The science behind fragrance and mood

Posted by Liz Cook on

We’ve talked a lot about the impacts that toxins found in synthetic fragrance can have on your hormones, mood, mental health and more, but are there benefits to natural fragrance other than just avoiding toxins?

The answer is yes!

Essential oils have been used for centuries as traditional medicine for many different ailments, and recent scientific studies have provided us with some answers as to why and how these plant extracts work to heal our bodies and improve our wellbeing.

Natural perfumes are made of a combination of essential oils and plant-derived natural extracts that retain the active components of the plant. (BTW, essential oils are not technically ‘oils’, but rather are a concentrated hydrophobic (water repelling) liquid containing volatile aroma compounds (VOCs). The oil is ‘essential’ in the sense that it contains the essence of the plant’s fragrance.)

Whether inhaled or applied to skin via natural perfumes, body oils or lotions, essential oils easily enter the bloodstream and exert measurable psychological and physiological effects, including significant impact on anxiety, depression, stress, pain and insomnia.

Although the mechanism of essential oil action is not yet fully understood, some studies suggest that certain essential oils may trigger the release of discrete amino acids, which then may act as neurotransmitters that improve the plasticity of synapses in the brain. The inhalation of essential oils communicates signals to limbic system via olfactory receptors in the nose, stimulates the brain to activate neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) thereby further regulating mood. In addition, research suggests essential oils have an effect on the opioid system and other pain receptors, helping to alleviate pain and improve mental health outcomes in people with chronic pain conditions.

Recent studies also show that essential oils are emerging as a promising source for modulation of the body’s GABAergic system (the regulator of cognitive and emotional processing) and sodium ion channels in nerve cells (which help regulate electrical impulses).

Both scientific studies and clinically applied experience indicate that aromatherapy provides an effective treatment for a range of psychiatric conditions, helping to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.  And aromatherapy appears to be without the adverse effects of many conventional psychotropic or pain-relieving drugs.

Want some specific examples of the incredible wellbeing effects of essential oils? Here are a few we use widely in our perfumes. (You’ll find links to references here).



Various sandalwood essential oils, including Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) have been found to significantly reduce systolic blood pressure and heart rate, as well as physiological reactions to psychological stress (including lowering cortisol), and facilitating recovery after stress.

Sandalwood is a key ingredient in these ONE SEED perfumes: Hope, Freedom, Rain and Slow Fire, as well as our Sleepy Sheets Pillow Mist.


Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is used in aromatherapy to minimise symptoms of stress-induced anxiety, mild mood disorders and pain, as well as reducing heart rate and blood pressure and cortisol levels. Inhalation of bergamot essential oil has also been found to improve overall mental health, and create a sense of wellness.

You can find bergamot as a key ingredient in these ONE SEED perfumes: Freedom, Hope, as well as our Sleepy Sheets Pillow Mist.


Coriander oil is (Coriander sativum) displays significant anxiolytic and antidepressant effects, and decreases glutathione level in the brain’s hippocampus, which helps to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.

In specific studies, multiple exposures to coriander oil can has also been found useful as a means to counteract anxiety, depression, and oxidative stress specifically in Alzheimer’s disease conditions.

The main volatile component of the coriander oil is linalool (around 69%), which is probably the responsible constituent for the observed anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. Inhaling linalool-rich essential oils can be useful as a means to counteract anxiety. (Linalool is also a major component of rosewood, neroli, peppermint and bergamot essential oils).

Coriander is a key ingredient in our Seeker eau de parfum.


Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is a known anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and anti-depressant which has been used traditionally in Europe for thousands of years. Studies show that the anti-depressive effect of clary sage oil is closely associated with the modulation of the dopaminergic (DA) pathway.

You can find clary sage in our Dreamer eau de parfum. (Note: clary sage is not suitable for use during pregnancy).



Plants from the Rosacea family are rich in natural molecules with beneficial biological properties. Rose essential oils and extracts are known for their many therapeutic effects including antidepressant effects, psychological relaxation, improvement of sexual dysfunction, antioxidant, smooth muscle relaxation, and sedative effect.

Rose oil has also been found to caused significant decreases in breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and systolic blood pressure, which indicate a regulation of the automatic nervous system.

We use rose oil in many of our perfumes, including as a key ingredient in Freedom, Symphony, Dreamer, Courage, Bohemia and Rain.


Essential oil from ylnag ylang (Cananga odorata) is commonly used in reducing blood pressure and improving cognitive functioning. Ylang ylang oil also displays anxiolytic effects. Ylang ylang oil and its major constituent benzyl benzoate are thought to act on the serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways in the body.

You can find ylang ylang as a key ingredient in our Courage and Symphony perfumes, as well as our Sleepy Sheets Pillow Mist.


Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) and its key constituent vanillin has been shown to relieve and prevent depressive symptoms via the olfactory pathway. The underlying mechanisms involve modulating the monoamine neurotransmitters in the brain, elevating both serotonin and dopamine levels in brain tissue. Data from some studies have revealed that depression-like behaviors can be reversed by chronic vanillin aromatherapy, and that vanilla essential oil can potentially be used to treat major depressive disorder.

We use vanilla as a key ingredient in these fragrances: Seeker, Bohemia, Courage, Slow Fire and Solitude.

So you can see that the ingredients in natural perfumes do a lot more than just help you smell amazing and avoid toxins  - they are actually contributing to your sense of wellbeing.

Making the switch to natural can make an enormous difference to your world in so many ways.

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