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Aromatherapy has an element of nostalgia to it. Scents can remind you of people or events in your life and arouse the emotions that were associated with them. Certain previously encountered aromas can trigger strong emotional responses.


For example, I used to wear a particular deodorant when I was studying at university. CrocodileOne year we had a Zoology project for Anatomy and Physiology that involved a year-old culled crocodile and the mounting of its bones. I was in my element! I loved every step of the process. There was the skinning and defleshing, the boiling of the carcass to make the remaining flesh and connective tissue gel-like and easier to remove. Then there was the scrubbing of the bones, de-greasing in ammonia, bleaching in peroxide and then re-articulation (the best 3D puzzle I have ever done!!). I was up to my elbows in crocodile goop and loving it.


My mom, on the other hand, was not quite so happy. Like the supportive mother she is, she would bring me coffee while I worked (read: had fun) and watch in morbid fascination until disgust got the better of her. By the way, she was not too happy about her pot being used for the boiling; or the crocodile brains that got squirted over the driveway by the garden hose. But like all things, the project came to an end, leaving only memories. Happy ones for me, but nauseating ones for my mom. For the next few months, every time I would walk into a room, my mom would comment on how she smelled dead crocodile. Eventually we realised that the smell of my deodorant had become connected in her memories with the dead crocodile. Needless to say, I had to change my deodorant and my mom never smelled dead crocodile again.


Because of the nostalgic element of scents, the same aroma can elicit different emotional responses from different people. What is calming for one person could be a trigger for anxiety for another person. A scent that causes joy for some; may cause sadness for others. Aromatherapy for the mind, heart and soul is very personal and cannot be prescribed according to a universal standard. After all, my crocodile experience was completely different to my mom’s crocodile experience.