By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Roses, lilies, and other fragrant flowers can help improve your social life, as well as your overall health and well being. This is only one aspect of the field of aromatherapy, which is currently increasing in popularity.
Helen Farmer-Knowles, an aromatherapist and counselor on natural remedies, provides some interesting insights into the uses of flowers in aromatherapy in her book, The Healing Garden: Nature’s Remedies and Cures. Here are some of her thoughts:
Roses are the flowers perhaps most associated with love, and there are sensual reasons for this. The petals are soft and silken to the touch. The color red is often seen in clothing ads as a "suggestive" color. And there is even a scientific basis to the theory that fragrance aids in "falling in love."
Phenylethylamine, or PEA, is a chemical in roses that helps give them their distinctive scent. And it is PEA that contains an amino acid (the building blocks of proteins that all living plants and animals contain), which slows the breakdown of beta-endorphins. And it is these latter chemicals that are the "happy hormones" in our bodies—those chemicals that make us feel happy, put us in a state of euphoria, or of being in love. So chemically and scientifically speaking, this is why smelling roses helps us remain happy and promotes feelings of love.
With this PEA chemical in roses being described as a "mood-altering substance," putting a vase of roses by the bedside has been suggested as a way to prolong sensual feelings. It’s probably no surprise, too, that PEA is also present in chocolate. So the practice of a romantic suitor bearing a bouquet of roses and box of chocolates is not only tradition, but has a scientific basis!
Many people believe that a good or happy mood leads to a healthy immune system. So smelling roses, or other favorite fragrant flowers, can help boost your health and well being, in addition to promoting a healthy love life.
Clear or spring scents such as lily-of-the-valley or sweet violets are familiar favorites for some people in love. The latter were the favorite flower of the famous lovers Napoleon and Josephine. If you prefer exotic scents, you might find tuberose tantalizing, jasmine exciting, or narcissus addictive. Other flowers considered to be romantic for their scent include tobacco flowers (Nicotiana), gardenias, and hyacinths.
Lilies have for centuries had a "feminine" appeal, and are often associated with purity and the Virgin Mary, as in the Madonna Lily. In ancient times, a scented ointment made from them was used for "female complaints." During this ancient period, this oil of lilies was made from 2,000 stems and was often associated with sexuality in the Orient. Today the purchased scent may be synthetic, but is still used for calming and to create a relaxed attitude. A bedside bowl of heavily scented lilies is a natural means to lull and relax.
So, whether it’s a slower pace and relief from stress or an improved
love life you are seeking, don't ignore the power of fragrance.