You’ve tried everything: diet, exercise, drinking water and doing yoga. But your productivity seems to be at a standstill. What happens when you think you’ve tried everything to excel, but you still feel held back?

There’s a simple solution for this seemingly insurmountable issue – the problem is in your nose.

It’s a fact – your stinky office is preventing you from working as productively as you might want to be. The art of aromatherapy, while considered a pseudoscience by many, is more common in homeopathic communities. But some smells are in fact scientifically proven to help improve productivity, increase relaxation, and aid in wellbeing, and studies show that a little aromatherapy can go a long way.

What is aromatherapy?

The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines aromatherapy as “the use of essential oils from plants,” such as flowers, herbs, or trees, “as a therapy to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.” Aromatherapy is most often implemented through smells and has been known to help physical illnesses in numerous clinical trials, especially with cancer patients.

Aromatherapy has few side effects, and some like lavender and tea tree oil have been shown to have “some hormone-like effects.”

In an article from Hopkins, experts suggest that the best way to absorb the smells of aromatherapy is through things like accessories such as necklaces or bracelets, body oils, keychains, aroma sticks, or diffusers.

1. Rosemary

Rosemary is the first essential oil that’s shown to have positive effects on productivity. As a spice, you might know it better as a flavor in your favorite focaccia. But the plant produces a lovely sweet, earthy flavor that’s been scientifically shown to improve memory.

A study in the International Journal of Neuroscience notes that among participants in their trial, “rosemary produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors.” It also improved mood; those with exposure to the essential oil of rosemary had a “significantly better mood” than those in the control group.
Ultimately, the study concludes that “olfactory properties of these essential oils can produce objective effects on cognitive performance, as well as subjective effects on mood.”

2. Lavender

The luscious scents of lavender might be in your favorite laundry detergent or perfume, but did you know that as an essential oil, this beautiful odor can decrease your stress by leaps and bounds? Fast Company reports that researchers from Meikai University in Japan found that lavender “noticeably decreased the stress hormone, cortisol,” which we all know increases irritability, and decreases cognitive abilities.

The same International Journal of Neuroscience study that studied rosemary also studied lavender, and the effects were striking. Fast Company reports that researchers discovered “inhaling lavender essential oil before doing math problems helped subjects complete the problems faster and more accurately than the control group.”

And as if decreased stress and increased concentration weren’t enough, Entrepreneur notes that the most common benefits of lavender are its’ relaxation properties. When inhaled, lavender has been known to soothe nerves, relieve tension, and treat headaches or migraines.

3. Lemon

While lemon is also something that you’ve probably consumed in your teas or gelatos than in the form of a smell, PersonnelToday reports that lemon has been recently used in workplaces across the globe to help improve employee performance. In the UK, a branch of Japanese construction firm Shimizu has begun using scented diffusers in their offices, “as well as creating new buildings with specially designed air ducts for aromatherapy purposes.”

And the first scent they greet employees with every morning? You guessed it: lemon.

The Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology, in a study on the effects of lemon oil, showed that this scent enhances positive mood even more so than lavender for some people. It was also found that “norepinephrine levels following the cold pressor,” a method of diffusing the scent, “remained elevated when subjects smelled lemon.”

Again, norepinephrine might ring a bell as a synonym for adrenaline, and a trigger for the body to release cortisol.

4. Peppermint

Finally, the last scent isn’t just fit for mouthwash or mouse-shooing candles – the slight buzz of peppermint in your nostrils can stimulate your brain, according to scientists. In another review from the International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that peppermint produced “a significant improvement in overall quality of memory” compared to both the control and other scents it was tested against.

Peppermint in particular showed that the scent provides an improvement in working memory and long-term memory.

The other various physical effects of peppermint are less scientifically validated, but still widely accepted. Healthline notes that peppermint oil has been used as early as Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome as a homeopathic cure for pain, stomach ailments and chest congestion.

A small study in 2013 also reported that peppermint oil was shown to improve exercise performance and provide an invigorating boost to prevent fatigue.

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