How Essential Oils Work In The Brain

You may have personal experience with essential oils changing your mood but may not understand the science behind it. Why does inhaling Lavender help so many to relax? It’s a question that has puzzled many, so our experts at Edens Garden have decided to explain how essential oils work in the brain. A greater understanding of how aromatherapy works will not only help you better use essential oils but may also give you a greater appreciation for aromatherapy as a therapeutic method.

What happens when you inhale essential oils?

When essential oils are inhaled, their aromas are first processed in the olfactory bulb, in the nose. The olfactory bulb is connected to the limbic system which influences memory and emotions. Aromas activate the amygdala which alters mood and emotions, good or bad.

How do we know essential oils affect the brain and mood?

Numerous studies have shown that essential oils affect our emotions. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute (PDQ), “Studies have consistently shown that odors can produce specific effects on human neuropsychological and autonomic function and that odors can influence mood, perceived health, and arousal. These studies suggest that odors may have therapeutic applications in the context of stressful and adverse psychological conditions.”

Further studies:

  • A recent study by George Washington University showed promising evidence that Orange oil decreased PTSD symptoms in mice.

  • Lavender essential oil was shown to reduce preoperative anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients in a study out of the Department of Healthcare, NYC in 2017.

  • A 2017 study out of The Republic in Korea found that aromatherapy helped decrease the perceived stress and objective stress of ICU patients.

  • Ylang Ylang helped improve the self-esteem of 34 professionals from a Brazilian nursing group. It has also shown promising results as relief aid for heart palpitations in a 2014 study.

What are examples of essential oils that alter mood?

Again, much of what scientists know about essential oils comes from numerous studies and research. For example, essential oils from the same plant or chemical families generally share similar properties. For example, essential oils from the plant family Cupressaceae have been shown to decrease nervousness and stress (i.e. Cypress, Blue Cypress). Essential oils from the Monoterpenol (i.e,. Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Neroli) and Sesquiterpenol (i.e. Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Patchouli) chemical families are generally emotionally balancing and grounding.

As scientists continue to research the effects of essential oils on the brain, we as consumers can continue to grow more assured about the natural benefits essential oils have to offer us in our everyday lives.  

Developed by an aromatherapist

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