More Than Soothe Your Spirit
(HealthScoutNews) -- Imagine inhaling a certain scent that would
help protect your lungs from damage if you found yourself in a
A California scientist says his research into the healthy properties
of aromas could make that a possiblity one day.
Kwang-Geun Lee, of the University of California at Davis, released
findings at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society
yesterday in Boston that suggest some smells could act as antioxidants,
the healthful agents found in fruits and vegetables.
"Exposure to these aromas may help to prevent (oxygen)
damages, which are a factor in many diseases," Lee says.
Humans have known about the positive effects of smell for thousands
of years, and "aromatherapy" has become a household
word. Scientists have a good understanding of how smell works,
from the sensors in the nose that take in information to the areas
of the brain that process the data, says George Preti, a researcher
at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
However, Lee says, scientists still aren't sure why odors seem
to have healthy effects on the body.
At his laboratory, Lee distilled and extracted 30 chemicals
that produce aroma from 10 plants. Then, he tested them for the
presence of antioxidants.
In initial research, Lee found levels of antioxidants -- similar
to those in Vitamin E -- in soybeans, mungbeans, kidney beans,
eucalyptus leaves and several types of spices, including basil,
thyme, rosemary, chamomile and cinnamon.
Experts believe antioxidants block certain types of cell damage
caused by molecules called free radicals, which are caused by
exposure to tobacco smoke and some chemicals.
Foods rich in antioxidants help destroy free radicals, and scientists
think they reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease
and stroke. However, more research will be needed to figure out
if the antioxidants in the aromas actually affect the body, Lee
If they do, he says, it's possible they could be released in
a room full of smokers to counteract the damaging effects of tobacco.
Preti notes that some body creams have antioxidant properties,
and it's not "too far-fetched" to believe that odors
could do the same.
However, if researchers do try to put aromas to work to protect
a person's health, they'll need to use a lot of them, Preti notes.
"Most of the things you smell are at very low quantities.
Your olfactory abilities are fairly sensitive. Most things aren't
in high enough quantities to cause any physiological or unhealthy
sensations," he says.
What To Do
To learn about research on antioxidant therapy for heart disease
and other conditions, visit the
Linus Pauling Institute.
For more on Vitamin E, a major source of antioxidants, visit
National Institutes of Health.
Reference Source 101