and beauty. Danièle has appeared regularly on television and radio and her work features in major media titles including Vogue, Tatler, the Guardian, the Independent and the Wall Street Journal. The Times acknowledges her as ‘the undisputed Queen of Aromatherapy.’ Danièle has also won numerous international industry awards for her work, including the coveted Courvoisier Award for ‘Best Innovative Product’. She also consults to some of the largest international retail, manufacturing, cosmetic, hospitality and airline corporations. She attended the Institute des Beaux Arts in Paris and worked with, and became the protégée of, the legendary pioneer of aromatherapy, Marguerite Maury, as well as with Caroline Colliard, the renowned creator of Decléor products. Daniele has worked with many household names and international sporting and television celebrities. She is Patron of the George Eliot Hospital, NHS Trust (Art for Health’s Sake), and a member of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists. She is also an Honorary Member of the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA).