Olfactotherapy and aromatherapy: what are the differences?

Olfactotherapy and aromatherapy are both scent therapies designed to help you achieve well-being. But while they both recognise that certain ingredients have qualities in common, their methods, history and applications differ. In this article, discover the similarities and differences between two therapeutic approaches linked to nature’s aromas. 

What is olfactotherapy?

Olfactotherapy is a therapy designed to restore psycho-emotional balance through olfactory exercises. In olfactotherapy, scents act as stimuli that awaken a specific emotion. These emotions are, in a way, the tip of an iceberg that this therapeutic discipline proposes to explore.

Why does this emotion arise? To what memory or experience is it linked? By stimulating the limbic system, also known as the emotional brain, smells can be used to access the source of a number of physiological processes: 

  • emotion regulation, particularly stress and fear management ;
  • endocrine balance: it interferes with the release of hormones;
  • eating behaviour and appetite;
  • the nervous system, which controls breathing, digestion and cardiovascular functions;
  • and finally, the formation and recovery of memory.

The aim of olfactotherapy is to access the unconscious, to deconstruct certain emotional or psychological blockages and regain well-being in everyday life.

It is generally used in conjunction with other approaches such as energy therapy, sophrology, osteopathy, psychotherapy, naturopathy and yoga. 

Although olfactotherapy now has its place in the field of alternative therapies, it is not scientifically recognised. It is also a recent subject, developed in the 1990s by Gilles Fournil, an energy therapist and somatologist.

Candles collection, scented active energy treatments for the home, HOZHO.

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is closely linked to the history of medicine, and more particularly to that of phytotherapy. Since ancient times, plants have been used in various forms (decoction, herbal tea, ointment, fumigation, steam, etc.) to benefit from their therapeutic properties.

In aromatherapy, plants, and more specifically essential oils extracted from aromatic plants, are administered to promote physical and emotional well-being. They can be applied to the skin, inhaled dry (a few drops on a handkerchief) or wet (in hot water or a diffuser), or taken orally. 

In the West, aromatherapy is more commonly used in what is known as “comfort medicine”, i.e. as a back-up to help restore metabolic or psychological balance. However, it is now enjoying greater scientific recognition, particularly for its antibacterial, anti-infectious, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.

The role of aromatherapy in emotional well-being and in managing stress and anxiety is less recognised in traditional Western medicine. However, it has been taken into account for thousands of years in certain holistic medicines, such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.

In traditional Indian medicine, aromatherapy is used to regulate the chakras and doshas. In Chinese medicine, essential oils and acupuncture are used together to treat ailments of the body and mind. We even talk about Chinese energetic aromatherapy.

When diffused, aromatherapy is prescribed to purify the atmosphere and respiratory tract, calm stress and promote sleep. Topical use is more widespread, for cosmetic purposes as well as for physical, mental and emotional health.

Similarities and differences between olfactotherapy and aromatherapy

Both disciplines are based on the use of essential oils. These oils are extracted from aromatic plants (flower, leaf, bark or root) and citrus fruits through distillation. They contain many highly active molecules that need to be used with care and precision.

But while these methods use plant-based remedies, they differ in their methods of application and therapeutic processes. Olfactotherapy uses essential oils as ‘olfactory messengers‘ to reach the subconscious and influence memory, emotions and hormones. These oils are integrated into an olfactory pyramid made up of top, middle and base notes, in the same way as a perfume.

In aromatherapy, the active ingredients in the plants act directly on the syndrome or pathology being treated. They can also help to maintain a state of well-being by protecting against discomforts (allergies, bacteria, etc.). These natural treatments can be inhaled, applied to the skin or ingested (with a doctor’s supervision).

Although these therapies are related, their approaches are different and can even complement each other. In olfactotherapy, the subject is active: he or she traces a psycho-emotional or psycho-behavioural process through olfactory perceptions. It is a tool for self-knowledge. 

In aromatherapy, the plant and its active ingredients are seen as natural remedies that can treat physical, psychological or emotional disorders.

HOZHO, creator of active-energy home fragrance products

For centuries and on different continents, ancestral beliefs have often merged into common knowledge. The energy of the elements, the active principles of plants and their purifying, protective or harmonising role are all part of this wisdom. HOZHO, the leading home care brand, has drawn inspiration from this heritage to design collections dedicated to your well-being. 

Sandalwood, white sage, myrrh, oak, bamboo, rose and Palo Santo are all intoxicating scents renowned for their vibratory power. That’s why we’ve incorporated them into our many synergies to create unique ranges that invite you on a truly introspective and initiatory journey. 

Grown in the heart of the Basque Country, our plants are selected by an energy specialist, then macerated to form different combinations that will guide you towards a moment of well-being and serenity. Our extraction process guarantees our creations incomparable quality and energetic power. Feel, vibrate, connect with your emotions and the energies around you… HOZHO transforms the moments of your life, whether intimate or shared, into a moment of serenity and infinite wholeness.

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2023