There are often lots of stories in the media about the latest trends designed to help people lose weight, with many of them appearing at best nothing but fads and at worst positively dangerous.
We're much more inclined to subscribe to the school of thought that recommends plenty of exercise and sticking to a sensible amount of calories, unfashionable though that may sound.
However, recent comments from an aromatherapist really interested us - because she suggested that simply smelling the scent of a few select essential oils could be enough to reduce food cravings and maintain a healthy weight in the long term.
Eugeny Couture told Amphora Aromatics that by carrying a scent such as grapefruit in oil form around with us and sniffing it whenever we feel tempted to snack on cakes and chocolate, we could rise above the temptation and stick saint-like to those three meals a day plus healthy snacks.
"Essential oils have a huge influence in our daily lives. They can enhance our mood, help us relax and unwind or focus our concentration, so it makes total sense that they can help us lose weight too," she pointed out.
Eugeny suggested that three to five deep whiffs of grapefruit oil six times a day should be enough to keep hunger pangs at bay.
This might sound a little peculiar, but interestingly, previous studies do seem to support her comments to label essential oils as a potential tool in leading a healthier lifestyle.
For example, research at Munich's Technische Universitaet and the University of Vienna discovered last year that the scent of olive oil resulted in people changing their eating habits and consuming fewer calories compared to people who had not scented the naturally-occurring substance before a meal.
A similar study at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Institute of Chicago discovered that inhaling a scent throughout the day can inhibit a person's desire to eat. Perhaps it's no surprise that scent is considered such an important part of weight control.
The science part
Why should it work, though? Well, the answer lies in the way we process scent, something we touched upon in a previous article on scent and wellbeing. When we inhale a scent, airborne odour molecules enter the nose, reach the olfactory bulb and are processed by the brain's hypothalamus.
The brain responds to levels of these odour molecules by eventually telling us we are full, regardless of any messages that eventually follow these from the direction of the stomach. We're effectively tricking the brain into thinking we have eaten, just by exposing it to a smell.
How to use essential oils to make you healthier
The first thing to point out is that you shouldn't ingest any oil unless it has been labelled as safe for consumption - this is about scent only. However, it would be fun to try carrying essential oil around to see if this olfactory response has an effect on you.
It might be an idea to try carrying different ones on different days so you can investigate any changes in how you feel.
Common oils recommended by aromatherapists include peppermint for better digestion, grapefruit for appetite suppression and any citrus for speeding up the metabolism, so these could be ideal to start with.
Don't forget that our products at Heyland & Whittle also contain high concentrations of essential oils, so you can combine your usual beauty and pampering regime with some of your 'research'.
For example, try placing a Green Tea & Grapefruit Reed Diffuser in the kitchen to see if it reduces those mid-morning hunger pangs, or a Body Wash and Body Lotion set from the same range so you can carry the scent on your body if you're going to work and want to test the theory.
Some Wild Lemongrass Handwash before a workout might energise you to burn more calories, while our Olive & Fig Room Mist sprayed in the dining room before dinner is laid out could result in lower calorie consumption.
We'd love to hear what you think of this and if you've tried essential oils in this way yourself - do drop us a line to let us know your experiences.