The Power of Scent Memory & Why It’s Important

Everyone has experienced the memory-triggering power of scents. Just one whiff of a particular smell — whether pleasant or not-so-pleasant — can take you back to a specific moment in your life. Picking up the aroma of your father’s aftershave might take you back to your childhood, or the smell of lilies could transport you to a loved one’s funeral. Whether the experience is positive or negative, there is no denying that some of our most powerful memories are little more than a sniff away. 

smiling woman smelling bouquet flowers

Source: OlScher/

The power of scent memory is well documented, and research has uncovered strong links between smells, emotions and memories. If you want to fill your home with beautiful aromas and memories, candles with fragrances that remind you of positive times in your life are an excellent option. They make lovely gifts for new homeowners too. Read on to learn more about the power of scent memory and why it’s important. 

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Why Scent Triggers Memories

According to a study published in Process in Neurobiology, certain scents may trigger memories due to the connection between the hippocampus and the olfactory system in the human brain. The hippocampus is one of the brain’s most primitive regions. Responsible for things like memory, motivation, pain and pleasure, it also plays a role in forming memories. It also temporarily stores new memories. The olfactory system has a strong connection to the hippocampus. In fact, it has a stronger connection to the hippocampus than the body’s systems of sound, touch, taste and sight. This connection could explain why smelling certain aromas triggers such strong memories and emotions. Additional research has proven that scent is a more potent trigger for memories than any other sensory cue. 

Why It’s Important

3d illustration of olfactory system

Source: Design_Cells/

The human olfactory system is widely under-appreciated. Evolutionary speaking, it is our oldest sensory system. It’s also the one located the deepest in our brains. Sense of smell is a critical tool for survival in the animal kingdom, and that’s true for humans too. While you may not spend your day consciously trying to sniff out danger, your brain will alert you that something is wrong if you detect the scent of smoke, melting plastic, or certain chemicals. In this way, your scent memory can help keep you safe. 

Additionally, pleasant aromas can alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. For example, our Celebration candles can trigger happy memories on difficult days. Ignite our Bride’s Bouquet candle or one of our other Wedding collection candles, and you’ll instantly be transported back to your wedding day. Or indulge in our New Job candle when you feel burnt out by your career and need to remember the excitement of your first day. 

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When scents and memories intertwine, the association can live in your brain forever. The smells that soothed you as an infant — like the aroma of lavender-infused baby wash — may ease anxiety and stress in adulthood too. Scents that trigger negative emotions may not seem beneficial, but they are equally helpful. As humans, we subconsciously use our sense of smell to assess complex situations and new environments. Our scent memory lets us know whether we feel comfortable in various scenarios and can guide where we go, what we eat, and with whom we spend our time. 

The Impact of Smell Loss

To better understand the importance of your sense of smell, consider the impact of smell loss. Loss of smell is a common symptom of COVID-19. Decreased smelling abilities are also common in old age, and many neurodegenerative diseases can cause smell loss. Loss of smell is a common early symptom of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases. 

Interestingly, this loss of smell has been linked to depression and can decrease one’s quality of life. It impacts one’s ability to taste food and hinders the ability to detect danger. The inability to enjoy the positive memories triggered by scents is psychologically detrimental too. 

homesick new home candle

While often under-valued, our ability to smell is one of our most powerful senses. Scent, memory, and emotion are intertwined, so it makes sense to surround yourself with fragrances that trigger your best memories and most positive feelings. Our memory candles are the perfect way to inspire happy emotions and form new memories for yourself and your loved ones. From our new home candle to candles featuring scents reminiscent of road trips, date nights, beach cottages and more, we have options that are sure to transport your back to the happiest times of your life.