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Schools And Colleges - The Fragrant Mind

The first hard proof that aroma can be used to improve memory (and thus learning and passing exams) came from psychologist Frank Schaub at Yale University. He gave seventy-two undergraduates a list of forty objectives and asked them to write down their opposites. They were not told that the next day they would be required to remember them.

At various stages of the experiment, some students were given the aroma of chocolate and some were not. On average , those not given the aroma remembered 17 percent of the answers and those given it 21 percent. These results were replicated later using the aroma of mothballs. The crucial, apparently, is that the same scent is used in each session-remembering and recalling. Aromatherapists believe essential oils can improve on 21 percent, but then we don't use mothballs!


More, recently, Dr Hirsch and his team in Chicago found that students in the senior calculus class at Lincon High School, Portland, Oregon, could to made to increase their speed of learning by using a chemical mixed floral aroma in the room. The students had to do a test three times, wearing a mask, either with or without the odourant. When the same test had been done on adults, they improved their score from 14 to 54 percent.

Dr Hirsh has proposed several mechanisms which may explain why aroma should have a positive impact on learning, as the exact reason is not yet clear. Indeed, what is most clear is that there is still much work to be done. However, if these findings can be replicated, the implications for education are staggering.


It is not to hard to imagine a future in which our children are exposed to aroma in the classroom - but what aromas are they to be -natural or chemical? Already, our children (and we ourselves) are expoused to pollutants in the water, to pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide residues in vegetables, and metals and hormones in meat, as well as to air pollution, chemical air freshners, cleaners and toiletries.

There has to come a point at which we say 'too much'. And the classroom has to be it. On the other hand, it is true that aroma can enhance memory, and there is a way to do it - using essential oils. Although one is adding something to the room, it is something which can be found in nature - which is, after all, where children throughout the acons have sat and learned their lessons. With essential oils, we're putting back some of the benefits of the natural environment, thin gs you would experience in the country - trees like pine, or rosemary, flowers like geranium or rose.

Reference: The Fragrant Mind: Valerie A Worwood

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