Pandemic Preparedness FREE Online How-To Course – BioDefense.com

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Pandemic Preparedness FREE Online How-To Course – BioDefense.com.

pandemicI encourage EVERYONE to go to this site by BioDefense.com. These videos explain how to protect yourself and your family from a very real possibility of a national and even world pandemic.

It’s worth listening to and staying connected to this site by BioDefense.com.

How Home Gardeners Can Change the Local Food System

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How Home Gardeners Can Change the Local Food System.

home gardenerBy Dr. Mercola

According to a survey by Gardeners’ World magazine,1 80 percent of gardeners reported being happy and satisfied with their lives, compared to 67 percent of non-gardeners. This feeling of well being can have other more-far reaching implications for your physical health as well. According to research from Johns Hopkins,2 having a cheerful temperament can significantly reduce your odds of suffering a heart attack or sudden cardiac death.3

When you think about world hunger, do you consider the role you might play with regard to food waste? Therein lies the problem, according to Gary Oppenheimer, creator of AmpleHarvest.org. According to Oppenheimer, the reason we keep spending a lot of time and money trying to feed the hungry without ever resolving the problem is because most approaches fail to address food waste.

Tens of millions of growers throw away food from their gardens while their neighbors go hungry. Likewise, Americans throw away about a pound of food per person per day. In 2008, that equated to about one billion pounds of food per year.

AmpleHarvest.org4 addresses the problem of hunger by providing a whole new supply channel for food that would otherwise go to waste.

Rather than buying and distributing food, the organization connects growers with local food pantries. In this way, food can be more efficiently distributed to those who need it most, while eliminating waste all at the same time. If you’re not a gardener, I would suggest passing this information along to friends and neighbors who do garden, or better yet, your local farmer. In his talk at Google above, Oppenheimer discusses:

  1. Food waste
  2. The impact of food waste
  3. The solution to food waste and hunger
  4. Future developments—combating waste and hunger on an even larger scale

Americans Waste Enormous Amounts of Food

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the US threw away $161 billion-worth of food in 2010. One-third of the food produced in the US simply didn’t get consumed.

In 2012, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report stating that 40 percent of the food in the US was wasted. This represents about 20 pounds of food per person per month. Not only that, but 32 percent of our available water was also wasted in the process.

Fruit and vegetables account for 14 percent and 19 percent of the waste respectively. In terms of amounts, nearly 18.5 billion pounds of fruit is thrown away annually, along with more than 25 billion pounds of vegetables.

However, these reports did not include home gardeners in their calculations, Oppenheimer notes. According to the National Gardener Association, 35 percent of all households across the US grow their own food, harvesting on average 300 pounds of food per year (compressed into the growing seasons).

Home gardeners also throw away large portions of their harvests. As noted by Oppenheimer, the food waste among home gardeners stem from:

  • Overplanting, thereby producing more than you can actually eat
  • Inability to share the excess with friends or neighbors
  • Not preserving or canning the excess
  • Becoming overwhelmed by the continuous food production; by the end of the season, when plants are still producing food, many will simply toss it into the compost bin or garbage

America Has a Significant Hunger Problem

One in six Americans is “food insecure,” meaning they’re either hungry or at risk of going hungry on a regular basis. One in four American children under the age of six lives in a food insecure home. Among Hispanics, the number is even greater—one in three.

Due to lack of nutrition, these children perform poorly in school, and malnourished adults also perform below par at work. As noted by Oppenheimer, by not nourishing our population, we’re hurting the economy of today and tomorrow.

Health care costs are among the financial factors to be taken into consideration, as poor diets significantly contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and related illnesses.

Our Current Food Distribution System Is at the Heart of the Problem

In his talk, Oppenheimer describes and compares the current food bank distribution system to the system his organization proposes. At present, an organization called Feeding America coordinates about 203 food banks across the nation. These food banks collect and redistribute food to 33,500 different food pantries and food kitchens that feed the needy.

