Nature smells to feel well

River D'Almeida, Ph.D
The Reading Frame
Published in
3 min readMay 28, 2024

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Natural scents significantly impact our health and well-being.

Photo by Jason Ortego on Unsplash

We often hear that spending time in nature is beneficial for our health. Science backs this up, showing that nature can enhance our mood, reduce stress, and improve our physical health.

Even brief exposure to natural settings can make a difference. For instance, a famous study found that hospital patients recovered more quickly when their rooms had windows overlooking natural landscapes.

While much of the research has focused on the visual aspects of nature, there’s growing interest in understanding how the scents of nature impact us. Gregory Bratman, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, highlights that while we know a lot about the benefits of seeing nature, we have much to learn about how natural scents affect our emotions and behavior.

Our sense of smell, or olfaction, is a complex system capable of detecting over a trillion scents. Natural environments are rich with chemical compounds, particularly volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by plants. These VOCs can stay in the air for hours or days, performing various functions like attracting pollinators or repelling herbivores. Researchers are now exploring how these plant VOCs might influence human health and well-being.

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River D'Almeida, Ph.D
The Reading Frame

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