Wake Up and Smell the Peppermint

14 November, 2012

The scent of peppermint is like a drill sergeant, telling your brain to "Wake up and focus!" New research shows that you pay better attention to dull-but-must-do jobs when this scent is around. So the next time you're mentally sluggish, grab a candy cane, chew a stick of peppermint gum, or inhale the scent of mint-infused oil, and then listen to your brain say, "Can do!"

Science has confirmed it: When there's a hint of mint wafting through the room, workers perform better on jobs that demand accuracy. In a study, participants made fewer typing mistakes and alphabetized things faster when under the influence of peppermint's aroma compared to tasks performed in a scent-free zone.

Using a scent for therapeutic purposes -- whether to boost your attention to detail, soothe your psyche, or help you lose weight -- is what aromatherapy's all about. It typically involves either inhaling the fragrance of scent-infused oils or applying diluted versions to the skin.

The premise? Some scents stimulate brain activity that produces biological responses such as relaxation or mental clarity. Until recently, evidence supporting aromatherapy has been largely anecdotal. But more and more research now suggests that aromatherapy may have real psychological and medical benefits.


SOURCES: Improved performance on clerical tasks associated with administration of peppermint odor. Barker, S., Grayhem, P., Koon, J., Perkins, J., Whalen, A., Raudenbush, B., Perceptual and Motor Skills 2003 Dec;97(3 Pt 1):1007-1010.

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