This system works well for processed foods, as they have a long shelf life. The distribution cycle in this system is rather lengthy; it can take days or weeks from food to travel from the food bank to the consumer. Hence, fresh foods are excluded. You simply cannot donate fresh foods as they will rot by the time they reach the soup kitchen.

So, despite the fact that billions of pounds of fresh foods are available, the distribution system simply does not allow those foods to enter the system and reach those who need it the most. Instead, all that fresh nutritious food is tossed into compost heaps or landfills. Meanwhile, the poor end up eating nothing but processed fare, which we know is the root cause of obesity and chronic disease.

Reinventing a More Sustainable Food System to Combat Hunger

Oppenheimer’s idea was to connect the people with too much food in their home gardens with those who really need it. In order to do so, he realized we have to bypass the food bank, and donate the food directly to the local food pantry or soup kitchen.

AmpleHarvest.org works like other search engines. You can search the database to find a local food pantry in the US that has opted in to participate and therefore will accept donations of fresh produce. The software currently does not provide links to food pantries outside the US. This system has a number of beneficial “side effects,” including:

  • A more efficient food system
  • Better nutrition for the underprivileged
  • Community building
  • Beneficial environmental impacts

AmpleHarvest.org launched in 2009, and today has a database of nearly 7,000 participating food pantries across the nation—one out of every five food pantries has signed up. It’s worth noting that the feedback from these food pantries is that fresh foods are overwhelmingly popular. These are the foods that disappear first. A common notion is that people will choose processed foods over fresh foods whenever given the chance, but the reality appears to be quite different.

What Makes AmpleHarvest So Extraordinary?

Oppenheimer’s idea really demonstrates how simple ideas can revolutionize our food system. It doesn’t have to be complicated. On the contrary, its simplicity is its strength. The system is very efficient, as it only moves information, not food, and associated costs are a mere fraction of other national food programs.

It’s also universal in that it can work in any community, large or small. And it works with both home growers and larger farms. It’s also a community builder, which in and of itself has benefits that can hardly be measured in dollars and cents. Last but not least, it directly addresses pressing health concerns; combating childhood obesity and related diseases by improving nutrition. It also benefits the environment.

Next Up: Connecting Farmers with Gleaning Organizations

The AmpleHarvest.org is now bringing this system into the big leagues. GleaningHarvest.org will work to distribute much larger amounts of leftover food from farms across the country. One major source of food waste is cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables. These foods are simply thrown away because stores “can’t” sell them. Again, the idea is that consumers demand perfect-looking foods, but even here, old assumptions are being challenged and overturned.

In France, the third-largest supermarket chain Intermarche decided to fight food waste by creating an “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign. Large signs promote “the Grotesque Apple,” “the Ridiculous Potato,” the Hideous Orange,” “the Disfigured Eggplant,” “the Unfortunate Clementine,” and more. These foods are given their own section of the store, and are sold at reduced prices. Lo and behold, these “Failed Lemons” started selling out almost immediately.

GleaningHarvest.org will connect gleaning organizations to farms in the same way AmpleHarvest connects home gardeners with local food pantries. What is “gleaning”? As explained by Food Network:5 “Gleaning is a way of gathering vegetables and fruits in the field that would otherwise be left to rot or be plowed under after harvest. Instead of having this good food go to waste, the gleaning program allows those in need to pick (or glean) the produce in the field for themselves and their family at no cost.”

One Dozen Ways to Eliminate Your Food Waste

Food waste is a reality in most homes. You can drastically reduce the amount of food you toss in the garbage by implementing the following strategies. Please also refer to our previous article about proper food storage and how to keep your food items fresher.

