Essential Oils & Feelings of Anxiousness
Aromatherapy is a misleading term. While one of the most effective ways of using essential oils is through topical application directly to the body, the traditional way of using aromatherapy through inhaling the aromas of essential oils is actually extremely effective when we talk about feelings and emotions and emotional health. Research shows us that certain essential oils have a positive impact when dealing with feelings of anxiousness. Let’s dive into how.
Sensory Information & The Brain
Your brain is complex and contains many different parts that have different functions. Information filters into the body through your brain stem into the reptilian part of your brain. This part of your brain is the oldest part of the brain, and is where the autonomic nervous system operates. This is what controls your breathing, heart rate, body temperature etc. It’s an automatic process; imagine if you had to think to breathe and then you thought about something else and forgot to breathe! That would make things complicated. The reptilian brain filters information it receives and sends it to the limbic system.
The autonomic nervous system has two parts the sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight or flight response that responds to stimuli and prepares the body for response to threat, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest response. This response allows the body to settle and rest and put the body into digestion mode. People who have ongoing stress tend to keep the body constantly elevated. Here, stress hormones are produced and with ongoing production, the body doesn’t recover into rest and digest mode and develops problems.
Your middle brain is called the limbic system and contains two important parts: 1) the amygdala, which is responsible for the response and memory of emotions, especially fear. It reacts to stimuli and works closely with the second part of the system called the hippocampus. 2) the hippocampus is involved in memory, learning behaviours, cognition.
Your thinking brain is where you make decisions and have cognitive thoughts. When your limbic brain is firing hot from receiving so much information, emotions can be firing hot as well. When the limbic brain is “hot,” it doesn’t make connections or communicate with the thinking brain and the ability to make rational thought can be temporarily lost. This is why when we get totally overwhelmed we often do not know what to do. Because physical sensations and sensory information cause a disconnect that stops us from making rational thoughts and decisions. This makes old sayings like “lose your mind” that much more relevant.
Essential Oils & The Nervous System
Essential oils have been widely researched for their effect on the nervous system. Bergamot essential has been shown to impact and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. After two 10 minute sprays with bergamot essential oils, the parasympathetic nervous systems were enhanced in elementary school teachers. Bergamot essential oil seems to drive the autonomic nervous system toward a balanced state.
Another study on petitgrain essential oil showed similar effects with the balance to the autonomic/parasympathetic nervous system. Essential oils containing constituents like linalyl acetate, linalool, myrcene, limonene, and especially esters, tend to have a calming, sedative effect on the nervous system. These are citrus essential oils, lavender, chamomile, basil etc. Additionally, sesquiterpene essential oils like frankincense, patchouli, vetiver, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang etc have high sedative effects as well.
How To Use
Inhalation directly from the bottle, from essential oil in the palm of the hand, or from a diffuser in close proximity are very effective ways to use essential oils for overwhelm and anxiousness. This is because the sense of smell, the olfactory sense, travels directly into the limbic part of the brain. Odour molecules travel along the olfactory nerve into the limbic system and have a calming effect.
Additionally, a drop of essential applied to brain stem and along spine where information is being received can also be effective. Apply the remainder to the shoulders and chest. You will be able to inhale the aroma when it is applied to your chest so you’ll have double action.
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