It’s Not Only Soothing When You Drink It

Tea is one of the world’s oldest and most beloved beverages, and for good reason. The combined effects of flavor, warmth, and fragrance appeal to almost all of the human senses, creating a powerful product that can do just about everything from wake you up to lull you to sleep. But there is one human sense that tea interacts with on a particularly sensitive level: Smell.

Hand holding a steaming mug of tea, with trees in the background

When the steaming vapor of tea enters the olfactory system, it carries with it all the herbal goodness from that tea into the nose and brain, causing chemical reactions that can trigger memories and changes in mood. The polyphenols present in tea have the ability to increase or decrease alertness, reduce stress, and even delay age-related cognitive decline. The outcome of inhaling the fragrance of tea will depend greatly on what kind of tea you are smelling, but one thing is for sure: This ancient beverage has a profound ability to influence mood, health, and even physical energy levels.

Consuming Tea Via The Olfactory System

When you inhale any fragrance, the olfactory system becomes engaged. Molecules travel through the nostrils and into the brain, lungs, and mouth before dispersing into other parts of the body. Because tea is comprised of natural herbs, plants, and flowers, any medicinal benefits or attributes that your tea contains will subsequently travel throughout the body before it has even reached your lips.

For example, a cup of green tea contains a high percentage of antioxidants, amino acids, and L-theanine; all of which contribute to improved memory retention, stomach digestion, and overall mental function. Before those molecules have been orally consumed, they get inhaled via the nose and mouth, entering your olfactory system and instilling those powerful health benefits prior to being actively ingested.

Using The Fragrance Of Tea To Influence Your Physical And Psychological Health

Wherever your sense of smell takes you, your taste buds usually follow. This is due to the fact that your olfactory system includes both of these two different senses, linking smell and taste to each other. Because a tea’s fragrance is usually much stronger than its inherent flavor, you can usually extract more of its flavor by smelling it rather than drinking it. The combined effect of both smelling and tasting a tea at the same time can trigger a wide variety of health benefits, ranging from a stimulating upliftment in energy to a soothing anxiolytic calmness.

There tends to be three degrees of fragrance when it comes to naturally perfumed teas. You’ll get the top note, which is the initial hit of aroma, then the mid note, which is what you smell at the peak of inhalation, and the base note, which is the fragrance that lingers at the end. All three stages of fragrance can be unique, creating a layered olfactory experience that triggers a variety of mental, physical, and even psychological effects.

Whether you are seeking to improve your memory, reduce stress, or increase physical energy, taking a moment to savor the fragrance of tea first could be just as effective as drinking it.

Photo “Person holding white ceramic cup” is under an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to the photographer Clay Banks and is being posted unaltered (source)