Over the hundreds of thousands of years that humans have been on the face of the earth, our sense of smell has gone through an evolutionary development. We walk upright now so our sense of sight and hearing have supplanted our need to smell danger or find food. Humans have some 5-10 million scent-detecting olfactory cells positioned in the olfactory epithelium at the top of the nasal cavity. Now that sounds like a lot but these cells are only a small contingency of the entire nasal mucous membrane which is primarily respiratory epithelium. Let's put this in perspective. A rabbit has an estimated 100 million olfactory cells which are constantly turning over as new cells every few days. A rabbit needs to smell food and danger or not survive. A small dog has some 125 million olfactory cells yet a bloodhound has over 600 million olfactory cells making its sense of smell 3 million times more sensitive or acute than mans’. No wonder a bloodhound can follow a trail that is days old.
The millions of human olfactory cells are sensitive to some 10,000 different chemicals from which we can distinguish hundreds of different smells. Although we no longer depend upon our nose for survival, in our more complicated and advanced society, we look to smell to improve our aesthetic quality of life. The food and fragrance industries have figured this out and present to us a smorgasbord of scents, fragrances, and aromas designed to get our attention and to buy their products.
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From Linda L. Smith, director of the Institute of Spiritual Ministry and Aromatherapy, Inc.