These Are the Top 5 Scents That Influence Your Mood and Brain Function

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There’s something soothing about fall and wintertime that calls for a candle burning in a home, and whether you always reach for your favorite scents or often change it up, did you know that there’s a science behind each aroma we gravitate toward and the effect each delivers to our mood? In fact, of our five senses, only our sense of smell is directly linked to the limbic lobe of the brain, also known as our emotional control center. Alan Hirsch, MD, director of Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, says that smells can change a mood state faster than anything else and that scents act in a very physiological way. Here, the top scents that make us feel alert, relaxed, energized and focused, and the top matching candles to reach for. 

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The Scent: Citrus

The Effect: Energy

 “Particular fragrances, like citrus or peppermint, stimulate the trigeminal nerve in the brain (which stimulates a tiny bit of pain) and tells your mind to keep you awake and alert, which is why these scents tend to be marketed as energizing,” Dr. Hirsch explains, adding that when brain waves are measured, the citrus literally induces wakefulness.

Filled with tropical fruit notes and delicious sugared citrus, the Capri Blue Mercury Candle ($40) is just the trick to brighten a negative mood. For an elegant spin on citrus, try Jo Malone’s Basil & Neroli Home Candle ($65) that delivers the same mood-boost with a sexy white musk base. 

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The Scent: Sandalwood

The Effect: Focus

When your brain feels cloudy or overwhelmed and you’re in need of some (or a lot of) mental clarity, try inhaling some sandalwood (it has been used for centuries in religious ceremonies that require mediation and focus) to clear your mind while simultaneously keeping any anxiety at bay.

Infused with notes of sandalwood, cardamom and absinthe, the Edgar Allan Poe Library Candle from Paddywax ($21) instills a strong sense of concentration and calm once the scent fills the room. Jasmine and tuberose work alongside sandalwood in the new John Hardy x Joya Sedap Malam Candle ($90) that mimics the scents found on the grounds of the jewelry maker’s rustic Bali workshop to encourage productivity (available December 1). Plus, once the candle dims to an end, the gorgeous vessel is designed to be repurposed as a jewelry holder. 

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The Scent: Florals

The Effect: Happiness

Turns out “stopping to smell the roses” carried more truth than we thought. Studies show that the fragrance of flowers like roses reduces high blood pressure and evokes a cheerful mood while the scent as a whole is known to induce a positive attitude and sunny outlook.

Byredo’s Burning Rose Candle ($80) is a dark, woody rendition of a classic rose scent, including middle notes of violet and leather while letting rose petals take the lead. For a more traditional rose scent, try the Fresh Cut Roses ($25) option from Yankee Candle which fills the room with the scent of fresh English roses that will put a smile on any face. 

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The Scent: Eucalyptus

The Effect: Relaxation

There’s a reason spas always have an underlying scent of eucalyptus or lavender. According to Dr. Hirsch, the scent of lavender increases alpha waves in the back of the brain which makes us feel more relaxed, and, Bill Blasket, senior vice president of brand development for home fragrance, soaps and sanitizers at Bath & Body Works, says its eucalyptus candles are designed with the goal of creating a soothing oasis at home.

Transform any room into a spa scene with diptyque’s Eucalyptus offering ($62), a pure herbal scent with notes of camphor that delivers a serene setting the minute its lit. For pure relaxation, try the Eucalyptus Mint candle from Bath & Body Works ($22.50) to calm a stressed mind while keeping you alert (you can find this one in my bathroom after a long day).  

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The Scent: Chamomile

The Effect: Improved Memory

Both chamomile and thyme are known for their ability to increase memory (they are often used to aid function in individuals suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) and lessen headaches by improving brain function.

The irresistible blend of chamomile, sage and lavender found in LAFCO’s Master Bedroom Chamomile Lavender Glass Candle ($60) evokes both heightened memory and a clear mind, while the Mulberry & Thyme candle ($49) from Molton Brown sports a base note of thyme for a different sensory experience with the same molton result. 

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