Our sense of smell is ten-thousand times more sensitive than our sense of taste, and about 80 percent of what we “taste” we really rather smell. We can actually taste only four flavors – sweet, sour, salty and bitter, with some researchers adding alkaline and metallic to the list, while the foodies among us adding pungent and “golden”, not to mention “umami” (which is also involved with “mouth-feel” if you really want to know). Everything else we call a flavor is really an odor. And the average dog can smell forty times better (and more) than we can!
The rhinencephalon is part of the limbic system where all basic life processes are regulated, such as heartbeat, respiration, body temperature and blood-sugar levels; it is the brain center where memories are activated, and is part of a primitive network of nerves that govern the “fight or flight” response, as in “the smell of danger”, as well as sexual impulses. In some places – Borneo, Burma and India, for example – the word for “kiss” means “smell”. A kiss can certainly be thought of as kind of prolonged smelling, and it has been observed that frequent prolonged smelling seems to make men’s beards grow faster.
If your partner ever comes back from four days of elk camp, all tired and dragged out, and mistakenly says “it’s good to smell you” instead of “see” you, well, maybe he really meant it! The so-called chemistry between lovers could be considered a response to acceptable pheromones, or specialized aromatic chemicals secreted by one individual that affects the sexual physiology of another. It’s a well-known phenomenon that a male moth will fly for miles on the wind of a single, ripe female in order to mate. An experiment was once conducted in a waiting room where a chair was dowsed with male sex hormones. Men tended to avoid the chair, while women took the seat much more often.
I hope you enjoy this series of posts on Aroma Therapy. I have always been an olfactory-sensitive being, sensing much from my surroundings through my nose, especially people. This sensitivity is sometimes a real downer because I know, I know, when a field or roadside has been sprayed with herbicide, and then I get all bummed out. It’s too easy to digress into that, but my sniffer also knows and loves the smell of blueberry pancakes, horse chestnut flowers, brand-new babies, and The White House Grill in Post Falls, Idaho – whoooo-eee! Makes me glad I’m alive!