• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note: Aroma Therapy

Air Date: Week of July 12, 2002

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new study that found pleasant odors may mitigate pain perception in women.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Just ahead, an unexpected archaeological discovery in the jungles of Guatemala. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]

TOOMEY: New research from the University of Quebec shows that pleasant scents may help reduce pain. Researchers asked a small group of people to rate various odors such as almond extract, baby oil and vinegar. Then they had people immerse their hand in very hot water while they inhaled the odors they had rated most unpleasant, most pleasant and neutral.

The researchers found that when women were exposed to a pleasant odor, their perceived pain level dropped 30%. There was also a slight increase in pain perception for women exposed to odors they didn't like. But researchers found no such correlation in men. And they can't say why.

Women are typically more sensitive to odors. But that doesn't explain differences found in this study, since there was no gender difference in the perceived intensity of the odors tested. Brain imaging has shown that pleasant touch activates an area of the frontal cortex related to smell. And another group has shown that women exhibit more activity in this area of the brain. So scientists think there may be an interaction between the sense of smell and the processing of touch and pain, especially in women.

This study, researchers say, raises the question of how odors in hospitals might be affecting patients' perception of pain. And that's this week's Environmental Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.

[MUSIC UNDER]

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: BLAKE HAZARD, "PAPER STARS," LITTLE AIRPLANE, KIMCHEE, 2002]

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.