The Scent that Stops Cravings in Their Tracks

Can you believe there is a natural scent that when inhaled eliminates some junk food cravings? It’s true. During my research for my book 60 Seconds to Slim I discovered a study in which overweight participants inhaled this scent and lost an average of 4.5 pounds in four weeks without making any special dietary effort. The scent? Vanilla. The natural smell of vanilla stimulates the release of the brain chemical serotonin, a hormone that promotes feelings of satisfaction and happiness.

Vanilla is the seed pod from a Central American orchid. Pure vanilla extract and vanilla essential oil is made by extracting the lovely aromatic scent. The former is an alcohol extract that is frequently used in baking. Vanilla essential oil is made through the arduous task of extracting only the oil from the vanilla seed pods. However, most of the “vanilla extracts” available for baking are synthetic and likely do not offer the therapeutic benefits of natural vanilla extract.

Alan Hirsch, M.D., Director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, indicates that the tendency to overeat is governed by the satiety center in the brain. By understanding the effects of smell on this area, he suggests that cravings can be eliminated by simply sniffing certain scents, especially when you feel a tendency to overeat. The smell of vanilla is one of the best scents to reduce cravings.

Research at St. George’s Hospital in London, England, conducted a test of an aroma patch that adheres to the skin, releasing the aroma of vanilla and other scents. They attempted to determine whether the patch worn on the back of the hand would reduce cravings for chocolate, and sweet foods and beverages.

For the study, 200 overweight participants were divided into groups and received either a vanilla patch, a lemon patch, a dummy patch or no patch at all. After only four weeks, the weight loss in the other groups was a fraction of the weight lost by people wearing the vanilla patches.

According to Catherine Collins, the hospital’s Chief Dietician who led the study, not only did the participants consume fewer sugary foods and beverages, they cut their chocolate consumption in half. What’s more: the participants in the study lost an average of 4.5 pounds simply from wearing the aroma patch. The patch, however, did not affect participants’ taste for savory foods or alcohol.

Heres How to Reap the Benefits:

Inhale only pure vanilla extract or vanilla essential oil. You can smell it directly out of the bottle or place a few drops on a handkerchief and smell it throughout the day.  Ideally, smell the scent at least three times a day for 30 seconds each time; however, more often is fine too.  If you’re experiencing any cravings that is the ideal time to inhale the wonderful scent of vanilla since it can reduce your feelings of hunger.  Be aware, however, that truly natural vanilla essential oil is usually thick. If it is thin, it has typically been diluted with a solvent and should be avoided. Don’t worry if you can’t find a good quality essential oil. You can get all the weight loss benefits from a 100% pure vanilla extract, which is available in most health food stores and grocery stores.

Safety Suggestion:

You are probably familiar with vanilla-scented candles, vanilla fragrance oil used for potpourri and other household purposes, and vanilla perfume, all of which are typically made from synthetic vanilla and have no therapeutic purpose. Instead, they may actually be damaging to the body.  Pure vanilla essential oil or vanilla extract will stain a handkerchief so be sure to use one you don’t mind staining.

Super Health Bonus:

The fragrance of vanilla may help you cope with stress. Of study participants who smelled vanilla oil, 45 percent reported feeling relaxed while another 27 percent said they felt happy, according to research results published in the January 2005 supplement of Chemical Senses.

Adapted with permission from book 60 Seconds to Slim by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, DHS, ROHP.  Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, DHS, ROHP.