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Essential oils enhance romance

Although my husband tells me he fell in love with me at first sight (he’s romantic like that!), I think aromatherapy might have had a little bit to do with his romantic mood.

When we started dating, my apartment was scented with patchouli, one of my three favorite sensual essential oils. I used the oil on light bulbs, drizzling on a drop or two so when the bulb warmed up, the exotic aroma infused the entire room. Whenever we shop at a store selling incense or oils, patchouli is the scent that often dominates, and my man is instantly transported back in time to the beginning of our relationship. Those shopping trips and the memories they trigger definitely play a role in our enduring partnership, which has lasted more than a decade.

Scents can seduce and tempt

While men are more hardwired to respond to visual cues when it comes to sexual stimulation – why else would politicians risk their careers sending a specific type of selfie thinking it would be happily received? - aroma is still a powerful seductress, and according to Dr. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation of Chicago, although each man is different, certain aromas almost universally trigger the areas of the brain that are associated with arousal.

That’s why essential oils are so often considered aphrodisiacs, a word that originated with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

“Pleasant aromas can actually stimulate parts of the brain directly connected to sexual desire,” Hirsch told Cosmopolitan magazine. “Fragrance is the quickest way to tap into and change a guy's mood.” 1

Because aroma is more closely connected to memories than other senses, once an aroma has stimulated romantic thoughts, the scent will continue to conjure up the same sexy memories, giving couples a signature scent that is as powerful and important to their relationship as their favorite song.

Olfactory memory is so powerful because of where the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that processes smell, is located.

The olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system, which also includes the amygdala, where emotions are processed, and the hippocampus, which is tasked with managing associative learning. 2

Because the region’s elements are so closely connected - the olfactory system sends the information it gathers via neurotransmitters to the rest of the limbic system – scent, memory, mood, and emotion are intimately linked.

Scent, mood, and attraction: An age-old love story

The link between scents, mood, memory and emotion and the responses they trigger – like the fight-or-flight rush of cortisol that accompanies stressful situations – is also one that carries over from our caveman days.

According to Jeannette Haviland-Jones, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, the brain has since primitive times used smell to determine the appeal of a potential mate. That’s part pheromone – chemicals we secrete that help determine our attractiveness to a potential mate – and part preference, such as my husband’s learned sense of appreciation for patchouli.

There are some universals, however. The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation did a study to determine which aromas men found most attractive, and in most cases, it wasn’t perfume that turned them on.

The most common aphrodisiacs are essential oils, and although the idea of finding the right essential oil to trigger feelings of romance may seem daunting, most men are aroused by more traditional scents.

Essential oils work because compounds in essential oils are able to pass the blood-brain barrier, where smells are detected by neurons and then passed to the brain along the olfactory nerve to the olfactory bulb and other parts of the brain, which sends sexy signals to the rest of the body.

Scents men love

If you’re looking to turn your partner on with essential oils, simple is most often the most effective. Men are attracted to warm, comforting aromas, such as chocolate cookies fresh from the oven, a recipe that combines the top two essentials on our list.

    • Vanilla . Perhaps it’s the warm, rich, familiarity of the scent, but vanilla’s connection to sexuality dates back to the 1700s, when it was used as an old-world version of Viagra. In 1762, German doctor Bezaar Zimmermann wrote that as many as 342 men with erectile dysfunction found their problems erased by drinking a vanilla-based beverage, which transformed them “into astonishing lovers of at least as many women.” But even before Zimmermann’s studies, vanilla played a major role in an ancient love story, when a princess from the Totonacs tribe indigenous to Mexico fell in love with a commoner, and fled into the forest with her beloved so the two could be together. Eventually, however, the two were captured and they were both beheaded. Miraculously, though, where their blood spilled on the ground, a vanilla orchid grew, forever connecting ‘til-death-do-us-part love and the sweet, warm aroma of vanilla. 5 If you don’t want to dab vanilla essential oil on pulse points to attract your man, Guerlain’s Shalimar has notes of vanilla brightened by citrus, giving it a double shot of sex appeal.

    • Chocolate. While vanilla is a warm, sweet essential oil, chocolate, or cacao, is a darker, more decadent essential oil that is also considered a powerful aphrodisiac. According to the New York Times, Montezuma – an Aztec god – consumed copious amounts of cocoa before his romantic trysts to ensure virility, and a quick Google search reveals that he fathered at least three children. Cacao’s lusty allure can be traced to the powerful compound phenylethylamine, known as the love drug because it boosts the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, elevating feelings of pleasure. It also stimulates production of endorphins and dopamine, amplifying the head-over-heels feelings we get when we fall in love. 6

    • Cinnamon . Another nostalgic scent, cinnamon essential oil was used by the Queen of Sheba to seduce King Solomon almost a thousand years before the birth of Christ, and in 1994, a study from Hirsch found that cinnamon is still considered just as sexy. Researchers found that the smell of cinnamon buns topped the list of sexually stimulating aromas, suggesting that adding cinnamon to a diffuser could be an effective way to get your guy in the mood for love.