1 Shop Wisely Plan meals, use shopping lists, and avoid impulse buys and “buy one, get one free” deals, unless you’re certain you’ll eat it.
2 Buy Local Locally produced foods are fresher and keep longer, as well as having a smaller ecological footprint.
3 Buy Funny-Looking Fruits and Veggies Buying the “ugly ducklings” of the produce section makes use of food that might otherwise go to waste.
4 Learn When Food Goes Bad Use-by and best-by dates are only manufacturer suggestions and may cause you to discard food when it is still safe and consumable. Many foods are safe and consumable well after their use-by date.
5 Use Your Freezer Freeze fresh produce and leftovers if you won’t have a chance to eat them before they go bad.
6 Vacuum Pack One of my all-time favorite tricks, which works for most produce, is to create a “vacuum pack” to help protect food from oxygen and airborne microbes that will accelerate its decay. Leave the produce in the bag it came in from the grocery store, place it against your chest, and use your arm to squeeze the excess air out of the bag. Then seal it with a twist tie. Or use an automatic vacuum sealer like the FoodSaver.
7 Start Juicing Juicing is an excellent way to use up aging produce while improving your health at the same time. Vegetable juicing also helps with weight management and is a great adjunct to home gardening. You can also compost the pulp.
8 Request Smaller Portions Restaurants will often provide half-portions upon request at reduced prices.
9 Eat Leftovers Only about half of Americans take leftovers home from restaurants and actually eat them. Avoid this kind of waste.
10 Compost Food Scraps Composting food scraps recycles their nutrients and can reduce their ecological impact. It benefits soil, plants, and the greater environment. Composting is not as difficult as you might think. Read all about composting here.
11 Grow Your Own Food Start your own vegetable garden! With the square foot gardening technique, even apartment dwellers can learn a simple technique for growing veggies on a small patio.
12 Donate Food Donate excess food and garden produce to food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, shelters—and your friends and neighbors.

You Can Be Part of the Solution

Food waste has become an enormous problem worldwide, as the latest statistics suggest. Fortunately, you can do a number of things to reduce your own food waste, and if your garden produces more than you know what to do with, you can also be a game changer in your own community by donating your excess harvest to a local food pantry. AmpleHarvest.org’s database will tell you where the nearest food pantry accepting fresh foods is. And, if your local food pantry is not yet in the database, you may want to bring AmpleHarvest to its attention so that they may sign up. Again, if you’re not a gardener, please consider passing this information along to friends and neighbors who garden, and/or your local farmer.

(click the link at the top to read more from mercola.com)

National Vaccine Information Center Calls for Removal of Vaccine Safety Oversight from Department of Health and Human Services

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National Vaccine Information Center Calls for Removal of Vaccine Safety Oversight from Department of Health and Human Services.

vaccine safetyBy Barbara Loe Fisher

On Aug. 27, 2014 a senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1 publicly admitted2 that he and other CDC officials, including the current CDC’s Director of Immunization Safety,3, 4 published a study about MMR vaccine safety in 20045 that “omitted statistically significant information” and “did not follow the final study protocol. “He said the study “omitted relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub group for a particular vaccine” and added that “there have always been recognized risks for vaccination” and “it is the responsibility for the CDC to properly convey [vaccine] risks.”

CDC: A History of Limiting Transparency

We couldn’t agree more. CDC officials should not be in the business of deliberately withholding information from the public about vaccine risks that may be greater for some children than other children.6 Unfortunately, CDC officials have a long history of limiting transparency7, 8 and being less than honest with the American people about what it does and does not know about vaccine risks.9, 10

Last July, a RAND Corporation study commissioned and funded by DHHS was published proclaiming that vaccines “are very safe.”11 What was not made clear to the public was that the study was designed and peer reviewed by high-level CDC officials, including the CDC’s Director of Immunization Safety.12

This is a big problem for parents being ordered to give their children every government recommended vaccine – no exceptions and no questions asked.13, 14

NVIC Calls on Congress to Take Action on DHHS Conflicts of Interest

Today, the National Vaccine Information Center is renewing our call for oversight of vaccine safety to be removed from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).15

It is a conflict of interest for DHHS to be in charge of vaccine safety and also license vaccines,16 and take money from drug companies to fast track vaccines,17 and partner with drug companies to develop and share profits from vaccine sales,18 and make national vaccine policies19 that get turned into state vaccine laws20 while also deciding which children will and will not get a vaccine injury compensation award.21, 22

That is too much power for one federal agency. That is putting the fox in charge of guarding the chicken coop.

