“Memories triggered by scent have some of the strongest emotional connections,” said Gloria Yuan. “They appear more intense than other memory triggers.”
A licensed aromatherapist, Yuan studied chemistry at university, and works as international trainer at Neal’s Yard Remedies (NYR), a pioneering organic skin and body care brand that’s also the United Kingdom’s largest high-street retailer of herbs-based remedies.
Yuan was in the Philippines recently to unveil NYR’s second counter, at Rustan’s Shangri-La, in time for Chinese New Year. She conducted a mini workshop on aromatherapy and creating personalized scents using essential oils, to teach one to “find inner strength through scents.”
The sense of smell taps onto the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory, she said. In today’s busy lifestyles, she added, people tend to “forget to pay attention to signals and memories.”
Just like Proust’s madeleine, Yuan said one can trigger one’s own memories that revitalize, uplift, or heal one’s body and soul.
“I personally love the smell of toast, or laundry that has dried under the sun. They bring me such joy,” she said.
Essential oils are “volatile molecules produced by plants for survival purposes,” Yuan said. Vetiver oil, for instance, is produced when bacteria attacks its roots.
“It’s a very good metaphor. Imagine that it has to go through pain in order to heal.”
Usually aromatic and fragrant, each essential oil has a unique scent profile and therapeutic property. They’re used in aromatherapy for their psychological and physical benefits. They’re also used for massages to ease tired muscles and energize the body, for bath and shower, for vaporization (as natural air freshener) and inhalation.
Four fragrance profiles
At the workshop, Yuan introduced four fragrance profiles of essential oils: Green, like eucalyptus and rosemary, which is refreshing and revitalizing; Floral (lavender, ylang-ylang), which represents creative energy and productivity; uplifting Citrus (bergamot, mandarin) for happiness; and Woody/Earthy (frankincense, cedarwood, vetiver), which signifies grounding, healing and focus.
NYR was the first high-street retailer to sell organic essential oils, and is noted for its role in popularizing aromatherapy as part of modern natural medicine.
NYR, also sells unfragrance-based products (face and body lotion, and bath oil) for customers who wish to create their own scents.
I created a dreamy, calming blend of bergamot, lavender, eucalyptus and vetiver in a pocket-size roll-on bottle that I like to apply on my palms and inhale when I’m feeling frazzled.
Since the mixture is organic and has no preservatives, Yuan said its shelf life is three months.
Neal’s Yard Remedies essential oils and bases are available at Rustan’s Makati and Rustan’s Shangri-La.