Essential Oils- A Revoilution
Essential Oils- A Revoilution
There is something in the air these days. You may have noticed it at a chiropractor’s office, your friend’s house, or even a therapist’s office. Perhaps you’ve noticed diffusers popping up in places like these, watched curiously as your friend used a “roller” to ease a sore shoulder, or seen a co-worker using a similar roller on their wrists to help themselves stay calm. Some might call it a revolution (or better yet a “revoilution”), but the truth is: Using essential oils for healing is as old as humanity. In baby Jesus’ day, Frankincense was worth more than gold for its healing properties. Today, research is solidifying what our ancestors knew- essential oils can and do to help heal the human body and mind.
“What was that smell? And why do I feel like I’m back in kindergarten?”
Our sense of smell, or our olfactory sense, can have a very important impact on our health and wellness. This is partly because our olfactory sense which becomes activated when inhaling a scent through our nose is the only sense that is directly connected our limbic system. The limbic system is known as the “emotional center” of our brain, where it supports functions such as emotion, behavior, and motivation. Within the limbic system is our amygdala, sometimes referred to as the brain’s “smoke detector” as it activates the fight/flight/freeze response. Have you had the experience of cooking near a “too sensitive” smoke detector that continually goes off even though there is no fire? This can happen with the brain’s “smoke detector” as well when we are triggered by (seemingly) insignificant stimuli as we go about our lives. The limbic system is also home to the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for consolidating memories. Your olfactory system’s close connection with your limbic system may explain why a familiar smell can send us back into the archives of our life quite suddenly, resulting in an experience ranging from comforting and pleasant, to highly disturbing.
What Does the Research Say?
Researchers have been looking into the effects of essential oils on the human body and mind, and have made some fascinating discoveries! For instance, sesquiterpenes are compounds found in some oils, including Frankincense. Sesquiterpenes are able to cross the blood/brain barrier and subsequently increase oxygen in the brain, heightening the level of activity in the limbic system and positively impacting emotional health, hormone balance, and immune function. Sesquiterpenes have also been found to be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and can even impact the growth of tumors (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3709812/). Additionally, recent research on Frankincense, an essential oil superstar, has found it to be effective in treating anxiety and depression, and may have put researchers on a path to developing a new class of antidepressants (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080520110415.htm). Citrus and lavender, two more heavyweights of the essential oil world, have been tested extensively and have been found to aid in relaxation, as well as reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety (http://petrichorapothecary.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/researchpaper.pdf).
Essential Oils and You
As mentioned earlier, our sense of smell is the ONLY sense that goes straight to the emotional part of our brain, i.e. our limbic system. In doing so, it bypasses the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for cognitive, or intellectual, functioning. Therefore, each person will have a unique response to certain aromas based on their own life experiences, including emotions and memories that are activated by each scent. For instance, even though the research has shown that many people can increase relaxation with the scent of lavender, if the smell activates a negative response for you, then it won’t be helpful for relaxation purposes. There are many essential oils to choose from when seeking relief from specific conditions, and finding the ones that are right for you is of utmost importance.
Aromas, such as those from essential oils, can be used in the course of psychotherapy to aid in healing and growth. Clinicians may use scents to activate calming and decrease hyperarousal from the fight/flight/freeze response by signaling the brain to return to a safe and calm state. They may also be used to empower clients, by magnifying important and useful qualities, such as confidence, wisdom, or protection (Luber, M., EMDR Scripted Protocols: Special Populations).
At Coherence Associates Inc., we take healing seriously and look to research to guide us in offering new (and not so new) tools to help our clients on their healing journeys. To find out if we can help you on your journey, call us at 760–942–8663 to speak with a caring professional.