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.

6. Jasmine

Jasmine scents are dominant in North Africa and the Middle East, imprinted in these parts of the world's consciousness and memory much like vanilla and lavender are ingrained in Western culture. Jasmine incense, along with amber, was often burned in ancient mosques. In Sufi poetry, Jasmine has links to spiritual longing and love.

Because the jasmine flower can only be picked at night, it has associations with the moon and is nicknamed the "Queen of the Night." It has also been used in traditional and contemporary medicinal practices around the world, often to help fight cirrhosis, dysentery, and cancer.

Today, the 2011 Tunisian revolution that kickstarted the wildfire of revolutions across the Middle East is often referred to as the "Jasmine Revolution," named because of the flower's associations with a sense of group conviction, the absence of a single leader, and togetherness. Currently, the poet Mohammed al-Ajami is still in jail for a poem he wrote called "Tunisian Jasmine," which called for revolution in Tunisia.

In a more general sense, the scent of jasmine is associated with optimism, confidence, and hope. It can soothe muscle spasms and menstrual cramps and fight infection, and it can also trigger beta waves in the brain that stimulate alertness and attention. It has also been shown to help with sleep, anxiety, and depression. Associated with purity and sensuality in equal measures, the jasmine plant is a versatile scent that has power in every sense of the word.

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