"Aromatic arousal can greatly improve awareness, which is integral to vision," says Alan Hirsch, M.D., F.A.C.P., a neurologist and psychiatrist who directs the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation. "Inhaling jasmine increases the beta waves in the frontal lobes of your brain," says Dr. Hirsch. "This promotes wakefulness, and when you're more awake, you focus better on things and thus see more acutely." Although inhaling essential oils of peppermint and vanilla won't increase your vision strength, he continues, "they will help you improve your awareness and visual tracking."
Dr. Hirsch, one of the world's leading researchers on the effects of smell and taste on physiology; the senses and emotional states, has published his research in The Journal of the American Medical Association and many other peer-reviewed medical journals. He is also the author of "Scentsational Sex," (Element, 1998), which explores medical research on how aromas affect male and female sexual arousal and interactions. Dr. Hirsch notes that certain scents, such as "mixed floral scents in perfumes, shampoos and colognes," enhance hand and eye coordination in more subjects than not. You can experiment on yourself by spritzing on some mixed floral cologne before driving, playing tennis or computer games. Or try spraying on a bit of cologne in the mid-afternoon instead of having a cup of coffee. How does the scent affect your performance? To promote more acute night vision, Dr. Hirsch recommends using a few vials of jasmine, peppermint or vanilla essential oils for sniffing your way to sharper focus. "These stimulating scents work because the rods in your eyes [rod-shaped cells in the retina which respond to dim light] are more stimulated when the limbic system is activated by scents," he says. "The rods are heavily relied upon in night vision. Switch scents every 20 minutes and you will see better because you'll be more awake and focused."