Articles Clinical Blog

The power of smells

It’s been discovered that we remember smells for much longer than sights, sounds, tastes and feelings. Amazingly, people can remember smells with a 65% accuracy after one year, whilst visual recall is only 50/50 after a quarter of the time. (, 2016)

Your sense of smell, also known as olfaction, can whizz you back to your past. It has been widely reported that loss of the sense of smell can be an early sign of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (Alzheimer’s Research UK, 2014) and by losing the emotions linked to certain smells, some memories will vanish completely.

The sense of smell is the most immediate and emotional of the senses; rooted in the parts of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. Scent recognition is locked together with memories of people, places, life events and feelings (Harman, 2019).

How can smell transport you back in time?

There is a direct scientifically proven link in our brains between memory and smell.

Katherine Frizoni, the skincare research and development manager for Dove, says: “Our sense of smell is the most evocative sense but it is often overlooked because we rely so much on what we see and what we hear. We very rarely think about what we smell. But actually when you smell something it brings back a memory much quicker than any of your other senses can. It is immediate. The olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, which is really closely associated with memory.” (The Telegraph, 2016)

Many residents will fear moving in to a care environment for reasons such as boredom or loneliness. Scent can be used to enhance emotional well being, combat malnutrition and improve cognitive functions. 

Emotional wellbeing

Residents can get anxious, depressed and upset and these emotions can trigger a range of symptoms that can even exacerbate already poor health and lead to other complications. Carefully chosen fragrances can be subtly introduced into care homes to help to alleviate stress and make residents feel that they are in a more relaxed, comfortable and homely environment. (Reyes, 2017)

Scent for malnourishment

Over 1 million people over the age of 65 are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment and the cost of the condition is estimated to be in the region of billions of pounds a year. 

In a recent study, the introduction of PremiumScenting into seven care homes saw malnutrition levels drop by 5% in six weeks when the scent of fresh bread was introduced before and during meal times. The combination of environment, visually appealing meals and scent created a ‘multiplier effect’ thus stimulating appetite (Reyes, 2017).

Scent for cognitive functions

70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems (Alzheimer’s Society, n.d.).

Researchers have found that people who took in the fragrance of cinnamon saw improvements in cognitive functions like visual-motor response, working memory and attention span (Reyes, 2017).

With the strong emotional connections that come from scents, it is important to consider the effects this could have on your residents or loved ones well-being. 

To get started why not try lavender to gently scent a room to reduce anxiety and promote sleep and relaxation.


Alzheimer’s Research UK. (2014). The power of scent in memory | Alzheimer’s Research UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2019]. 

Alzheimer’s Society. (n.d.). Facts for the media. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2019].

Harman, L. (2019). The power of smell in dementia care. [online] The Unforgettable Blog. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2019]. (2016). 21 Weird and Wonderful Facts About Scents and Smell / Blog. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2019].

Reyes, A. (2017). The Influence of Scent on Senior Care Residents’ Health & Wellbeing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2019].

The Telegraph. (2016). The power of scent. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2019].