Pumpkin spice’s nostalgic aroma fuels the seasonal craze, doctor says

There’s no pumpkin in pumpkin spice, but there is something about it that triggers nostalgia and comfort – even if it’s still humid in Florida.

Dr. Mike Cirigliano from the FOX News Medical Team said the overpowering allure of the flavor is partly psychological.

"Now, why do we go crazy this time of year for that? It has to do with the brain. What happens is when you breathe in those wonderful spices, it effects a little part of the brain, called the piriform cortex," he explained to FOX 13. "The piriform cortex is very important for the aroma determination and it’s near areas of the brain that are responsible for memory."

"What this evokes is the past: grandma, mom making pumpkin pie; the fall; the leaves; getting together with friends," he added. "All of those things play together to make pumpkin so popular at this time of year."

Smells can easily tap into memories, and pumpkin spice is no different, according to Johns Hopkins University’s perception researchers. Even if an individual expects a certain smell, that can still ignite the area of the piriform cortex. 

"That’s part of it. You do have the olfactory nerves and bulb and that allows you to smell those wonderful spices," Dr. Mike said. "But the bottom line is not only do you smell those aromas, but it’s associated with memories and parts of the brain that evokes emotion."

As a result, the power of pumpkin spice seems to be very real, every fall season.

"That’s why people go crazy over pumpkin spice. It just evokes," Dr. Mike said. "I got to tell you. I think my favorite holiday of all year is Thanksgiving. Everyone celebrates it we all get together and it’s wonderful."