Vaccination Can Cause Brain Inflammation and Injury

Especially when it has been known since the first vaccine for smallpox that vaccination can cause brain inflammation23, 24 25, 26, 27 and a wide spectrum of brain injury symptoms, like developmental delays and disabilities.28, 29, 30

It is very telling that Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have declared that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” and completely shielded drug companies from vaccine injury lawsuits.31, 32 In America, if you or your child gets hurt by a vaccine, you can’t hold anyone who developed, regulated, recommended, marketed, mandated, administered, or profits from the vaccine accountable in a civil court of law in front of a jury of your peers.

Parents Concerns About Vaccine Safety Legitimate

The recent statement by a CDC senior scientist admitting that vaccine risk data is being withheld from the public is just one more piece of evidence that parents’ questions and concerns about vaccine safety are legitimate.

Congress should act now and take vaccine safety monitoring away from DHHS.

The health of our children is at stake.

Contact Your U.S. Senator and Representative

Contact your U.S. Senator and Representative today and tell them you want something done about conflicts of interest in the nation’s vaccination system.33, 34 If your child’s health has been harmed by vaccination, tell them about that too.

Go to NVIC.org and learn more about making informed vaccine decisions and protecting your informed consent rights.

It’s your health. Your family. Your choice.

(click the link above to read more on mercola.com)

Blind Mole Rats and a Key to Fighting Cancer

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Could This Tiny Blind Mole Rat Hold the Key to Fighting Cancer?.

blind mole rat and fighting cancerBy Dr. Becker

What small mammal lives underground, excavates with his teeth, has eyes completely covered with skin, and lives for over 20 years? The answer? Why, the blind mole rat of course.

And now scientists have sequenced the genome of this unassuming little fellow because, like his slightly less adorable distant relative the naked mole rat, the blind mole rat is also resistant to cancer. The genome study appears in the June 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communications.1

According to the researchers, the results of genome sequencing have revealed information about the mole rat’s lack of eyesight, as well as its high tolerance for low oxygen (hypoxia). They also believe they’ve discovered important secrets about the little creature’s special cancer-fighting powers.

How Blind Mole Rats Defeat Cancer

Lead study author Eviatar Nevo of the University of Haifa in Israel has been studying blind mole rats for a half-century, and has never encountered any evidence of spontaneous tumor development in the little mammals. Even when directly exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, the mole rats remain remarkably resistant.

In most animals, cells that detect the presence of cancer shut themselves down in a phenomenon known as apoptosis, or programmed cell death. But when a blind mole rat’s cells identify a problem, the immune system mounts an attack on the tumor instead and causes necrosis (death). According to the results of genome sequencing, the genes involved in the moles’ impressive immune system response have been selected through evolution to be expanded or replicated.

The researchers speculate that the mole rat’s unusual immune response is because one of the key facilitators of apoptosis, a protein called p53, is altered in the rodents as part of their adaptation to a low oxygen environment.

In the underground world that blind mole rats inhabit, oxygen is scarce — a situation that would send the p53 protein of other animals into overdrive. That’s because low oxygen environments cause programmed cell death in other species. Obviously, if this were also the case with blind mole rats, there would be no more blind mole rats. So they have evolved with a relatively weak p53 response, but a turbocharged immune system necrotic defense that “cancer doesn’t know how to deal with,” according to study co-author Dr. Denis Larkin of the Royal Veterinary College in London, in an interview with BBC News.

The blind mole rat genome study was conducted by a large team of scientists from all over the world. According to Dr. Larkin, their research puts the rodent in a whole new category for future research. “When you have the whole genome… you can more efficiently use the species as a model – for cancer resistance, or adaptation to hypoxia, or other medical challenges,” he told the BBC.

