Sniffing people’s body odour is being tested as an anxiety therapy

Who knew that smelling someone's armpit can reduce your anxiety? This accidental discovery might introduce a new type of therapy.

In a strange and rather stinky turn of events, researchers from Sweden are saying that sniffing other people’s armpit odour may hold the key to helping those who suffer from social anxiety.

The theory is the smell of body odour activates certain brain pathways linked to emotions, which in turn can have a calming effect. However, most of the skin’s sweat is odourless, but sweat glands in the armpit and groin produce certain compounds that cause body odour. So – between the groin and the armpit, the latter seems to be the better choice for anxiety-riddled sniffers.

Body odour!? How, and more importantly, why?

Smell is a powerful sense that plays a big role in our lives from birth. Babies are born with a strong sense of smell, with a preference for their mother’s breast milk. Smell helps us detect danger, interact with our environment and each other, and even enhance the taste of food. Aromas are detected by receptors in the nose, and the signals are then sent directly to the limbic system, a brain region associated with memory and emotions.

The Swedish researchers suggest that human body odour might communicate our emotional state, such as happiness or anxiety, and even elicit similar responses in those who smell it.

In a volunteer experiment put together by the Swedish researchers, volunteers donated armpit sweat while watching either a scary or happy movie. Then, 48 women with social anxiety sniffed some of these samples while receiving mindfulness therapy. Some of the women were given actual body odour to smell, while others were given clean air, forming the control group. Results showed that those who were exposed to the actual sweat appeared to do better with the therapy.

Lead researcher Ms. Elisa Vigna, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, says:

“Sweat produced while someone was happy had the same effect as someone who had been scared by a movie clip. So there may be something about human chemo-signals in sweat generally which affects the response to treatment.”

While this is a preliminary study and further research is needed, it’s encouraging to see that scientists are exploring everywhere – even our pits – for more ways to treat anxiety, which is a global problem.


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The post Sniffing people’s body odour is being tested as an anxiety therapy appeared first on Woman and Home Magazine.

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