I have to confess: I’m a massive skeptic when it comes to anything vaguely alternative. I’ve never had acupuncture, and it took months of cajoling from friends before I even tried oil pulling—and then months still before I admitted pulling was the reason for my improved skin and whitened teeth. Nope, I’m not the kind of health and fitness nut who decorates with crystals or burns incense.
So, when I heard about xSense, a new, all-natural aromatherapy-based product that claims to boost your productivity at work and the gym and to help you sleep, my first reaction was an exaggerated eye roll. “Unlikely,” I thought, but I figured I’d try it once, just to prove it didn’t work before dismissing the concept entirely.
The first surprise came when the product landed on my desk: Three tubes of scented oils arrived topped with a modern, easy-to-use metal ball applicator. No earthy packaging. No mess. One oil was for work, one for exercise, and one for sleep. I was required to roll the scented oil under my nose (between my lip and nostril) to feel the benefits every time I inhaled.
Because I was at the office and had a full afternoon of deadlines, I gave “WorkSense” a whirl first, a product that claims to boost your productivity.
“All of xSense’s natural ingredients work through inhalation, where the olfactory nerve within the nose then transmits signals to different parts of the brain. While not fully known, there is suggestion that some of the natural ingredients in WorkSense could affect the hippocampus (a memory structure), which may be responsible for the studies’ findings of improved learning, information retention at 30 days, accuracy, and efficiency,” explained Ashok Gowda, the company’s cofounder.
So research shows it can work—but I was more interested in results for me. Taking off the plastic cap, I pressed the button to release oil, rubbed the solution under my nose, and bam! I was Beyoncé, Marissa Mayer, and Serena Williams all rolled into one superhuman. I instantly felt more awake, present, and able to quickly focus on the next task in front of me. It’s like having a sip of coffee and spritzing yourself with face mist simultaneously.
While it’s tricky to really put your finger on the scent (eucalyptus?!), think minty, clean, and refreshing. Oh, and no one around me could smell it, only me, which is a bonus if you’d rather smell like perfume.
I may not be a scientist, but I’m a pretty experienced guinea pig when it comes to this type of stuff, and I have to admit this product is totally addictive. While it’s not a habit-forming drug (like some stimulants), I found WorkSense so effective that I’ve been using it several times per day for nearly a week. After an hour or so the scent fades, so you do need to reapply throughout the day when you need a little boost—however, my $45, .33-fluid-ounce bottle is nowhere near running out yet.
So, how exactly can scent completely change your mood? Amy Galper, founder of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy, shed a little light. “Aromatherapy accesses a deep part of our brain called the limbic system,” Galper said, explaining that this system “controls our behavior, emotions, hormone production, and all the unconscious movements and bodily-function processes like our heart beating and skin cells regenerating.”
Next, I tested “PlaySense,” which is basically supposed to make you work out harder. My skepticism on this one was justified: While the scent was perfectly pleasant (a little sweeter than the office concoction), it didn’t make a huge difference to my workout. Next.
The final test was “RestSense,” a formula designed to help you get some shut-eye. Sleeping’s never been a huge issue for me (it’s waking up early that sucks), but I did find the blend of smells calming, and I now use it regularly when I meditate. I think it’s the lavender that relaxes me.
“Most essential oils are either calming or invigorating,” said Robert Tisserand, an expert and researcher in the field of aromatherapy. He went on to explain that oil’s constituents work in different ways in the brain to trigger neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, or acetylcholine, which is why I experienced different moods and emotions depending on the oil applied.
“They’re able to do this because the molecules are absorbed, via the mucous membrane in the nose, into the brain,” he added.
So, yes, you can consider this particular skeptic completely converted. Aromatherapy for the win.