Every day, you breath over 23,000 times and inhale up to 10,000 different aromatic chemicals. These aromas are detected by hair-like nerve endings at the top of your nose that, unlike those involved in other senses, are directly hard-wired into your brain. Smell messages pass directly to your Limbic System without first being filtered by higher centres. Smells therefore have a profound effect on your behaviour and trigger primitive responses that have not been modified by intellectual input or thoughts such as ‘I’m on a diet and cutting back on chocolate’.
Your sense of smell plays a major role in your desire for food, not only enticing you with aromas, but also contributing to the flavour of food. But just as some scents can increase your appetite, others can help to suppress food cravings.
Which scents suppress appetite?
Research suggests that inhaling the scent of Banana, Green Apple or Peppermint essences on can reduce food cravings so you eat less overall. Inhaling the aroma of vanilla can help you overcome cravings for chocolate.
A blends of different essential oils may work better than a single scent, but it’s important to select smells you like.
In one experiment, female volunteers viewed images of chocolate and rated their craving after inhaling a fresh combination of aromatherapy oils: grapefruits, tangerine, lemon, spearmint and ocotea (Slique essence). After inhaling the fresh scent, their chocolate cravings were significantly reduced, and the researchers suggested that aromatherapy could play a helpful role in supporting weight loss programs, especially for those who experience chocolate cravings.
How to use aromatherapy oils to suppress cravings
Place a few drops of your chosen blend on a hanky to inhale when you feel peckish. Keep inhaling the scent until the need to snack subsides. You can also add essential oils to a diffuser to scent a room. Some (but not all) essential oils can be diluted in a carrier oil, such as coconut, almond, jojoba or olive oil to massage into the back of your neck or on the back of your hand to inhale when needed. You can put one drop of your chosen essential oils in water and drink them.
Bergamot essential oil for weight loss
Bergamot essential oil is obtained from the rind of a miniature orange (Citrus bergamia) native to Northern Italy. The oil has a fresh, slightly spicy citrus odour that appeals to both men and women, and is familiar to many as an ingredient of Earl Grey tea. Bergamot is uplifting, relaxing and helps to release pent up emotions.
If you tend to eat when you feel angry, sad, or stressed, Bergamot can help to lift your spirits and help you avoid comfort eating. Aromatherapists also use Bergamot essential oil to help increase the metabolic rate so you burn more fat.
Grapefruit essential oil for weight loss
Grapefruit essential oil is pressed from the skin of fruits from the Citrus paradisi tree. Grapefruit essential oil is believed to activate enzymes that stimulate your brown body fat so your metabolic rate increases. In one study, volunteers received a one hour whole body massage every week for 6 weeks, and also massaged their own abdomen twice a day for 5 days each week. One group used 3% grapefruit oil blended with cypress and three other kinds of oil, while the control group used plain grapeseed oil. Those using the grapefruit essential oil blend lost significantly more abdominal fat and lost more inches around their waist than those using plain oil.
Grapefruit essential oil is often blended with patchouli oil to reduce cravings and hunger.
Lemon essential oil for weight loss
Lemon essential oil is pressed from the rind of the Citrus limonum tree and has a fresh, sour, citrus aroma that is both invigorating and antidepressant. Lemon essential oil is used to increase energy levels and to help metabolise fat. Researchers have found that inhaling the scent of lemon and grapefruit activates the sympathetic nervous system to increase the breakdown and burning of white adipose tissue – in other words, stored fat – to reduce weight gain.
Peppermint essential oil for weight loss
Peppermint essential oil is stimulating and uplifting, and is particularly useful for suppressing hunger pangs and food cravings. Research suggests that peppermint essential oil has a direct effect on the satiety centre in the brain to suppress appetite. Peppermint oil also has beneficial effects on the digestive tract. In one study, peppermint oil (menthol) was shown to reduce the motility index (contractions) of the stomach and intestines. By slowing the movement of food through the stomach, you feel fuller for longer, so that appetite is reduced.
Cinnamon essential oil for weight loss
Cinnamon essential oil is derived from the bark or leaves of a tree, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, which is native to. Cinnamon bark oil should not be used in any essential oil blend that will come into contact with your skin, however, as it may irritate the skin. Cinnamon essential oil is only included here as it may be used to perfume a room and because it has undoubted effects on suppressing appetite. Try inhaling this essential oil a few minutes before a meal to reduce appetite and prevent overeating. Be warned however: one study found that the smell of fresh-baked cinnamon buns consistently caused erections in male volunteers!
Ginger essential oil for weight loss
Ginger essential oil is obtained from the rhizome (underground stems) of a tropical plant native to the jungles of south-east Asia. Ginger oil contains a variety of unique chemicals such as gingerols and zingerones and has been found to reduce sugar cravings and nausea, as well as aiding digestion.
Vanilla essential oil for weight loss
Vanilla is an oily resin derived from the pods of a tropical, climbing orchid, Vanilla planifolia, which is native to South America. Some is also made from Vanilla tahitensis (native to the South Pacific) and Vanilla pompona. Fresh vanilla beans have no aroma, and the heavenly characteristic scent only develops as a result of enzymatic actions during curing. The beans are sweated at night and exposed to sun light during the day for up to two weeks until they become chocolate brown in colour. They are then dried for at least four months during which tiny crystals of vanillin form and dissolve into the oily resin surrounding the seeds. Vanilla essential oil has a rich, intensely sweet aroma that is calming and helps to release pent up anger and frustration.
Researchers have found that inhaling vanilla scent (applied via skin patches) helped user lose, on average, 2kg (4.5lb) in weight due to significant reductions in appetite and sweet cravings. Those inhaling the scent of vanilla essential oil halved their intake of sugar and chocolate.
Aromatherapy essential oils are produced by special glands in the leaves, stems, bark, flowers, roots or seeds of many plants. These oils contain many active ingredients in a highly concentrated and potent form which, because they are volatile, readily evaporate to release their powerful scent. The oils are extracted by a variety of means. Those that are extracted by simple pressing (eg bergamot, lemon, orange) are known as essences, those extracted by distillation are known as essential oils, while those obtained by enfleurage (pressing petals between glass sheets coated with animal fat) and solvent extraction are correctly known as absolutes. Even so, the term essential oil is commonly used as a catch-all phrase. Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be diluted with a carrier oil (eg almond, avocado, sunflower, wheatgerm oils) before contact with the skin. .
Oils that come into contact with skin are absorbed to some extent and will also have a medicinal effect in the body. Where possible, use natural rather than synthetic essential oils. Natural oils generally have a fuller, sweeter aroma that provides a greater therapeutic benefit and. Select 100% pure essential oils – these are usually more expensive but have a greater effect as they are not mixed with alcohol or other additives.
Do not use aromatherapy essential oils during pregnancy except under the advice of a qualified aromatherapist.