Aroma Therapy & Your Dog
Introduction to Your Dog’s Sense of Smell
Your dog’s primary sense is the process of smelling, which is known as olfaction. Their sense of smell is far more sensitive than humans.
While humans have about 5 million olfactory receptors, dogs have up to 300 million receptors depending on the breed.
Scientists have estimated that the Dachshund has 125 million; the Fox Terrier has 147 million; the Beagle and the German Shepherd have 225 million; and the Bloodhound has 300 million.
To a dog smelling and sniffing is the same as tasting the air. While our brains are dominated by the visual cortex, a dog’s brain is dominated by the olfactory cortex. Thus our canine friends interpret their world through smell as most people interpret their world through sight.
Dogs have an amazing ability to discriminate smells, as well as, an extraordinary olfactory memory. After initial exposure to a scent a dog can remember, and identify the original odor.
Dogs can smell anxiety, fear, and excitement in people due to the pheromones secreted through our skin, and now doctors are using the keen olfactory sense of dogs to smell cancer in patients.
Scientists believe that by sniffing samples of the person’s breath, the dog can detect breast, lung, and other cancers. The accuracy rate is between 88% and 97%.
To a dog all humans have a unique and distinguishable odor. It is nice to know that in our world where conformity is the unspoken rule, the olfactory sense of our canine friends reminds us that we are special, and one of a kind.
Dogs are able to track human scents over long distances, as well as, detect fingerprints that are over a week old.
They can detect odors 40 feet underground, which is essential for determining gas line leaks.
They can smell insects, in the ground, in wood work, and recently have been used to sniff out bedbugs in furniture, bedding, and carpets.
Their sense of smell is so sensitive that they can even smell electricity.
Dogs react to smells in different ways. In scientific tests, dogs relax when they smell the scent of lavender in their environment, and become calm after inhaling the scent of chamomile.
Peppermint and rosemary scents, conversely, trigger excitement and movement in dogs.
So if you have ever wondered why your dog has to sniff every tree, bush, trash can, fire hydrant, and stop sign know that he is as excited about discovering new odors as you may be about watching the latest movie, or flipping through the current issue of Vogue or Sports Illustrated.
To a dog all smells are a new and wonderful discovery, and scents are neither good nor bad.
My Experiences with Aroma Therapy & My Dogs:
Lulu & the Airplane
My first experience with aroma therapy was with my oldest Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lulu.
When Lulu was 5 months old, we took a trip to visit my sister and her husband in New Orleans.
While Lulu has always been a calm, reserved and regal being, she was still a puppy with playful energy.
An hour before we had to leave for the airport to return to New York, my sister sensed that Lulu needed some help relaxing before our flight.
My sister is a certified massage therapist. Included in her course work was a class on the beneficial use of essential oils, and aroma therapy.
To calm Lulu down, my sister put some essential oils on her hands, a combination of relaxing aromas, and let Lulu smell her palms. She did not let Lulu lick her skin, or put any of the oils on Lulu’s body. Instead she swirled her hands in a circular motion near Lulu’s nose so that she would fully experience the aroma.
On the trip back to New York, Lulu, while safely under the seat in front of me, fell asleep until we landed. Even as we touched down, she still was calm and composed. She never barked, or scratched the sides of the carrier.
I had a terrible headache, and wondered if I should have sniffed the relaxing, calming essential oils before the flight.
Three Cavaliers & a Peaceful Bedtime
I decided that it was time for my three Cavaliers to sleep in another area of my apartment.
While Lulu and Riece obediently embraced their new “bedroom”, C.C. was defiant.
C.C., who has always been rambunctious, barked and scratched at the baby gate I set up. Sometimes she would continue to bark for up to an hour.
Out of respect for my neighbors, I tried many things to calm her down – treats, bedtime stories, assurances that I would return for breakfast in the morning – all to no avail.
Then one day as I was shopping at the L'OCCITANE en Provence, a store specializing in skincare, makeup and household products, I noticed a section of the store devoted to lavender - lavender sachets, candles, home perfumes, and incense.
The sight and smell of lavender triggered an idea. I have long known that the aroma had been used for relaxation and the reduction of stress.
