Fragrance alters mood and brain chemistry.

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Author: Rose Marie Williams
Date: Apr. 2004
From: Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients(Issue 249)
Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,532 words

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Fragrance materials are added to give products a scent, to mask odors of other ingredients, and in some cases to alter mood. Fragrance materials may be synthetic, natural, or a combination of both. Using scented products causes exposure to skin, upper airways, and olfactory pathways to the brain and lungs. These are all entry points to the body, causing systemic exposure as well. Fragrance inhalation through the nose goes directly to the brain where its neurological effects can alter blood pressure, pulse and mood, as well as having sedative effects. (1)

Volatile Compounds

Fragrances are volatile compounds that linger in the air adding to indoor air pollution and contribute to poor indoor air quality. Fragrance formulations often contain high concentrations of potent and long lasting synthetic chemicals for which very little data exists regarding their health and safety. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges that poor air quality contributes to a host of physical and neurological problems including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and forgetfulness. Eighty to 90% of fragrance chemicals are synthesized from petroleum products and are designed to disperse quickly into the air where they can linger on fabrics and surfaces for months. (1)

Fragrance is Everywhere

Fragrance chemicals are unavoidable. They are included in every personal care product, cosmetic, detergent, soap, fabric softener, pesticide, candle, car and room air-freshener. (1), (2) Hotels and motels routinely spray with fragrance or use plug-in devices to disperse a scent. Most modern facilities have windows that do not open, preventing fresh air from entering. When making room reservations this writer has begun requesting that no spray be used. Providing fragrance-free guest rooms has not yet caught on in the hospitality trade. When more consumers ask for "fragrance-free" rooms they may become more available, similar to the demand for tobacco-free rooms.


Perfumes contain neurotoxins, which have a causal link to central nervous system disorders, headaches, confusion, dizziness, short-term memory loss, anxiety, depression, disorientation, and mood swings. To avoid second hand exposure among a growing population of sensitive individuals, some high schools, workplaces, and public buildings have enacted policies banning the use of perfumes. (2), (3)

Bach Flower Remedies

Prior to humans being exposed to modern synthetic petroleum derived fragrance products, and the ensuing problems associated with such exposure, fragrances derived from flowers and plants were used for millennia to soothe and heal. Historically, herbal medicine has been used for the purposes of "clearing, consoling, quieting, uplifting, and settling the mind and the emotions." Through his work in homeopathy during the early 1900s, Edward Bach, MD, developed a specialized branch of herbal medicine using only the flowers, which are the highly potent seed-bearing part of a plant. Dr. Bach did not offer any scientific explanation of how the flower remedies worked, and in fact, was wary of the trends in scientific theories. He believed it was necessary to first improve a patient's emotional state in order to bring about physical well being, and by careful observation he developed what is now commonly...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Williams, Rose Marie. "Fragrance alters mood and brain chemistry." Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, no. 249, Apr. 2004, pp. 36+. Accessed 22 Sept. 2023.

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