Forest-Inspired Fragrances Can Calm Anxiety and Fight Brain Fog—Here Are 6 of Our New Favorites

Photo: Getty Images/ Brigitte Sporrer
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Who hasn’t been guilty of scrolling through social on their phone while watching TV and trying to get some work done on their laptop? In other words, we’re all at screen overload. That’s part of the reason forest bathing—known as “shinrin-yoku” in Japan, where the practice originated—has captivated the wellness world for a while now. Spending time in nature has proven mental health perks, including reducing anxiety and improving a sense of overall wellness, but getting outside isn't always easy for those of us who live in urban environments. That's where forest-inspired fragrances—which we named as one of the biggest wellness trends of 2022 back in December—come in.

“This trend has reached the perfume world because it is based on a desire to reconnect with nature,” says Marie Salamagne, a perfumer with Firmenich, the world's largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company. “The idea of spending time communing with mother nature to reflect, experience, and breathe in her majesty relieves tension and allows us to transcend our own lives to reveal new connections with ourselves and others. The emotions, visualizations, and sensations that fragrance provides can deliver a new kind of well-being—one that is able to replicate the outdoors as we move through our fast-paced, everyday lives.” In other words, when you can’t strap on a backpack and head into the woods, sniffing the scents of the forest is the next best thing.

So how exactly does this connection work? “The sense of olfaction is directly linked to the part of the brain connected to emotion and memory, so smelling the scent makes us travel and transports us to a forest,” says Daphné Bugey, a perfumer with Firmenich. “Various studies have shown that spending time outdoors reduces stress, blood pressure, and heart rate. It also encourages physical activity and enhances mood and mental health. So, recreating the scent of the outdoors, of the forest, is a way for us to bring this state of relaxation and well-being with us wherever we go.”

The association is so strong that Aromatherapy Associates created its Forest Therapy collection based on this notion. “Our smell receptors hold a smell and associate it with a memory of when you experienced that scent and how it made you feel,” says Christina Salcedas, the brand's global director of education and wellbeing. “So, when you were out in nature and you felt good, if you smell those earthy, woody, or floral notes again, it will transport you back and make you relive those feelings of calm and stillness or energy and reset. The green, woody, earthy aromas always manage to clear and decongest, meaning we can breathe deeper, sending more oxygen to the brain and clearer thinking. They are great for mind fog, or simply making us declutter our unwanted thoughts.”

Depending on your own personal experience with nature, there are different ways to bring forest bathing into your perfume collection. “Interestingly, there may be slight differences depending on an individual’s geographical experience,” says Pamela Dalton, PhD, MPH, Member, Monell Chemical Senses Center.“For example, for some people, the scent of cedar or other woody aromas will evoke the forest, whereas for others it may be more of a pine balsam aroma or even eucalyptus. Interested individuals can ask a fragrance expert to show them a variety of ‘forest-inspired’ scents and then try them with enough time to allow the scent to transport them to the place that retrieves or elicits the most effective and positive mood change.”

On that note (pun intended), you’ll want to experiment with earthy scents to find the one that works best for you. Bugey recommends looking for green, woody, earthy, aromatic, resinous, and smoky ingredients, like oak-moss, pine tree, vetiver, cedarwood, and eucalyptus.

“These ingredients each have different facets that when expertly blended can reveal an intimacy that replicates the great outdoors,” she says. “Whether woody, earthy and rich, with a hint of smokiness that’s fresh and green, we can deliver a feeling of full-on submersion in the plants, trees and grass that can immediately calm us.”

If you don’t want to go all out, you can still wear just a few woodsy notes to get the boost. “I’d be seeking fragrances with woody and fresh pine notes, supported by leafy green characteristics, but these can pair well with gentle citrus, light floral, and earthy/spice,” says Luke Taylor, Head of Technical Development at Aromatherapy Associates.

Ultimately, it’s about trying different scents that work for you until you find your magic forest bathing in a bottle. Shop a few of our favorite forest-themed fragrances, below.

Jo Malone London Forest Moss — $75.00

Designed with the nature explorer in mind, this genderless cologne evokes peacefully paddling a kayak through a hidden forest with natural notes of geranium, moss and juniper.

Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme Eau & Cédre — $105.00

Featuring 91 percent naturally derived ingredients, cardamom, cedarwood, vetiver, and patchouli join forces so that you’ll be smelling green. The wooden cap enhances the forestry effect and raw nature behind it, and though it’s technically “pour homme” (for men), anyone can enjoy its woodsy notes.

Costa Brazil Aroma — $198.00

Just like its muse, the Amazon rainforest, this scent is designed to shift and change on your skin. See how the blend of white jungle flora, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, and amber accords smells on you to find your own unique “signature” scent.

Dries Van Noten Santal Greenery — $280.00

This perfume was designed to deliver the perfect balance of nature’s yin and yang. The earthy, woody scent of sandalwood will ground you, while fig leaves provide a lively, uplifting finish.

Marie Jeanne Brume d'Hiver — $110.00

Each of the notes in this scent was included for their functional benefits. Sandalwood reduces stress; cedar provides a warm, uplifting vibe; and patchouli offers purifying, regenerative qualities. A single spritz will refresh you almost as much as a walk in the woods—even when the woods are hundreds of miles away.

Hermès Terre d'Hermès Eau Givrée — $137.00

This luxury fragrance—whose name translates to “The Earth of Hermes”—adds an icy flare to your standard earthy scent by combining traditional woodsy notes (namely citron and timut pepper) with the airy breeze of juniper berry.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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