The Alchemy of Scent & the Brain

Lakenda Wallace

Have you ever walked into a kitchen where cookies are baking? As you wade into the sweet aroma of sugar, flour, and vanilla you are transported for a second to your childhood. Sweet memories surface and you feel more "at home." 

Your sense of smell is directly linked to the memory center in your brain. This is why realtors bake cookies just before an Open House. They want you to associate the at-home-happy memories with the house they are trying to sell. Aromatherapy and natural perfumes work on the brain in the same ways.

"The reason aroma has such a direct action on the brain is that aroma molecules connect with the receptors in the cilia extending from two olfactory bulbs, which are themselves extensions of, and part of, the brain.”         —'The Fragrant Mind", Valerie Wormwood

Your sense of smell interacts with the amygdala through its direct link with the limbic system. This is evolutionarily the oldest part of the brain. The Olfactory cortex is part of the limbic system, which is part of the brain that processes emotions, survival instinct (fight/flight), and memory. 

Essentially, this means we can intentionally use smell to trigger happy thoughts, empowering memories, and balanced emotions. You don't have to wait to stumble across a kitchen of baking cookies to trigger happy thoughts. You can create happy memories, while purposefully associating them with a smell, so each time you encounter that smell it is a callback to that feeling.

Furthermore, aromatherapy and natural perfume contain essential oils and other plant extracts that can chemically trigger emotional reactions. According to Dr. Alan Hirsch and his research team who have conducted over forty-six studies involving over 12,000 people natural scents when aromatized into a room can affect the room’s inhabitants.They discovered products were viewed better when encountered in a pleasant smelling shop. In another trial a mix of florals helped calculus students increase their rate of retention by 230%. His Las Vegas study involving aromatized gambling machines increased player spending by 45%. 

Modern Peasant invites you to use these same fragrant alchemical processes to increase confidence, decrease stress and anxiety, and more. Aromatherapy and natural perfumes can be blended for delicious intoxicating aromas, as well as their alchemical psychological effects. In short aromatherapy and natural perfume can positively affect mood.

A mix of lavender, clary sage, and chamomile (Calming Room Spray) decreases adrenaline and stimulates the parasympathetic nerve to restore a sense of calm. Beyond that, once experienced, the smell will enhance this feeling of calm every time you smell it. Why? Because now the chemical associations of the natural perfume formula and memory are working together, bringing reminders of the sense of calm experienced again and again. The magic of scent and memory, coupled with the science of aromatherapy molecules and their effects on the brain create an alchemical tool box for mood enhancement.

Imagine the power of a scented meditation where you smell a natural perfume designed to encourage optimism (Light Bringer). Throughout the meditation, you focus on engendering feelings of hope, self-reliance, and being supported by the Universe. Perhaps you attach a mantra, “My luck is changing for the better. I am positively expanding my world every day.” That deep sense of accepting the truth behind these words, discovered in the meditation, becomes part of your stored memory--connecting the beautifully effective molecules of jasmine (uplifting) and honeysuckle (joyous, decreases anxiety & stress). Everytime you wear the scent. You have immediate access to that optimistic state of being. 

Your sense of smell can save you by alerting you that something is past its expiration date. Your sense of smell can transport a full grown adult to their childhood kitchen. Your sense of smell can support you on your journey to peace. Your sense of smell coupled with the power of aromatherapy blended into beautiful natural perfumes can offer you a road of olfactory bliss that leads to a more positive mindset.

The alchemy of scent awaits you. What will you smell today?

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Scent & Emotions

Lakenda Wallace

Scent has the power to inform whether we feel comfortable in a place or not. Scent has the power to trigger memories, bringing people long gone before you. An agitated mind that bends a nose deep into a fragrant rose and inhales, straightens with a sense of momentary calm.

These same tenants of aromatherapy are still true in natural perfumes. An accord (a blend of fragrant extracts and scents layered to create a singular harmony of fragrance) can be used individually or blended with other notes and accords to craft a multidimensionally exquisite olfactory experience. Each of these natural, harmonious additions to an accord come with their own fragrant frequency to support us emotionally.

A perfumer, for instance, may create three different accords based on the distinctive notes of three different lavenders with three different, yet obviously overlapping, emotionally supportive focuses. Lavender is scientifically proven to induce calm, provide migraine relief and more, however within the family of lavender there are different strains, which have different properties (smells + health benefits). The classic scent most associated with lavender is the round floral of French Lavender with just a hint of menthol sharpness. Inhale deeply and feel a sense of calm spread through your body. Raised shoulders naturally untensing and lowering.

