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.

5. Rosemary

Rosemary has been valued for its medicinal properties since ancient times. Like most of these scents, it has different symbolic associations depending on where in the world you're looking. In England, the flower was first discovered on hillsides by the ocean and was often referred to as "dew from the seas." It has also been associated with the Virgin Mary, who is said to have hidden in a rosemary bush as she fled Egypt.

In the Elizabethan era, rosemary was used for both weddings and funerals. The 17th century poet Robert Herrick once wrote, "Grow it for two ends, it matters not at all, Be it for my bridal or burial."

Rosemary is also linked to memory. In ancient Greece, students often wore garlands of rosemary to improve the accuracy of their memories. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance, pray you love, remember." The plant also appears in the famous folk song "Scarborough Fair," alongside a couple other herbs commonly associated with memory—parsley, sage, and thyme.

Scientific research has proven that rosemary actually can help improve memory, or at least that it can improve cognition speed. Rosemary has also been shown to have physical properties that fight headaches and fatigue, and it can improve digestion and blood circulation.

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