By David Highfield

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — What’s your favorite smell? The smell of fresh cut grass may remind you summer. The scent of an evergreen tree may take you back to Christmas when you were growing up.

But do you know how to use smell to your advantage? Can certain scents make you feel less tired? More comfortable? Maybe even help you eat less?

More companies are even using smells to boost sales.

“This is called our repertoire room,” said Roger Howell, from Alpha Aromatics in O’Hara Township.

The room is filled with more than 5,000 little bottles of scents of they’ve created. Names such as “Fireworks Sweet Sizzle” and “Morning Freshness” and “Cucumber.”

The “Jamaican Lime” smells different to a discerning sniffer from the “Italian Lime.”

And the “Fresh Baked Cookie” smells just like the real thing.

Howell is the chief perfumer.

“A lot of people don’t even know we’re here, but we’ve been doing it for a long time,” said Howell.

What they do is to create scents for clients around the world. Big names you’d know if they were allowed to reveal them. Air fresheners, colognes, perfumes and candles all get their aromas here.

And does Howell have a favorite creation?

“I love them all. Just like you’re the parent of all these children!” he said with a chuckle.

Business is good with more companies realizing the power of appealing to the nose.

For example, popcorn: “There’s the scent for popcorn that movie theaters will put out, and they’re blowing that in the air.” Howell says it tempts people to buy it.

Many realtors say the scent of baked goods can help you sell a house.

“Makes it feel like a home, like you’re already welcomed,” said Howell.

But now some companies are taking scent suggestion even further.

A European study found the smell of melons can make grocery store customers buy more. At least one department store chain reportedly pumps a coconut scent in the bathing suit section.

Some research shows customers spend more when they smell warm scents like vanilla or cinnamon. And some business just want a classy signature scent.

“You’ll see these a lot in hotels in their lobbies,” said Howell. “They want to be able to make you feel it’s a luxury hotel.”

Oh, and that new car smell? Howell says in SOME cases, it’s engineered.

But what about you? How can you use the power of scents?

Tim George, at Alpha Aromatics, had KDKA’s David Highfield sample some combinations they mixed up.

The first is meant to relax you, and as I try it, George says: “This is Mother Nature doing her work right now.”

  • For more information on Alpha Aromatics, click here.

It contains lavender and chamomile, both known for having a relaxing effect. And also a little citrus, which is supposed to energize you.

“By smelling them, it can almost give you that sense of I can do this! Okay, it’s going to give me energy, keep me going,” said Howell.

Next up, something for anxiety relief which has peppermint for a cool or refreshing sensation.

It also has sandalwood, a scent from a tree.

Highfield: “It makes you feel? Secure or safe?”

George: “Yes and yes…. that type of grounding where you feel like a big hug.”

If you’re a little skeptical, meet Nathan Urban Ph.D, a neurobiologist at Pitt’s Brain Institute.

He studies, among other things, how early experiences with smells affect our brains.

“There is this well-known connection between smell and memory,” said Urban.

He says if citrus makes you feel energized, it’s because of an early association.

“When do you smell citrus, when you might be drinking orange juice or eating citrus fruit, that has a lot of sugar. You might feel more energetic,” said Urban.

And just because it’s from an association, doesn’t mean your reaction isn’t real.

Maybe apple pie reminds you of good times in grandma’s kitchen.

“It could put you in a better state, and that’s a physiological change. I mean you could measure hormone levels, you could measure a whole variety of things,” said Urban.

While he’s not involved in creating scents to get certain reactions, that’s exactly what they’re doing at Alpha Aromatics, and work there never stops.

Highfield: “So are you walking around the time just smelling things? Is your brain always working like that?

Howell: “Unfortunately, I wish it wouldn’t, but absolutely, it does.”

One final note, while not associated with any local experts dealing with a smell, a German study found that just having the scent of olive oil associated with food, lead participants to eat fewer calories.

The thinking is that olive oil is more likely to make someone feel satisfied, and the report got a lot of attention from those hoping smell might even help people lose weight.

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