An accord crafted to bolster its particular fragrant frequency might pair The French Lavender with an atlas cedar to enhance the calming restive qualities or a rose or to bolster the feeling of safety, which blends well with the calm of this strain of lavender brings.

The second accord based on Spike Lavender, playing over the intense sharpness that borders on the medicinal with hints of lavender beneath. Spike Lavender brings on an alert calm, perfect for feeling focused and being productive. This accord could blend with a rosemary or peppermint to enhance the alert and focused aspects of the scent or a clary sage to help the mind wind down into calm.

The third accord, based on an unencumbered lavender floral from Napa, boasts the delicacy of a gardenia top note, but with less hubris. This Napa Lavender from DeVero Farms offers up notes of honey, chamomile, Spanish mint and the riotess, herby lands on which it grew--all while remaining distinctly lavender. Deep inhalations of this essential oil or hydrosol brings an expansive sense of peace and freedom. You can feel the acreage of wild lands around you, even in a small space. This could be blended with chamomile to increase the sense of calm or spikenard to add the comforting warmth of self appreciation and confidence.

Clearly, many of us will need more than scent to cope with what is the world around us in 2020. So, we know the calm of a lavender cannot be compared to a valium, however, I find when present in my world--through room sprays, perfumes, or flowers--I have an easier time of shifting my thoughts to support my emotional state. The scent is the little tap on the nose that reminds me I am safe. The whiff of the lavender-rose-spikenard accord remind me that I am calm and capable before I step into a meeting. Clearly, I have to decide to believe I am capable--even if that means ‘fake it til you make it’ Let me say, it is the repetition of the concerted effort to change a behavior, along with the supportive fragrant frequencies, mentors, friends, music, outdoors, etc. that bring noticeable changes. No essential oil, accord, or natural perfume alone will support mental health. Nor will one pill alone or one therapist alone. It takes finding the supportive life attributes that harmonize to help you lift your mood, change your way of thinking. Find balance.

Let’s face it, the road is rough out here. Isn’t it nice to have a little help on the journey? Go, explore. Find the fragrant frequency that supports you feeling your best you.

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Honoring the Fragrant Mind

Lakenda Wallace

Exploring the techniques, folklore, and history of perfume, herbs, and flowers sparked a question for me. If herbs and flowers have healing properties, would those healing properties be available once extracted into scents? Could scent actually elicit positive emotional states of being?

Research led me to Valerie Wormwood’s The Fragrant Mind. The sense of smell is the ONLY physical sense with direct access to the brain. It was one of early man’s first danger detectors. Smells bad, don’t eat. Smells good, take a try.

The concept: use scents to improve your mental outlook and happiness. Sure, it’s no Xanax, but let’s face it, every little bit helps. Think “A little grapefruit essential oil for happiness in the morning and a little lavender blend to settle at night.”

This was a new concept. The traditional perfume scents of the 1980’s and before were meant to capture attention through smoke-filled rooms. Perfumes, historically, were necessarily strong and overpowering to drown out the less pleasant smells of the day. However, in today’s smoke-free interiors (and regular bathing), those perfumes are the second-hand toxin.

Synthetic perfumes use chemicals to achieve those dense, forever-lasting scents. According to The Guardian, “Why Smelling good could come with a cost to health," outlines the many issues with our synthetically fragrant world. Cancer, reproductive effects (hormone issues), migraines, skin rashes, and more have been linked to the very worrisome chemicals lurking under the label under the legally-undisclosed cover of “fragrance.”

The overload of chemicals in car fresheners, fabric spays like Febreeze, and synthetic perfumes cause reactions for me. My sinuses become inflamed in minutes, literally, which triggers a migraine. This is where my search for a modern, natural equivalent began. Valerie Wormwood’s Fragrant Mind is where my passion was lit. I created Cashmere to help me feel more self-assured. The alchemical recipe for this includes roses for love, spikenard for self-love, and lavender for a calm demeanor.

The pursuit of beauty has been a world facing out. How am I perceived? What do I need to hide or cover up? But these perfumed cover ups are taking their toll.

