This summer, researchers at Ruhr Universitat Bochum in Germany discovered that our skin possesses an olfactory receptor responsive to the scent of sandalwood. Sandalwood is a highly popular scent used in incense, candles and perfumes, and humans have been using the fragrant oil and wood from sandalwood trees dating back to centuries ago.
Contrary to popular belief, the nose is not the only place where we have olfactory receptors. Yes, our nose has 350 different olfactory receptors alone, but we also have receptors in our prostate, intestine and kidneys. The receptors discovered to be responsive to sandalwood have now been found in keratinocytes – the cells that form the most outer layer of our skin, and its the first time they have been identified in our bodies.
This data shows that when certain receptors in our skin come into contact with sandalwood, they become activated and prompt both the rapid production of cells as well as cell migration – both processes that typically facilitate wound healing.
While the primary researcher, Dr. Hans Hatt, feels it could be difficult to convince the scientific community of the credibility of his findings, he remains optimistic that it could signal a new approach to treatments. For instance, it could find its application in cancer and cosmetic treatment – some cancer T-cells also have olfactory receptors, and it could also used for both cosmetic and wound-healing applications. It’s exciting research that we hope to see succeed in the future – but until further testing takes place to prove its application, you might want to hold off on buying the next sandalwood incense you see on the shelf!