Facts About the Blind Mole Rat

Blind mole rats are furry, with cylindrical bodies, short limbs, and surprisingly small feet and claws, given that they are burrowers. Their eyes are tiny and hidden beneath skin, their ears appear as slight folds, and their minute tails are not externally visible. Sensory whiskers sprout from a flat nose and extend backward.

The mole rats weigh from 3.5 ounces to a little over a pound and range in length from 5 to 14 inches. Their fur is soft and thick, and may be pale to reddish brown or gray. The front of the head is usually lighter in color than the back, and there may be white or yellow stripes that run along the sides of the head or down the middle from nose to forehead.

These little creatures are territorial and solitary. They dig burrows with their incisors, push the loose dirt under their tummies with their front feet, and kick it behind them with their hind feet. When a nice sized pile of soil has collected behind him, the mole rat turns around and uses his nose to pack some of the dirt against the burrow wall. Then he finishes by using his head to push any leftover debris back through the tunnel and up onto the surface.

Blind mole rat burrows can be anywhere from 4 to 10 inches below ground, and they use them to search for food. Their diet consists primarily of roots, tubers, and bulbs, to which they add seeds and green plant parts from occasional nighttime trips to the surface to forage.

The tunnels contain vertical passageways that lead to deeper “hallways” off which the mole rats build separate rooms for food storage, nesting, and elimination. During wet seasons, females construct large mounds that contain chambers for mating and child-rearing. Gestation takes about a month, and there can be from one to five babies in a litter.

Despite their somewhat similar appearance, interestingly, the blind mole rat (Spalax galili) is not closely related to the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber). According to the results of the genome sequencing study, the two mole rats set off on different evolutionary paths some 70 million years ago, and have adapted completely separately to life underground.

Believe it or not, the blind mole rat is actually more closely related to the common house mouse than the naked mole rat!

(click the link at the top to read more from Dr. Becker)

Essential Oils Support Physical and Emotional Well-Being

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Essential Oils Support Physical and Emotional Well-Being.

Rosemary Essential OilsBy Dr. Mercola

Your sense of smell is your most primal sense and exerts surprising influence over your thoughts, emotions, moods, memories, and behaviors. Scents are experienced long before words.

This is why it’s nearly impossible to describe them with language. Olfaction is different from your other senses, processed through different pathways in your brain.

For other sensations such as sounds and visual images, sensory input is delivered straight to your thalamus, which you can think of as “the big switchboard” in your head. From there, data goes out to your primary sensory cortices.

But smells are different. Before reaching your thalamus, they first wind their way through other regions of your brain, including areas controlling memory and emotion. So with scents, you have all this extra processing even before you have conscious awareness of the scent.1

For this reason, scents can have a powerful influence over how you think, feel, and behave. Aromatherapy allows you to harness the olfactory power of plants for healing, or simply to enhance your state of well-being.

Essential oils carry biologically active volatile compounds in a highly concentrated form that can provide therapeutic benefits in very small amounts. Please understand that I am referring to pure, therapeutic grade essential oils from plants, NOT synthetic fragrances and perfumes, which can be toxic and are typically loaded with allergenic compounds.

Aromatherapy Was Used to Treat the Plague

The use of fragrances has been around for thousands of years, although traditions and methodologies have changed through the ages. According to “The Smell Report,”2 the process of extracting and preserving a flower’s scent using alcohol distillation was discovered by Avicenna.

Avicenna was an 11th century Arabian alchemist and physician, who sort of stumbled upon it while “trying to isolate for Islam the soul of its holy rose.” Before this, perfumes consisted only of thick resins, gums, and gooey unguents.

Back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, physicians promoted the therapeutic use of scents, including Hippocrates, Galen, and Crito. Even the plague was treated with fragrances!3

It wasn’t until the early nineteenth century that the medicinal use of aromatics was largely discredited by scientists who favored drugs. Fortunately, aromatherapy is now making a strong comeback, moving steadily in the direction of mainstream.