At that moment of clarity, I bought a lavender candle and the home perfume.
The sales associate told me that it was safe to spray in the air, as well as, on the curtains, sofa and rugs. (I suggest that before you spray the home perfume on any fabric, you test a small area to make sure that the product does not stain the piece.)
Once at home I sprayed the room, the sofa, the curtains and the rug. I probably over sprayed, but I wanted to make sure the scent permeated the space, as well as, reduced the ‘doggy’ smell to which I have become immune.
I left the room for a few hours, and returned to the lingering scent of lavender in the air. It was not strong, or overwhelming as it was when I left, but rather dainty and delicate.
(Unfortunately L'OCCITANE en
Provence has discontinued their lavender spays – much to my disappointment.)
However, this was an opportunity for me to research and locate another lavender
spray that may be more conducive for dogs.
I have found such a product at
Unleashed by Petco at their Upper West Side location in Manhattan.
The product is called Cloud Star
Buddy Splash. It is used to free your
dog from “doggy odor” and it is amazing.
I have taken the product use one
step further, and before my Cavaliers retire to bed, I gently spray their bed
with the product. They have a number of
scents that all smell amazing.
After researching a dog’s olfactory sense, I knew that my Cavaliers would indeed inhale the aroma, and hopefully relax and fall asleep.
After a few nights, C.C. calmed down, and while she still barks when I put her to bed, it stops after about 5 minutes – a relief to me and I am sure my neighbors.
I have been letting my dogs sleep for 10 to 11 hours every night. When I come in the room to wake them in the morning, they are still fast asleep.
I believe that the lavender room spray, as well as, the candle I burn during the day, helps to induce a good night’s sleep for my Cavaliers, especially my overactive C.C.
Tips for Using Aromas & Scents:
- As I mentioned earlier in the article, always conduct a spray test. Spritz the home perfume on a small area of the fabric you intend to spray with fragrance. Wait at least one hour to ensure that the product does not stain or discolor the fabric. If the fabric, such as curtains, or upholstered furniture are exposed to sunlight, test a small area in the morning and wait until the sun sets to see if the fabric discolors or stains. Over time, most fabrics when exposed to direct sunlight fade because of the heat and light. If a home perfume is used on the exposed fabric, the product may accelerate the fading process.
- The home perfumes I have used, lavender at night and verbena during the day, significantly reduce the ‘doggy odor’ in my apartment. This is especially helpful during the winter months when I am not able to regularly bathe my dogs. Never spray the home perfumes on the dogs.
- To increase the effects of the calming lavender scent, burn a lavender candle for at least an hour during the evening. Never leave a burning candle unattended. L'OCCITANE en Provence states on their website (www.loccitane.com) that their candles “provides 20 hours of soft fragrancing”. I have found a creative way to use the remainder of the candle once the wick has burned out. If you have steam heat or a space heater, you can set the unlit candle on top of the heater, and let the heat melt the wax which releases the wonderful aroma into the air. This has extended the life of my candles for at least 10 more hours. While L’OCCITANE en Provence has specific instructions about candle use, I have discovered that my usage of the candle has helped to get the most out of my purchase.
- You can purchase a home diffuser which disperses a mist of aroma into the air, and is great for eliminating odors, as well as, inhaling the benefits of the essential oils. There are many internet sites that offer essential oils, and other various products. As the quality of the essential oil is crucial, I suggest visiting Young Living Essential Oils (www.youngliving.org). The company was founded in 1993 by D. Gary Young, a leading authority on essential oils. The site offers oils, various products, interesting historical facts and a newsletter.
The History & Properties of Lavender
Lavender may be the most beloved Mediterranean herb. Imagine violet blue flowers carefully planted in billowing rows falling over the rolling fields of Provence, France, like a delicate, sensual floral blanket. The image alone sends waves of relaxation through my body, and I wish I could lay down in a lavender field, surrounded by the purple flowers and their exquisite scent.
Lavender with its sweet overtones is used in perfumes, cosmetics, balms, salves and topical applications, as well as, in incense and aromatherapy.
While lavender is famous for its essential oils, it also is used in culinary dishes in an herb blend called Herbes de Provence, which adds a floral and slightly sweet flavor to food.
