Road Rage & Scent

Road Rage & Scent

Written by Dr. Jeanette Wolfe from Planet Apothecary

Did you know that certain scents reduce road rage? According to recent research, drivers exposed to the scent of peppermint or cinnamon while driving a car had decreased levels of frustration, anxiety, and fatigue.

Study groups were monitored while driving under three odor conditions (with the aroma of peppermint, cinnamon, or no scent). The natural scents were dispersed into the air at regular intervals. Participants were measured for cognitive performance, wakefulness, mood, and workload.

Scientists found that:

  • Peppermint decreased anxiety & fatigue while driving;
  • Peppermint and cinnamon decreased driving frustration, and produced greater levels of alertness while driving.

Studies show that peppermint and cinnamon enhance motivation, performance, boost alertness, decrease fatigue, and are natural stimulants to the central nervous system.

Therefore the introduction of these scents while driving may produce a more alert and conscientious driver, and eliminate most of the fatigue produced from prolonged driving. Alert drivers will naturally lead to a decrease in highway accidents and fatalities.

When using peppermint or cinnamon to improve alertness and reduce anxiety and frustration while driving, be sure to choose natural, undiluted essential oils. They can be dispersed in a vehicle through a plug­in aromatherapy diffuser that fits into most vehicle lighter plugs.

The use synthetic fragrances may actually have the opposite effect. With over 3000 potential chemicals that are used as “fragrance,” many have been linked to cancer, brain and nerve damage. Researchers found that synthetic fragrances triggered asthmatic reactions in about 75 percent of people.

The sense of smell circumnavigates the logical part of the brain and acts on the limbic and emotional systems. This is why the smell of perfume can make a man mute and the smell of baking cookies can destroy the will power of a dieter.

When we bring vehicles into the mix, however, the effects of scent can create serious consequences.Our sense of smell is the early warning system of the senses ­­ we usually don’t notice unless it's telling us about something bad.

Sometimes we take a moment to stop and smell the roses but unless it’s a very strong and distinct scent we usually don’t notice how important and miraculous our sense of smell is.

There are times when you are suddenly overcome with feelings of anger, sadness or anxiety. Notice your nose and you will realize that scent is triggering your subconscious.

Olfactory conditioning happens when you pair up a scent with something that causes a reaction, and later on that scent will cause a repeat of that reaction, even if the original cause is gone. Studies prove that the blood glucose levels of diabetics can change by introducing a scent that you've matched up with giving them insulin in the past.

We are a lot better at detecting and remembering smells when we are anxious and in situations that feel dangerous, stressful or emotionally charged.

Our sense of smell may not be as good as that of most animals but it has a major role in the emotions and in both physical and mental health.

The smell cells in the nose are linked to the limbic system ­ which is one of the oldest parts of the brain, governing emotions, behaviour and long­term memory.

The sense of smell is controlled from here, and in early man this sense was more heightened, helping him to smell both danger and food. The survival aspects of smell have disappeared, the effects on the brain and body remain.

Studies are showing over and over that scent can impact almost everything, from dreams and emotions, driving, anxiety and shopping, to pain, focus, memory and love.

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