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What smells so good in our sensory garden?

How and why some plants smell so good

Plants emit fragrance to attract pollinators, among other reasons, and we get to reap the benefit. A pleasant-smelling flower can brighten our day, lift our mood, and reduce stress. A whole garden of flowers and pleasant smelling plants is even greater. The variety of aromas that waft through the air of a sensory smell garden can cause significant improvement in both our health and overall wellness. But, how the smell?

The sweet aroma is made by invisible compounds that are released into the air in the form of essential oils. A subtle breeze can release these oils, or it could be released by our hands running through the leaves of an enticing plant. Where the plant stores these essential oils varies, but the purpose is the same--to communicate.

We decipher that communication by utilizing sensory receptors, which identify the aromatic compounds with the help of our brain. This translation of the compounds is sent to the limbic system to interpret the meaning and to communicate how you should react to that compound. For example, the limbic system is what tells you that basil is good, and that a skunk should be avoided.

This interpretation of the fragrance is largely based on passed experiences. Nothing like a smell to bring back vivid memories (cookies at grandma's house, perhaps). Because our brain usually interprets beautiful things as beneficial, it makes sense that we enjoy the light, airy scent of a beautiful rose.

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