Since the Romans first used lavender to scent their bath water, lavender has been associated with cleanliness and purity. The name itself is derived from the Latin lavandus, which means to wash.
During the Black Plague in France a group known as The Four Thieves robbed the bodies of the dead. To protect themselves from contracting the disease they created an herbal concoction composed of lavender, rosemary, and clove, as well as, a number of other herbs. They named it “The Four Thieves Vinegar”. Legend has it that when they were finally captured, the authorities offered the thieves a lighter sentence in exchange for the ‘secret’ herbal receipt that enabled them to ward off the plague.
In the 16th century, William Turner, a physician, ornithologist, and herbalist, told his patrons to wear a cap filled with lavender to help cure a cold, and “to comfort the brain”.
In 1620 the Pilgrims on their way to the New World took lavender with them on their journey as a medicinal herb. And John Parkinson, an English botanist and herbalist, wrote in 1640 that lavender was “especially good for all grief and pains of the head and brain.”
Women during the Victorian era carried ‘swooning pillows’ filled with lavender and camphor. They also used lavender scented handkerchiefs to revive themselves after fainting from tightly laced corsets.
Pillows scented and filled with lavender have long been used to induce sleep.
When lavender is inhaled the scent eases fatigue, insomnia, depression, and irritability.
Lavender can be used to sooth many health issues.
- Nervous System - the lavender scent calms the intricate web of nerves running through our bodies. It helps with both migraine and tension headaches, depression, anxiety and stress.
- Insomnia – because the scent induces relaxation, lavender helps our body let go of stress and eventually we fall asleep.
- Chronic Pain – massaging the area with lavender oil provides relief for many types of pain including sore and tense muscles, backaches, sprains, and joint aches.
- Skin Care – lavender oil has antifungal and antiseptic properties, and is used to treat skin problems such as psoriasis, acne, and wrinkles. It helps to heal cuts, wounds, and burns.
- Digestion – when ingested lavender increase the mobility of the intestines, stimulates the production of gastric juices, aids in treating indigestion, colic, and vomiting.
- Immunity – when regularly used (inhaled, ingested, and topically) lavender helps in increasing resistance to diseases.
History of Aroma Therapy, Essential Oils & Perfumes
Historians believe that aroma therapy began in ancient times when fragrant woods, needles, leaves, and tree gums were burned for heat. As people discovered the benefits of ‘fire’, they also discovered that burning some woods, like cypress and cedar, sent a pleasant aroma into the air.
Neolithic tribes discovered that when animal fats were heated and melted, the fats absorbed a plant’s aroma. The plants and flowers flavored foods, helped to heal wounds, and to sooth dry skin.
Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts confirm that physicians have been using essential oils and aroma therapy for thousands of years.
The Chinese were the first culture to use the aroma from plants to create balance and harmony by burning incense.
The Egyptians fabricated a machine that distilled the oil of cedar wood. Oils from cedar wood, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and myrrh were used for embalming. Traces of these oils were found in the tombs of the pharaohs discovered during the 20th century.
The Egyptians also used these oils for medicinal, spiritual, and cosmetic purposes. A common practice among noble Egyptians was to set a solid cone of perfume on their heads, and as it gradually melted the oil would drip down their bodies coating them in the fragrance.
The Greeks learned many aromatic secrets from the Egyptians. They recognized the medicinal benefits distilled from plants, and even Hippocrates, known as the ‘father of medicine’, practiced aromatherapy for healing.
The Romans built on the acquired knowledge of the Greeks and Egyptians. Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist who practiced in Rome, wrote a five volume book titled De Materia Medica (Regarding Medical Materials). In one of the volumes he describes the properties, and uses of over 600 plants. He also studied the art of distillation, but focused on extracting floral waters and not oils.
In the 11th century, Avicenna, a Persian physician and philosopher, invented a machine to improve distillation. A coiling pipe allowed the plant steam and vapor to cool thus producing a more potent and pure oil. This machine instigated a focused study on essential oils for their aromatic and medicinal benefits.
The 13th century witnessed the birth of the pharmaceutical industry. Production and demand for essential oils vastly increased both for perfumes and medicines.
