The ability to smell has fascinated men, women, philosophers, and scientist for thousands of years. The ancient philosopher Plato discriminated against smell believing that it can lead to lust and gluttony. He believed that vision and hearing are superior senses because it opened one’s mind to music, art, and geometry.
Meanwhile, in the 18th to 19th century, there was a widespread misconception that smell can cause disease. Odors from swamps, corpses, urine, and feces (these were known as “miasmic”) were thought to have the power to kill. In order to ward off the miasmic, people had to inhale incense, garlic, sulfur, or amber. In addition, they were told never to swallow saliva that has been infected by the smell but spit it out.
How Do We Smell?
So how has society progressed since then? The mystery is still unfolding because the science of smell is a very interesting and complex topic. Basically, the study should start out by understanding the concept of “odor” molecule. The oil is filled with these molecules and it enters the nose every time you inhale 23,000 times per day.
Behind the nose is the mucous-covered tissue which contains the receptor cells. The cells are located above microscopic hair. Forty receptor cells must detect the odor molecules before a certain smell will register on the brain. The limbic system of the brain is the one responsible for identifying new scents. This section of the brain is also very mysterious because it handles instinct, feelings, lust, and creativity.
Tasting and Smelling
No one can deny that the abilities of tasting and smelling are closely related to each other. The tongue can only detect four things: sour, salty, bitter, and sweet. It is actually the smell that gives aroma and body to the food. For example, wine can be appreciated because of a person’s ability to smell. If it is taken alone, even the best wine will taste bland.
Scientists are now able to categorize smell into seven categories including minty, floral, musky, ethereal, resinous, foul, and acrid. In addition, they discovered that talking with your mouth full is really ill-advised not only because it shows a lack of ethics but also because it expels smell molecules that diminishes the taste of your food.
Science has really come a long way. Smell, which used to be treated in an inferior manner, is now being treated with awe and respect. It has now been discovered that smell can stimulate learning and improve memory.