Do home fragrances really do anything but smell nice?


For many, home fragrances are about creating a nicer atmosphere at home. Others think the essential oils will help them relax. — dpa

Whether it’s fresh flowers in a field or candied nuts at a Christmas market, scents can awaken memories and feelings in us. Scented candles, room sprays or electric humidifiers can help jog your memory.

“In countries like France, the UK or the US, home scents have been popular for a long time, ” says Nicolette Naumann, Division Manager at the Ambiente consumer goods fair. However, sales have intensified during the pandemic.

Harnessing the effect of fragrancesMany people want to feel good when spending a lot of time at home. For others, essential oils help them relax or concentrate better.

Biologist and physician Hanns Hatt believes both are possible: We smell a scent via small nerve cells in the nose, which are directly connected to the brain, acting as a trigger for emotions.

The smell gets saved in the memory centre, so by strolling happily through a field of flowers, the next time you smell flowers you’ll think of this joyful feeling.

There are also other scent detectors in the body. We don’t smell with them, but they still react to scents. According to Hatt, this explains why lavender can have a calming effect – not only when you smell it, but also when you eat it.

The effect of fragrances on the body is the same for most people – in contrast to smell, which everyone perceives differently. So home fragrances that we associate with something positive can indeed have a mood-enhancing effect.

Fresh air is important

Scent expert Maria Kettenring is convinced that certain room scents such as lemon, lemongrass, myrtle and thyme can purify the room air and thus create a better atmosphere.

At the same time, Kettenring, who has already written several books on the use and healing powers of essential oils, emphasises the importance of ventilation and opening the windows: “The basis for using essential oils should always be fresh air.”

The German Environment Agency and the German Allergy and Asthma Association take a more critical view: additional fragrances can have an adverse effect on the air quality of indoor spaces. “Even if it smells better, it doesn’t improve the air quality, ” says Silvia Pleschka from the Allergy and Asthma Association. On the contrary: “Fragrances merely mask stale and polluted air, ” says the chemist.Risk of allergy

“Even if there are no immediate health effects, fragrances can affect everyone, ” says Pleschka. Some ingredients can cause allergies, and over time, frequent use can lead to fragrance sensitivity.

Symptoms of fragrance intolerance tend to be mild, such as headaches, circulation problems or sweating, but it can also lead to restlessness, migraine-like headaches and even asthma attacks.

Experts agree that the quality of home fragrances plays a major role. Synthetic fragrances often contain chemical additives and solvents that can cause discomfort when breathed in, says Hatt.

High-quality natural fragrances tend to be a bit more expensive, in part because manufacturers need large quantities of the natural ingredients for these fragrances. If you’re not sure, you can get advice at a pharmacy or a health food shop, says Kettenring.

If you suspect you have an allergy, you should get tested by a doctor and get an allergy passport – with all the substances to which you are allergic. Getting tested means you can check ingredients for your intolerance when making purchases. Allergenic substances in fragrances must be marked on the packaging, says Pleschka.

Kettenring recommends using only natural essential oils and checking packaging instructions and warning symbols. You also shouldn’t let the undiluted oils come into contact with the skin.

Which scent is or becomes your favourite is a matter of taste, says the fragrance expert. Orange, lavender, pine and grapefruit are among the most popular scents. – dpa/Vera Kraft

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