Unfortunately in the 14th century, the Black Death, the plague, ravaged Europe, killing millions of people. Herbal remedies were rapidly prepared, and extensively used in an attempt to ward off the disease. Some historians believe that many of the perfumers of the time did not contract the plague because of their constant exposure and contact with essential oils and natural aromas.
During the 15th century a larger variety of plants were distilled creating essential oils such as rose, sage, rosemary, juniper, and frankincense. Due to the growing interest, many books on herbs and their properties were written toward the end of the century. The term “Essence” was credited to a man named Paracelsus, who was a medical doctor, alchemist, botanist, astrologer, and visionary. His studies radically challenged the nature of alchemy with his philosophy that plants should be used for medicines.
In the 16th century, people began to purchase essential oils from an apothecary, which is basically the equivalent to a modern-day drug store. As the use of essential oils for healing and beauty increased so did the demand. Many more oils and medicinal tonics were introduced.
The creation of perfumes during the 16th and 17th centuries rapidly evolved into its own distinct and defined art form. As hygiene and cleanliness were not a high priority during this time, the creation, production, and distribution of perfumes became highly competitive, and very lucrative.
The 19th century was a prosperous era for the perfume and essential oil business. Women commissioned jewelers to create special and distinct bottles to hold their precious perfumes and oils.
With advancements in science during the 20th century the use of essential oils for medicinal and aromatic benefits was weakened because of the creation of synthetic chemicals and drugs.
Now during the 21st century there is a resurgence of going back to nature, or as the slogan states “Go Green”. This is evident in the increasing availability of information on the internet, in books and in classes about aroma therapy and essential oils.
Royalty & Perfumes
The mystical, magic of perfume, a precious luxury, is both invisible and silent, but with the power to reveal and announce the identity of a king, a queen, an emperor, or a conqueror.
Always expensive, usually rare, and often unique, perfumes were the perfect extravagance to reflect the supremacy of any ruler.
During the reign of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt (New Kingdom 1558 B.C. – 1085 B.C.) scent became a national obsession. The queen burned incense on terraces for the purpose of aromatically leading her people to her famous temples. She also commissioned the planting of vast botanical gardens to bathe the cities in scent.
Cleopatra VII, the last queen of ancient Egypt (69 B.C. – 30 B.C.), perfected the use of perfumes for seduction.
To welcome Marc Antony to Egypt, she met his ship with her own cedar wood barge, the sails soaked in rosewater, the scent surly sending an enchanting aroma into the ocean air.
After her welcome at sea, she lead Marc Antony to her bedchambers, where the floor was covered with rose petals a foot and half deep.
Cleopatra was a devotee of perfume. Her hands were anointed with kyphi, a mixture of various oils extracted from the flowers of rose, crocus, and violet. Aegyptium, a lotion composed of almond oil, honey, cinnamon, orange blossoms, and henna, softened and scented her feet.
And to ensure that her lovers would never forget her once they parted, she covered her lips with solid perfume just before kissing. The perfume would begin to heat and melt during the kiss, leaving her lover’s mouth coated with fragrance.
Perfumes were also used by men.
Alexander the Great lavishly used saffron perfume to soak his tunics, and aromatic incenses to scent his palaces and tents.
The Romans created a holiday called Rosalia to honor their love of the rose. During one holiday banquet, Emperor Nero had silver pipes installed under each plate so that each guest was sprayed with the scent of rose in between dinner courses.
Mohammed, another devotee of perfumes, once said that “the excellence of the violet scent above all flowers was like his own excellence above all other men.”
Perfumes were also used to poison and kill anyone who threatened the throne.
Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, brought with her from Italy a man who became the first official perfumer to the queen. While he had been in the service of her family for years, his ‘unofficial’ title during his tenure in Italy was the ‘Royal Poisoner’.
Poisons could be combined with perfumes, and then brushed onto the fabrics of dresses, on and into gloves, onto fans, or even on pages of books.
In England perfume reached a peak during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Legend tells us that her sharp sense of smell was equal to her sharp tongue.
During her reign, the queen commanded that all public places be scented, as she would not tolerate vile odors.
