The Good Book

The power of scent

The power of scent for emotional transcendence 

The impression of scent lingers longer in our memory and imprints our emotions more deeply than any other sense. Unlike sight, touch, and taste, olfactory neuroanatomy is intertwined with the amygdala, hippocampus, and orbitofrontal cortex. This intimate connection is formed by the way our brains process scent: an aroma is picked up by the brain’s olfactory bulbs, a point with a direct pathway to the limbic system, where emotion, learning, memory and motivation are formed..


The limbic system influences both the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system - the primary mechanism in control of our fight-or-flight response. Scents are the only sensations that travel a direct path to the emotional and memory centres of the brain, defining why scent recall is extremely personal. What may evoke certain feelings and memories for one, can be entirely different for another. 


Aromatherapy and its benefits are both ancient and anecdotal, with scientific studies on the power of essential oils ever-evolving. A form of alternative medicine, the practice of inhaling essential oils can improve everything from mood, sleep and stress. Here, we delve into the details with the nose of IKKARI’s hypnotic scents, Michael Samperi, Co-Founder and Director of Aromatica Botanica. 


Essential oils are highly potent chemical compounds found inside plants. These concentrated components contain the essence of the plant's fragrance and can be extracted from the leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and roots. 

“The extraction process depends on the plant,” explains Samperi. “The majority of oils are extracted using a steam distillation process, whereby the plant material is placed into a condenser and steam is used to separate the oil from the plant. The oil rises to the top of the collected water (from the steam) and separates. With fruits, where the majority of oil comes from the peel, the most common method is cold-processing, where centrifugal force is used to separate the oil from the fruit.”

We favour essential oils over synthetic fragrances not only because of their direct link to the Earth, but because of their real scents - evoking emotion and experiences. There are many myths and misconceptions around essential oils, the main culprit being they are more aggressive than synthetics. “It's simply not true,” says Samperi. “When used correctly, essential oils are a gentle alternative, and even if you don’t feel like the scent is hitting you in the face, they are working in a subtle manner to benefit your health.”


“There are a number of advantages to using essential oils over synthetic fragrances. First and foremost they are natural and non-toxic. They are environmentally friendly because they are a renewable resource, and best of all they are of a higher quality than synthetic fragrances because they are derived from plants,” explains Samperi.


“Essential oils extracted directly from plants contain the volatile aromatic compounds that give plants their unique scent profiles. In contrast, synthetic fragrances and other scented ingredients are usually made in a laboratory by combining chemicals to create a desired smell. While some synthetic fragrances may smell similar to natural essential oils, they do not have the same therapeutic benefits or medicinal properties that essential oils possess.”


Scent aside, it is these therapeutic and medicinal properties that make them an obvious choice, with their benefits lingering longer after they leave your olfactory bulbs. 


“Essential oils are excellent when considering the emotional and psychological aspects of aromatherapy,” says Samperi. “They can be incredibly effective in helping to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. When inhaled, essential oils can stimulate the limbic system in the brain, which is responsible for regulating emotions, memory, and behaviour.”


“Different essential oils have different effects on the brain due to their unique chemical composition,” says Samperi. “For example, Lavender essential oil is known to have a calming effect on the mind and body, which makes it useful for promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. Peppermint essential oil has a stimulating and invigorating effect, which makes it useful for enhancing mental clarity and focus. By using the appropriate essential oil, aromatherapy can help to positively influence mood, mental health, and overall wellbeing.”

When it comes to creating a unique scent, there are many factors at play. “The key is to first understand the brief of the blend, and then match it with the appropriate essential oils,” explains Samperi of his process. “In a very basic sense, it is true that we need to look at it from a base, mid and top note perspective. Similar to creating taste when cooking, the scent needs to be layered to create intrigue. Our idea of a great scent is when you keep coming back to the scent, wanting to work out the individual notes in the blend.”


“As an example, if we are trying to create a Lavender-type blend, the key is to find oils that highlight the Lavender, but at the same time pique interest by either complimenting it, or slightly taking the focus from it. So, in this case, the Lavender could well be the base or mid note, whilst we look to layer it with other oils.”


“From a brand perspective, it is important that the scent matches the brand ethos. In the case of IKKARI, the scents were created with health benefits as the top priority, but we were able to also create scents both beautiful and intriguing.”