The Symbolism Behind Your Favorite Stress-Reducing Scents

Smell is a highly underrated sense.

We often speed through our days without honoring the power and specificity of things like smell, but carefully curated sensory enhancements can positively influence mental health, sleep, and general well-being. Oftentimes, these healing properties can be the result of scientific effects as well as associations rooted in mythology, medicine, and even capitalism.

Here's a look at the deeper meaning behind some of our most beloved scents.

4. Vanilla

Vanilla is one of the world's most popular and beloved fragrances. Many believe that our generally positive associations with the scent might have something to do with childhood memories that involved baking with vanilla, and this idea provided the inspiration for the opening passages of Proust's In Search of Lost Time, in which a whiff of vanilla conjures hundreds of pages of childhood memories.

The vanilla plant is a member of the orchid family, and its first discoverers are said to be the Totonac tribe of Mexico. When the Aztec people conquered the Totonacs, they began using vanilla in their rituals, and in Aztec mythology, vanilla is associated with Xanath, the daughter of the Goddess of Fertility. In the myth, Xanath could not marry or be with men on Earth, so she decided to become a vanilla plant so she could spend her existence spreading the scent of love. Another myth tells the story of a couple who eloped and was slain, and in death they became a vanilla plant.

Today, vanilla is a common ingredient in love and passion spells and perfumes. In general, vanilla is often associated with purity, simplicity, and calmness. It can also be a catalyst for desire and is commonly used as an aphrodisiac. Vanilla oil is also commonly used in spells that attract money, prosperity, and abundance.

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