The queen wore a pomander (from the French pomme d’ambre or apple of amber) to protect her from contracting the Black Plague. A pomander is a ball made from a variety of perfumes such as ambergris, musk, or civet. The perfume was inserted into a globular case made of gold or silver that hung from a chain around the neck, or on a belt around the waist.
The queen adored gloves scented with ambergris, wore heavily scent cloaks, and dresses, and required that all of her courtiers wear fragrances.
Queen Elizabeth, concerned for the hygiene and health of her pets, also commanded that they were perfumed with scents that warded off diseases, and offensive odors.
La Cour Parfumée (The Perfumed Court) of Louis XV of France dominated the 18th century.
Perfume substituted for soap and water, and thus scents were applied daily to the body, hair, clothing, shoes, fans, and even on the fabric of furniture.
Louis XV assigned a number of servants the sole task of perfuming his chambers every day, as well as, washing his clothing in a boiling mixture of nutmeg, aloe, jasmine, orange water, and musk.
Madame de Pompadour, the king’s mistress, ordered a wide variety of perfumes, as the king demanded a different fragrance for his apartments each day.
When Marie Antoinette arrived at Versailles from Vienna, floral perfumes were all the rage. At one time the use of perfume was restricted to the royal family only, but during the reign of Marie Antoinette perfumes had a broader distribution, however because fragrances were extremely expensive only the most wealthy nobles could afford to buy them.
Marie Antoinette was raised in Austria. The Austrian Court valued hygiene and cleanliness, and so she was accustomed to taking a daily bath. In the Perfumed Court of Versailles, which preferred fragrance to soap and water, she was a rarity.
In her chambers she had two bathrooms, and continued to bathe every day.
She commissioned the court perfume maker to create fragrances using her favorite scents - rose, jasmine, orange flowers, and tuberose. The scents were feminine, sensual, and intoxicating. The queen did not have a ‘signature scent’. The queen had a vast and luxurious wardrobe, complimented by a variety of different perfumes. While her indulgences are legendary, the necessity for a variety of perfumes was a bit more practical. At the time there were no preservatives to extend the lifespan of a perfume, and the essential oils in the fragrances would rapidly turn rancid and unusable.
During the French revolution the royal family attempted to escape to Austria dressed as peasants. When their coach was stopped and searched, legend has it that they were betrayed by the luxuries they brought with them, such as a tea set, a trunk filled with expensive wines, and the magnificent perfumes of the queen. The revolutionaries knew that only royalty could afford such luxuries, especially perfumes.
Another legend has it that Marie Antoinette tucked three vials of perfume into her dress as she was escorted to the guillotine.
Napoleon Bonaparte, conqueror and emperor, was also seduced by the magic of perfume and fragrances.
Two quarts of violet perfume were delivered to him each week, and he used at least sixty bottles of jasmine extract every month.
After he bathed he poured the perfume over his chest and shoulders.
Even before heading off to battle, he took the time to select perfumes and lotions, anointing his body with scent before elaborately dressing.
Empress Josephine loved the scent of violet, but also had a preference for musk. Supposedly, she used musk so often that even sixty years after her death, the scent still lingered in her boudoir like a fragrant ghost.
While musk may have been her favorite, Napoleon planted violets at her grave.
Before he was exiled to the island of St. Helene, he visited Josephine’s grave, picked some violets, and enshrined the petals in a golden locket. He wore the locket for the remainder of his life.
The royalty of the past had the resources, power, and lust for luxury that was not available to the common people.
While most monarchies have now either dissolved or become figure heads, a new royalty has emerged.
The Queen of Fashion, Coco Chanel, created her own line of fragrances. The first, Chanel No. 5, named after her favorite number, was an instant success followed by many more wonderful fragrances. When asked where a woman should wear perfume she responded, “Wear perfume where you want to be kissed.”
One of the most famous American women, a Cinematic Queen, was Marilyn Monroe. During a provocative interview she was asked what she wore to bed. She responded, “Why Chanel No. 5, of course.”
Both of these women came from humble beginnings, but rose to the top of their fields, and triumphed over any setbacks.
They remind us that today with vision, drive, and dedication, one does not need to be born into a royal blood line to enjoy luxuries, such as perfume, that until not so long ago was only available to royalty.
Books, Movies & Websites
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer