Essential oils affect our minds and our emotions. All aromas have a potential emotional impact that can reach deep into the psyche, both relaxing the mind and uplifting the Spirit.
Our sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 times more acute than our other senses and sensitive to some 10,000 chemical compounds. Once registered, scent travels faster to the brain than either sight or sound.
When we inhale the fragrance of an essential oil, the odor molecules travel up the nose where they’re registered by the nerves of the olfactory membranes in the nose lining. The odor molecules stimulate this lining of nerve cells and trigger electrical impulses to the olfactory bulb in the brain. The olfactory bulb then transmits the impulses to the amygdala - where emotional memories are stored - and to other parts of the limbic system of the brain.
Because the limbic system is directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance, essential oils can have profound physiological and psychological effects… Olfactory responses to odors induce the brain to stimulate the release of hormones and neurochemicals that in turn alter the body’s physiology and behavior.
~ Essential Oil Desk Reference, 4th Edition
The limbic lobe is a group of brain structures situated directly below the cerebral cortex of the brain and includes the hippocampus and the amygdala. It’s capable of directly activating the hypothalamus - often referred to as the “master gland.” This gland is one of the most important parts of the brain and acts as the hormonal control center. The hypothalamus releases hormones that can affect everything from sex drive to energy levels. The production of growth hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, are all governed by the hypothalamus.
Because of their fragrance and unique molecular structure, essential oils can directly stimulate the limbic lobe and the hypothalamus. Inhalation of essential oils can be used to alleviate stress and emotional trauma. It can also be used to stimulate the production of hormones from the hypothalamus. This stimulation may increase production of thyroid hormones (our energy hormone) and growth hormones (our youth and longevity hormone).
The area of the brain known as the amygdala plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma. The only way to stimulate this gland is with fragrance or through the sense of smell. In other words - the emotional brain responds only to smell and not to words that are read, spoken, heard, or felt by Braille. Our sense of smell links directly to emotional states and behaviors often stored since childhood.
Smell is the only one of the five physical senses that is directly linked to the limbic lobe of the brain - our emotional control center. Anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and joy all physically originate from this region. A certain fragrance can evoke memories and emotions before we are even consciously aware of it. When smells are concerned, we react first and think later. All other physical senses are routed through the thalamus, which acts as the switchboard for the brain, passing stimuli onto the cerebral cortex (the conscious thought center) and other parts of the brain.
Essential oils enable us to access stored or forgotten memories and suppressed emotions so that we can acknowledge and integrate or release them. The word “emotions” can translate as “energy-in-motion.” Emotion is the experience of energy moving though our bodies. This emotional energy actually works at higher speed than thought. Thought and images can take seconds or minutes to evoke a memory while an aroma can evoke a memory in milliseconds.
Forgotten memories and suppressed emotions can wreak havoc in our lives; often being the unsourced causes of depression, anxiety and fears. Essential oils can help us surface and release these emotions wherever they are stored in the body or energy field. They’re especially effective when used synergistically with complementary healing methods including:
I’ve seen results achieved from aromatherapy using oils in stunningly short time frames. However, I’ve found that essential oils affect our minds, emotions and bodies most profoundly when we invite the presence of these biospiritual healing allies into our daily lives; incorporate them into a daily practice of use over time.
Essential Oils and Aromatherapy > How Do Essential Oils Affect Our Minds and Our Emotions?