Neuroscience of essential oils

Neuroscience of essential oils

How they impact the olfactory center in the brain, emotions, and biological healing

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. With science lending credence to the benefits of using essential oils for mental health and biological healing, it is only right that we give aromatherapy the credit it actually deserves.

With mental health gaining healthcare priority in recent years, our brains can surely benefit from the many medical interventions that are coming. Indeed, as humans, we cannot function without a healthy brain. Not only does our cognitive ability define the state of our mental well-being, it also determines how well we perform tasks and establishes our motivation to succeed.

Therefore, ignoring brain health can have serious consequences. Our brains need just as much care as our physical bodies.

On the bright side, new research shows that our olfactory system can be vital in increasing our emotional and physical health. Our nose shares an intimate connection with the brain, and by filling it up with sweet-smelling scents, we can unlock the emotional pathways of our brains.

Yes, Essential Oils are Biological Magic

Essential oils are natural substances extracted from plants that have many health benefits. These oils contain large, concentrated doses of the aromatic ingredients found in plants. For example, it takes about 220 pounds of lavender flowers to make 1 pound of essential oil. As a result, essential oils have extremely potent scents that elicit a positive response from our olfactory nerves.

Although essential oils are active ingredients in many skincare products, they are majorly utilized for aromatherapy, a term for holistic medicine that uses your sense of smell to improve general health. Because essential oils have a strong scent, the fragrances go straight to the brain when you inhale them.

This simple inhalation and exhalation process can then induce feelings of happiness or bliss.

How Oils Interact with the Brain’s Olfactory Center

You may be wondering, “What happens when we smell things?”

The olfactory process starts in the nostrils. When you inhale an essential oil, its fragrance molecules attach to your olfactory receptors, which send electrical signals to parts of the brain concerned with learning, intuition, memory, and emotions.

Neuroscience research has established that inhalation of scents significantly affects psychological responses, going as far as to influence blood pressure, muscle tension, body temperature, pupil dilation, pulse rate, and, most importantly, brain activity.

The brain remembers scents fondly. This is why you instantly recognize the aroma of certain foods, or even the scents of friends from a distance. Because essential oils are concentrated, their sweet fragrance is recorded by the brain. So, every time you inhale a particular essential oil, your brain sends a positive reaction to your body that is associated with that scent.

What Does the Science Say about Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for health benefits. For thousands of years, essential oils have been a part of human culture. It has been used by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Indians, and Chinese for cosmetic or spiritual purposes. Despite widespread acceptance of aromatherapy's benefits, the United States Food and Drug Administration still classify essential oils as cosmetics.

Which begs the question, “Do essential oils really improve brain health?”

Many studies have established a positive effect between essential oils or aromatherapy and brain disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

One study showed that patients with cancer can experience a reduction in anxiety and depression after completing regular aromatherapy sessions. Another study revealed that lavender, bergamot, and lemon essential oils can calm patients with dementia and psychotic symptoms.

In conclusion, we can say it is safe for aromatherapy to be used as a complementary treatment for patients with dementia. And for the average person, using essential oils can improve brain health considerably.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

  • Direct Inhalation: You simply rub essential oils into your palm until its warm and then hold it over your nose and mouth. Breathe deeply as you do this.
  • Indirect Inhalation: You could also breathe in essential oils by using a room diffuser, which spreads the scent into the air.
  • Massage: An aromatherapy message involves diluting essential oils into carrier oils like coconut oil or olive oil and massaging deeply into the skin.

That being said, essential oils have various uses and can treat specific conditions.

What Essential Oils are Best for Brain Health?

  1. Lavender Essential Oil

Arguably the most popular essential oil, lavender has a soothing and aromatic fragrance. Lavender has been proven to improve cognitive function. which includes learning, memory, and mood. Inhaling lavender unlocks parts of your brain that provide feelings of calm, comfort, and coolness. It also has inflammatory properties that facilitate healing and can be the go-to essential oil for an aromatherapeutic massage.

  1. Rosemary Essential Oil

Like lavender oil, the molecules found in rosemary have been shown to support cognitive function, prevent brain cell death and improve brain health. The oil is a strong antioxidant which provides antibacterial and antifungal effects when inhaled. According to one study, people who inhaled rosemary essential oils had better memory retention and were more alert.

  1. Lemon Essential Oil

The scent of lemon has a powerful effect on mood. In fact, a recent study shows that lemon oil aroma reduces depression and elevates the moods of people who inhale it. Lemon oil increases memory and recall ability and can be used to manage symptoms of diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint scent can enhance memory and alertness. Recent studies show that peppermint oil can provide relief for tension headaches and other forms of headaches. Due to its minty aroma, inhaling peppermint oil can reduce symptoms of coughs and colds. As for aromatherapy, peppermint oil improves cognitive function, enhances exercise performance, and raises mental alertness.


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