Modern Peasant is trying to turn that beauty pursuit around. Beauty should be more of a quest to find ways to appreciate yourself-- flaws and all--so your inner radiance shines out. It is better than the alternative, fragranced perfumes and room sprays, which are, literally, making you sick.

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Garden Alchemy

Lakenda Wallace

How does your garden grow?

Are you straining to find the sun because you are not planted in a space of thought that aligns intention, needs, and action? Are you depleted because you have allowed encroaching weeds of self-doubt and accepted criticism to divert your growth-inspiring nourishment?

How does your garden grow?

Are your branches heavy with fruit, standing in the glorious knowledge that who you are is supported by a lattice of determination and intentional living? Do you allow your vibrant blossoms of personal expression to mix flawlessly in a vivid canvas of color, scent, and texture that is the garden?

Like the garden, your stillness vibrates with the energy of growth towards your perfect expression of self. Conditions will sometimes be mild and at other times harsh, as is the cycle of life. Expand into the breath of stillness. Explore your strength. Recognize the beauty of your unique bloom in the rampant foliage of the garden.

When you recognize and accept your unique gift to the garden, it will be easier to see the unique beauty all around you in this verdant space.

Shape how your garden grows.

Start a practice. Everyday tell yourself one thing you like about yourself. Then, throughout the day, recognize one thing you like about every person you see. You do not have to know them. You do not have to speak or interact with them. The practice is for you.

Answering the question, "What do I like about you?" can be daunting. But there is always something to appreciate in every person. Whether it is acknowledging the resilience of a homeless person who finds the strength and tenacity to keep asking in the face of a literal parade of rejection. Or the shoe selection of the person in front of you at the grocery store, curt and impatient with the cashier. That said, the practice is not meant to substitute for helping where one can or accepting rude behavior. It is a practice, for you, so that you can shift your perspective to see more of the beauty within this glorious garden. Every day and in every person.

Appreciate the uniqueness of who you are and the power you have to create a semblance of Eden for yourself in your own backyard.

How does your garden grow?

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The Delicious Encounter of Ochun + Ogun

Lakenda Wallace

The story goes, Ogun, the god of iron and innovation, had grown depressed by the state of the world—the state of humanity ceaselessly using his gifts to bully and injure. So, deciding he could see no more, he took himself and his gifts into a cave. To stay.

With Ogun gone from the world, civilizations began to break down. Obatala, his father and King of the gods asked him to come out. “There is no beauty left in the world. I am staying here. “

Shango, the God of Justice, tries to reason with him. And still Ogun refuses to leave. His mother, Yemanja, the Goddess of the Ocean tries to flood him out.

And still Ogun refused to leave.

Iyansa called up her army of the dead. Ogun quickly sent them back to peace and, still refused to leave. This back and forth with the gods trying to trick, reason, and bully Ogun out of the cave (while the world slid back into the Dark Ages) were unsuccessful.

As the gods discussed new tactics to get Ogun out of his cave, Ochun cleared her throat. Ochun, Goddess of the Sweet water, known for her beauty, her sensuality, and her deep and abiding sense of self-respect said, “I can get him out.”

The gods laughed, “You! What can you do to get him out?” Obatala stepped in to restore order before Ochun got mad and took herself away again  (but that’s another story). “Ochun, if you can bring your brother from the cave, you can save humanity.”

Ochun looked back at the gods who still giggled. She flicked her hair over her shoulder and slowly straightened her dress over every curve of her body. The giggling ceased. Dry throats attempted to swallow. Ochun had that effect. She was sensuality incarnate and neither god nor man was immune. Slowly, sauntering towards the cave her hips beat out a rhythm that churned rivers and smashed with force against the rocks in a waterfall. Just as quickly, the water pooled into a basin dug from its own force and tenacity.

Ochun’s newly created lake was just outside of Ogun’s cave. Sacred plants of basil sprung up, showing this to be a protected space, cleansed of lower energies. Shrubs of honeysuckle, fragrant in full bloom, cast a sweetness into the air. She knew the perfumed breeze would announce her and, so, she stripped off her dress—appreciating every sensation of the air against her naked skin—and waded into the water.

Ochun began to lather her body sensuously with honey, slowly washing and rubbing the honey across her neck, her breasts, her belly...And Ogun stood erect before her—out of his cave.

The moral of the story—besides the obvious aphorism of attracting bees with honey—is to never underestimate the power of scent when coupled with a woman embracing her divine sexual energy. 

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