The New Context of Essential Oils

By Renette Dickinson

Take a moment to imagine a beautiful rose garden. Notice your surroundings. Feel the sun warming the surface of your skin, as a gentle breeze dances by. Listen to the sounds of nature around you. The leaves on the trees sway in the breeze. Birds off in the distance. A sense of stillness within the activity of nature. 

Enter this garden and cast your gaze upon the beauty of the roses. See their strong stable stems supporting their weight. Touch the petals, notice how soft and delicate they are. Take in the colors, the beauty, the marvel of it all. 

Relax your focus. As you do, notice a congregation of bees floating among the roses. Hear the humming of their wings as they fly from one flower to the next. Their buzz creates a natural quivering, shaking the pollen off one flower onto another. And then, each bee will choose the perfect flower to land upon. 

Look closely now, at the rose in front of you and the bees at work wiggling their way in a precise circle, so the pollen sticks to their feet and bodies as they feed from the nectar. 

The true wonder of this moment goes unseen. The rose opens her petals to welcome the bee encouraging it to land within. She needs the pollen to be taken and rubbed onto another flower so she can produce rose hips full of seed. 

As she opens, thousands of aromatic molecules burst into the air as a chemical messaging system that calls to the bees, inviting this harmonious exchange. 

Scientists hypothesize that we respond to the essential oils so readily, not because we are connected to the plants, but rather that we are similarly evolved to the insects. This forms a massive part of the research into essential oils today.

THE LATEST STUDIES IN ESSENTIAL OILS 

According to a news release on November 28, 2020, by the University of East Anglia, the use of essential oils to treat long-term smell loss, or smell distortions related to Covid-19, has shown beneficial results for some patients. Smell training consists of sniffing at least four different essential oils of a familiar scent, such as lemon, twice a day for several months. 

Studies show that aromas affect emotional states, stress levels, behavior, perception, cognitive processes, and brain chemistry, in positive ways. The inhalation of certain essential oils, or combinations of oils, can increase or slow energy levels, and performance. For example, studies on peppermint essential oil demonstrate that it promotes alert mental states, and enhances the sensory pathway for visual detection.  It allows individuals more control over their allocation of attention and increases recall when used at ambient levels. 

Other oils, such as Roman chamomile and sweet marjoram, have been found to stimulate a part in the brain that causes the release of serotonin, helping to sedate the body and decrease stress.

Various studies of ambient Lavender essential oil use led to better waking moods and increased sleep within psychogeriatric patients under long-term treatment for insomnia.

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF ESSENTIAL OILS 

Not only do essential oils influence us physically, mentally, and emotionally, they also influence us on a psychological level as well. 

The amygdala is part of the limbic system and is associated with fear responses and with pleasure. An abnormal functioning of the amygdala corresponds with phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and autism. The hypervigilance of an overactive amygdala can be soothed with the use of essential oils. 

Non-clinical depression is considered an adjustment condition, a normal reaction to painful events, rather than a true depressive state. Essential oils with antidepressant effects can counter symptoms of non-clinical depression, such as low moods, mental and emotional fatigue, episodes of sadness, or apathy caused by distressing situations. 

Neurosedatives are agents that sedate the central nervous system to produce a relaxed mental state. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. We feel sleepy and relaxed when GABA levels are high. Essential oils with neurosedative actions can gently increase GABA levels or act on excitatory neurotransmitters to cause a mild sedative effect. 

Neurostimulants are agents that stimulate the central nervous system to produce alert mental states. This happens by causing an increase in cerebral blood flow, by increasing beta wave activity in the brain, by stimulating the area of the brain associated with the flow of norepinephrine, and by blocking GABA receptors. 

Norepinephrine is fundamental to increase mental alertness, focus attention, and to the forming and retrieving of memories. High levels are associated with the fight-flight response. Some neurostimulants act to block receptor sites for GABA to reduce its activity on the brain. This in turn, helps to improve attention and mental alertness. 

When experiencing low mental energy and brain fog, or when dealing with burnout and mental exhaustion, utilize essential oils with neurostimulant properties. 

Dopamine relates to the brain’s reward system. Dopamine plays a role in mood, sensations of well being, sleep patterns, motor activity, and allocation of attention and learning. Low levels are related to ADHD. Essential oils with dopamine balancing properties are an excellent choice to elicit a greater sense of interconnected equilibrium.

Serotonin is another neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system and is related to mood, sleep, sexuality, and appetite, among other body functions. Low or abnormal serotonin levels are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, and angry or aggressive behavior. In these instances, essential oils with serotonin-balancing properties are most effective. 

Euphorics work by increasing the activity at the prefrontal cortex of the brain, promoting positive feelings of expansion, connection, and consciousness. Euphorics sedate the amygdala and the thalamus, and act directly on some types of serotonin receptors. The thalamus regulates sleep patterns, alertness, wakefulness, and relays motor and sensory signals to the cerebral cortex. 

The use of essential oils with euphoric properties can help bring a sense of being connected as we find ourselves isolated and alone, and a sense of peace during some of the difficult and disturbing times our world is currently facing. 

NOT ALL OILS ARE CREATED EQUAL 

Some manufactures of essential oils use chemical agents during the distillation process to save money and in turn raise profits. This not only affects the quality of the oil produced, it also has an effect on you. As a consumer, it is important to know exactly what you are buying and the properties that each bottle of oil will have. 

Look for the GC/MS Report. The Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry Report tells you what chemical constituents can be found in each oil. This report can be easily found or is easily accessible from reputable companies.Renette Dickinson, CHt., CVT, CCFT has been working with essential oils both personally and professionally for 25 years. Many of the certifications she holds include education in the use of essential oil. Dickinson incorporates aromatherapy into her work along with performance coaching, Healing Touch, and canine fitness training. You can contact her at rdickinson@lake

Author: Jessica Thompson

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