Drug Free...? Maybe You're Not As Much As You Think

You may not realize it, but there are all kinds of fragrances influencing you throughout your day. Odors, some pleasant some not, that seep into your nose but also your life. And your moods. Take the bracing perfume of backyard gardens or the noxious smells of car exhausts. One exhilarating, the other annoying. A yin and yang you will be encountering throughout the people and places in your day.

Two particular aromas make the point — caffeine and vanilla. The first energizes us, the second eases us. The first hits us front on, the second sneaks in more subtly. Both are usually part of everyday life.

Caffeine comes to us mostly in our drinks. Coffee, tea, colas. But look closer and it’s on a great many labels. Researchers have found it’s even in certain flowers. There are high levels of caffeine in the nectar of citrus plants which help explain their great appeal to pollinating bees. Bee researcher Abraham Palmer of the University of Chicago writes: “Caffeine absolutely influences our behaviors, be we humans or bees. It alters both mood and performance.”

I don’t think anyone standing in line at Starbucks would be surprised to read that.

However, they might be surprised to hear about the less known affects of vanilla in their lives. Paris perfumers will quickly tell you that hints of vanilla extract are found in scores of popular perfumes. Say like the perennial favorite Shalimar. The very same fragrance Joan uses. And why is Shalimar so intoxicating to most men…? We are told by behaviorists that the hint of vanilla is a subtle reminder of the security of Mom’s kitchen on those long-ago baking days.

Look, I’m not here to hypothesize on the role of caffeine, vanilla, or any other flavors in your life. Only remember this. Not everything that affects you can be seen by you. The eye may be the gateway to the soul, but sometimes so is the nose. Like they keep saying — it’s complicated.

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