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Physiological effect of olfactory stimuli inhalation in humans: an overview

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The importance of odorants in human life has long been recognized. Literature contains different approaches of physiological and psychological effects of odorant compounds, fragrances and essential oils. This work discusses odorants inhalation effect, based on an overview of major studies in humans. Beneficial effect of fragrances is mainly related to human behaviour. Studies document odorants influence in sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and neurophysiological brain activity. Moreover, odours compounds can act on the neuroendocrine system, neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, influencing psychological behaviour as well as body function. Odorant inhalation modulates physiological pathways, and in some cases, results in skin function regulation. The mechanism is incompletely elucidated. These findings suggest that olfactory system plays a role in central nervous system function beyond that of smell. In this overview, it was observed that odour compounds influenced stress biomarkers, dehydroepiandrosterone, oxidative stress, estradiol, dopamine, cutaneous barrier, sebum secretion and cutaneous immune system in humans. Some can be related with skin function. As the skin is associated with an extensive biochemical cascade and has complex mechanisms, studies have far to go, as there are processes not yet investigated related to skin that may be affected through olfaction. Future researches are needed to further understand and describe the mechanisms of action of physiological effects in fragrance compounds.
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Keywords: inhalation; olfactory stimuli; physiological effect; skin

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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