How Essential Oils Can Help with Several Common Maladies

There are probably as many uses for aromatherapy as there are essential oils, but research shows particular promise in relieving stress, stabilizing your mood, improving sleep, pain, and nausea relief, and improving your memory and energy level.

An important element of aromatherapy is synergy, which is why using a combination of oils often creates a much more powerful effect than any one particular oil. With a skilled aromatherapist, the possibilities are nearly endless!

In order to give you an idea of the versatility of aromatherapy, the following table lists some of the therapeutic uses of several oils for a few of today’s most common complaints. As you can see, there are some real “multitaskers,” like lavender and peppermint—oils that treat more than one problem.4

Many of these are discussed in an excellent article in The Huffington Post5 about scents that can enhance your well-being. For further information, refer to the resource section at the bottom of this article.

Complaint Essential Oils
Stress Lavender, lemon, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, pine, and ylang ylang
Insomnia Lavender,6 chamomile, jasmine, benzoin, neroli, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang ylang; lemon can wake you up7
Anxiety Lavender, bergamot, rose, clary sage, lemon, Roman chamomile, orange, sandalwood, rose-scented geranium, and pine8
Depressed mood Peppermint, chamomile, lavender, and jasmine9
Pain Lavender, chamomile, clary sage, juniper, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, and green apple (especially for migraines)
Nausea and vomiting Mint, ginger, lemon, orange, ginger, dill, fennel, chamomile, clary sage, and lavender
Memory and attention Sage, peppermint,10 and cinnamon
Low energy Black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, angelica, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, sage, and citrus

The Science of Smell

Why does the fishy scent of a beach make one person retch while evoking feelings of expansiveness and joy in another? These variations in responses to scents tie into the special brain pathways of your olfactory system. Olfactory information is stored or encoded with all sorts of memories and associations in your brain.

The neurological substrates of olfaction are especially geared for associative learning (in your hippocampus) and emotional processing (in your amygdala).11Kate Fox explains it well in “The Smell Report”:12

“Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as, for example, ‘vanilla,’ the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep-seated emotional responses.”

A number of studies have shown that odor learning begins before birth. A fetus detects flavor/odor compounds in its amniotic fluid, from the mother’s diet. In studies where a mothers’ consumption of distinctive smelling substances such as garlic, alcohol, or cigarette smoke were monitored during pregnancy, their infants were found to prefer these scents more than infants who had not been exposed to them.13

After birth, newborns locate their mothers’ nipples by smell. Breastfeeding also influences scent preferences; babies will associate breastfeeding smells with maternal bonding and the comfort of their mothers’ arms.  According to a recent study14, babies can even smell their mothers’ fears and learn the dangers of the world, just days after birth. When mothers experience stress, their body releases a scent that their baby detects and responds to.

Scent preferences change along with developmental stages. Studies show that three-year-olds have essentially the same likes and dislikes as adults. Children do not develop sensitivity to certain odors until they reach puberty. Researchers have also found that olfactory receptors differ by as much as 30 percent between any two individuals.15 On tests of smelling ability, women consistently score higher than men, and this gender difference holds true even for newborns!16

In summary, your responses to scents are largely “learned” as a function of the emotional context in which they were first experienced, and then the association influences your mood and behavior later in life. Naturally, there are genetic differences as well. Do you LOVE the smell of cilantro—or do you think it smells like soap? If the latter is true, you may be an olfactory mutant… literally.17

We Are MUCH Better Smellers Than We Thought

Since the 1920s, scientists have believed that the human nose was capable of detecting about 10,000 odors, but a new study published in the journal Science shows this estimate is way off the mark. In the first empirical study ever done, researchers at Rockefeller University discovered the human nose can discriminate more than one trillion olfactory stimuli!18 The least successful smeller is now thought to be capable of smelling about 80 million unique scents, but if you’re a super-sniffer, you can detect a spectacular one thousand trillion scents.19
This discovery begins to explain why studies are now finding that the human olfactory system is able to detect factors such as fear, disgust, age,20 and gender.21 Yes, studies show you can identify the age or gender of another person simply by his or her smell. A mother can identify an infant by smell alone after holding the child for just one hour, even others than her own.

