Wellness News & Info

The brain and essential oils

laughter-limbicArticle by: Anya V 

Did you know that our sense of smell is the only sense directly tied to the limbic area of the brain, which is considered the emotional control center? This means that when essential oils are inhaled, they go directly to the brain. Our other four senses — taste, sight, touch and hearing — are first routed through the thalamus before reaching designated areas of the brain. Because the limbic system is directly connected to the parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure,breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance, therapeutic-grade essential oils can have unbelievable physiological and psychological effects.

Each of the essential oils has therapeutic stimulating, calming, sedative, balancing properties. When we inhale an essential oil molecule, it travels through the nasal passage to a receptor neuron that transports it up to the limbic brain, especially the hypothalamus. The limbic center in your brain is responsible for controlling all the physical, psychological, and emotional responses that your body performs based on stimulus coming from the outside. Thus, the ability of essential oils to target your limbic center, make them a powerful tool in treating many health ailments.

When essential oils are inhaled through the nose, tiny nerves send an immediate signal to the brain and go straight to work on the systems that moderate our minds and bodies. Inhalation can be the most direct delivery method of these incredibly nurturing components in essential oils, since the chemical messengers in the nasal cavity have direct access to the brain.

In studies performed at Vienna and Berlin Universities, researchers discovered that sesquiterpenes, a natural compound found in essential oils of Vetiver, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Sandalwood and Frankincense, can increase levels of oxygen in the brain by up to 28 percent (Nasel, 1992). Such an increase in brain oxygen may lead to a heightened level of activity in the hypothalamus and limbic systems of the brain, which can have dramatic effects on not only emotions but on learning, attitude, and many physical processes of the body such as: immune function, hormone balance, and energy levels. High levels of sesquiterpenes also occur in Melissa, Myrrh, Cedarwood, and Clove essential oils.

In 1989, Dr. Joseph Ledoux , at New York Medical University, discovered that the amygdala plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma. From the studies of Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Ledoux we can conclude that aromas may exert a profound effect in triggering a response.

Essential oils can provide many benefits to the human body without side effects, whether it is through diffusing or simply inhaling the aroma straight from the bottle. Proper stimulation of the olfactory nerves may offer a powerful and entirely new form of therapy that could be used as an adjunct against many forms of illness. Therapeutic essential oils, through inhalation, may occupy a key position in this relatively unexplored frontier in medicine.

The ability of essential oils and its molecular properties to affect both physical and psychological functions in the body is one reason why it is currently being evaluated for brain injury treatments.

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