    • Citrus. In Hirsch’s study, 20 percent of the men who participated were aroused by the vibrant, sun-kissed aroma of fresh-squeezed citrus fruit, which is associated with sandy beaches, tropical heat, and sweet, ripe, juicy fruit. Need we say more? Our Sexy blend includes lime (along with jasmine for a floral note that adds a touch of sweetness to the patchouli), but the world of citrus offers many different scents, including neroli, bergamot, sweet orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon and lime, each with its own distinct aroma that can stand alone or be used to soften and enhance a stronger essential oil.

Scents that turn women on

Research has shown that women have a better sense of smell than men – a 2015 study found that women had 50 percent more olfactory cells than men, and most of them were connected to emotions 7 – so they are more likely than men to be aroused by scent.

Women are also more likely to need a libido boost. There are many reasons for a low libido, but hormone loss after menopause, busy lives spent juggling, work, family responsibilities and bills, and a wide range of other issues can put a desire for sex on the back burner. And the thing about sex is, the less you do it, the less interesting it is. Terri Orbuch, author of “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage form Good to Great,” told Women’s Health magazine that regular sex keeps levels of oxytocin – a feel-good endorphin – high, but levels dwindle when sex stops, causing desire to also take a nosedive.

Finding something to enhance the mood can turn a lackluster sex life into one with all the fireworks, an aroma is a powerful option. Leather is one of those scents that seems to impact the senses. (It could also explain the popularity of the erotic book series “Fifty Shades of Gray,” which features bondage and discipline with leather riding crops.)

But if you are feeling too old to have a tryst in the car, there are lots of aromatherapy options that get women in the mood for romance, and the list isn’t all that different that the one featuring those that appeal to men.

    • Chocolate. The phenylethylamine in cacao essential oil impacts the female brain in the same way it does the main brain. The scent elevates the heart rate while sending serotonin levels higher, so feel-good hormones take over, and lust is more likely.

    • Star anise essential oil. Black licorice was an aroma that elevated arousal levels in 30 percent of the men who participated in the study from Hirsch’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. As it happens, the oil from the seeds of star anise can also boost sexual desire in women.

    • Jasmine essential oil. Universally considered an aphrodisiac, jasmine essential oil is the third essential oil in our Sexy blend. Warm, seductive florals make jasmine a favorite perfume additive, and a turn-on for women who want to boost their libido while seeming sexier to their man.

    • Clary sage. Clary sage, a perennial native to the Mediterranean, helps increase sexual desire by decreasing inhibitions and balancing hormones, so arousal, traditionally more difficult for women because even during sex, her brain is multi-tasking 8 is easier.

    • Rose essential oil. If the scent of roses brings to mind flower petals scattered across a bed of satin sheets, this is the oil for you. A favorite of Aphrodite, roses are considered almost universally sexy, and the aroma of rose oil is said to lower a women’s inhibitions. (That’s not to say that women can be encouraged to have sex against their will with just a whiff of rose oil.) Rather, rose essential oil is ideal for women who have a hard time relaxing and releasing their inhibitions even when they are in a consenting situation. Aromatherapy helps encourage relaxation and can inspire more satisfying sexual experiences, once those inhibitions have slipped away.

Of course, what works for one person may not work for another. For example, if your grandmother wore “Roses, Roses,” a perfume sold by Avon for many years, you’re likely not going to respond positively to that particular essential oil.

“We’re all unique individuals and we all respond differently to different things,” said Rutgers University professor emerita Dr. Beverly Whipple, famous for coining the term “G-Spot” – and giving women another erogenous zone worthy of some attention – in 1980.

Women also want romance, which makes any intimate encounter for her sexier.

The aromas of the right blends trigger the release of neurotransmitters that almost instantly go to work, increasing feelings of calm, happiness and arousal.

We explored those neurotransmitters in depth in a recent blog, where we also talked about scent memories, which demonstrates the sheer power of aroma, and gives us an idea why aromatherapy is such an effective alternative treatment for stress, depression and anxiety – and why they can be so effective at boosting feelings of love and romance.

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