It used to be thought that humans did not produce (or sense) pheromones, but many scent scientists are revising their beliefs about this. A study out of New York’s Stony Brook University found people who are scared do indeed give off “fear pheromones” in their sweat—hormones that trigger parts of your brain that are subconsciously associated with fear. This may explain why an individual with a fear of flying can trigger anxiety in other passengers who would not normally be afraid—the fear pheromone can trigger similar emotions in others who happen to catch a whiff.22 The same researchers also found that disgust can be “contagious.”23

Scents Can Alter Your Nervous System

Scents can actually change your nervous system biochemistry. A Japanese study found that inhaling essential oils can modulate your sympathetic nervous system activity. Certain oils were found to be stimulating, while others were found to be calming. For example:24

  • Black pepper, fennel, and grapefruit oil caused a 1.5-to 2.5-fold increase in sympathetic nervous system activity (as measured by an increase in systolic blood pressure)
  • Rose and patchouli oil resulted in a 40 percent decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity
  • Pepper oil induced a 1.7-fold increase in plasma adrenaline concentration, while rose oil caused adrenaline to drop by 30 percent
  • Other oils have been shown to measurably decrease stress hormones—inhaling lavender and rosemary were shown to reduce cortisol levels.25

As mentioned earlier, scents play a powerful role in memories, especially emotional memories. Olfactory input is routed through your amygdala and hippocampus (which process emotion), but bypasses your brain’s higher cortical areas, the “thinking parts.”26 This suggests aromatherapy might possibly be helpful to those with dementia, although research thus far has produced mixed results.

From Onions to Cow Manure: Smell Is in the Nose of the Beholder

As you might expect, cultural differences contribute to what smells enhance your feelings of happiness, versus making you want to flee to the nearest open window. Scent preferences differ dramatically across cultural lines. In many non-Western cultures, smell is regarded with much more importance and even reverence. For example, among the Ongee of the Andaman Islands, the universe and everything in it is defined by smell.

Their calendar is based on the aromas of flowers that bloom at different times of the year. When greeting someone, the Ongee do not ask, “How are you?” but rather, “Konyune onorange-tanka?” which translates to, “How is your nose?”27 For the cattle-raising Dassanetch of Ethiopia, no bouquet is more beautiful than a herd of cows. The men wash their hands in cattle urine and smear their bodies with manure to make themselves more attractive to the ladies. The Dogon of Mali rub fried onions all over their bodies, as it’s the most highly desirable perfume!

Although we have convincing evidence that pleasant fragrances can improve your sense of well-being, some recent studies suggest it’s your expectation about an odor, rather than the odor itself, that may be responsible for the mood and effects produced—essentially the placebo effect. Could merely thinking about lavender oil make you calm? In one experiment, researchers found that just telling subjects that a pleasant or unpleasant odor was being administered, which they might not be able to smell, affected their mood, symptoms, and sense of well-being.28

A Few Resources I’ve Sniffed Out for You

Aromatherapy can be a beneficial adjunct to your overall health plan. It’s not a replacement for wise lifestyle choices like good nutrition and exercise, but it is an excellent way to further enhance your physical and emotional health. Aromatherapy is also one more tool you can keep in your tool bag for managing everyday stress, balancing out mood swings, and improving your sleep. Your nose is probably an underappreciated resource, so perhaps it’s time to make some use of it! Whether you seek out a trained aromatherapist or adopt a DIY approach, the following are a few resources you might find useful.

  • National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA): Everything about the medicinal use of aromatic plants and the holistic practice of aromatherapy
  • Aroma Web: A directory of aromatherapy information, tips, recipes, sources, including a regional aromatherapy business directory
  • American Botanical Council: Herbal medicine information that includes an herb library and clinical guide to herbs
  • Herb Med: Interactive electronic herb database (some information is free, but full access requires a fee)

(click the link at the top to read on mercola.com)