Who out there knows that butterflies are scented? Their aroma can be that of flowers like honeysuckle or jasmine, herbs and spices like lemon verbena or cinnamon, or confections like vanilla or chocolate, depending on the species. It can also be unpleasant, like vinegar, or urine. According to Avery Gilbert, author of What the Nose Knows, scented butterflies are neither exotic nor rare. While field guides do not say so, Gilbert notes that butterflies can easily be caught, sniffed, and released unharmed. What a captivating pursuit!

With my recent article on body odor, and the heat of summer causing lots of seasonally assertive odors, questions about the power of scent have stuck in my mind. So I turned to an expert: Gilbert’s new book examines why the sense of smell is so underappreciated, and why it should be… More…

 

Sometimes the smell of body odor means more than just “Wash me!” A person whose sweat starts to smell fruity may have developed diabetes, and an ammonia smell may indicate liver or kidney disease. Odor of rotting fish may signal trimethylaminuria — a rare syndrome caused by a defective gene that prevents people from metabolizing trimethylamine, a natural byproduct of digestion of certain foods like saltwater fish, eggs, and liver.

Body odors have a way of making a lasting impression, even when they don’t signal illness and even when we try ignore them. I’ll never forget the powerful scent emanating from Father Brady, the Irish priest at the church where I grew up. He never looked sweaty, but whenever he would lean over to shake my hand with his own squat, papery one, a smell that made me… More…