22 Feb How Do Essential Oils Affect Emotions?
Essential Oils and Emotions
The study of olfaction – the technical term for our sense of smell – is an emerging science with the promising potential to validate what our noses already tell us: that essential oils for emotions have a subtle yet discernible impact on our mood and state of wellbeing. Essential oils are aromatic plant extracts primarily obtained through steam distillation. Basically, the purest concentration of the oil from an aromatic plant is extracted so that, for example, 5ml of rose oil is distilled from over 240,000 rose petals.
How do essential oils and emotions work?
To understand, first, we must journey into the brain.
Olfaction mediates the perception of odor and helps carry chemical information to the brain via the central nervous system. Our brains have at least 1000 smell receptor types that allow us to recognize a vast array of different smells and their subtle differences (by comparison, sight only uses four cell receptors to convert light). Smell is also the only sense that sends information directly to its processing site in the brain – the olfactory bulb.
Let’s use a working definition of essential oils as ‘volatile components of aromatic plants’. Volatile here simply means they evaporate quickly. When essential oils evaporate, their molecules stimulate the hair-like receptor cells of our nasal passages called cilia, which send an electrical signal to the olfactory bulb. Mitral cells then carry the signals from the olfactory bulb to other parts of the brain’s limbic system. What’s the limbic system? Its comprised of the amygdala, hypothalamus, and hippocampus – all of which mediate emotion, memory, behavior, and learning.
That’s quite a complex-sounding process, but the bottom line is there is a direct link between smelling and the part of the brain responsible for governing feeling. It’s the same link between essential oils and emotions. In fact, it is the only sensory system that involves the amygdala. This is why smells are often connected to specific memories. The sense of smell, as you have probably experienced, bypasses our usual filters. A certain mysterious aroma can trigger a memory at a deeper, more emotional level than any remembered story or associated image alone.
A brief history
The application of aromatic plants has a long history. The ancient Egyptians used the infusion to extract oils, and a medical papyrus thought to date back to 1555BC includes remedies for many illnesses using applications much like those of aromatherapy today. The father of modern aromatherapy is French chemist and scholar Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who, after severely burning his hand during an experiment, doused his hand in the closest liquid, which just happened to be lavender essential oil. The wound healed quickly and with little scarring, and thus began his fascination with essential oils.
Essential oils and addiction
One study on the effects of aromatherapy using essential oils found that those signals sent to the limbic system cause the brain to release neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, endorphins, and noradrenaline depending on whether the oils used were for their calming, euphoric, or stimulating effects. Put simply, the spectrum of plant-based aromatic oils is so vast that fragrances have been shown to have very specific effects.
In the context of recovering from addiction, we find that many ‘frozen’ emotions begin to thaw through the rehabilitation process and these can be very uncomfortable to manage. At ViewPoint Rehabilitation Center, we use essential oils for emotions as part of our holistic programs to help ameliorate conditions and emotional states such as anger, depression, and anxiety as they arise. Ylang Ylang, Roman Chamomile, and Lavender, for example, are renowned for their soothing effects that allow clients to process emotions without being overwhelmed by them (they are a potent blend of essential oils for balance).
Young Living Essential Oils
ViewPoint Rehabilitation Center only uses essential oils that meet stringent standards for efficacy and ethical sourcing appropriate in therapeutic settings. Young Living Essential Oils not only optimize the levels of specific, naturally occurring constituents to maximize the potency of their essential oils, but they also abide by a ‘Seed to Seal’ process dedicated to sustainably sourcing products from carefully vetted suppliers and testing their products against unyielding quality benchmarks.