To better understand
Inhalation aromatherapy, it may help to know how your brain processes smells. Our sense of smell is pretty powerful. In fact, smells have the power to affect our emotions. Imagine you have just hidden your nose in a fresh bouquet of lovely flowers (assuming you don’t have allergies!), or you just caught a whiff of your favorite coffee wafting through the air. Pleasurable, right? You might be feeling comfortable, cozy, happy, or maybe even joyful as you enjoy these scents? Now, imagine you are taking out the garbage and something in it is very, very rank. Nauseated? Turning a little green? You might feel like rushing to get the garbage out of your smell bubble? A big difference from the flowers and coffee, right? Smells have the ability to change our moods very rapidly. The goal of inhalation aromatherapy is to introduce a scent or combination of scents that trigger healing responses in the brain.
How do we process smells?
Well, all smells are made up of molecules. Only some of the molecules in the air we breathe can we distinguish as a “smell”. In fact, when it comes to essential oils, the molecules are so small that they readily leap into the air so they can enter our noses and be detected as odor and smell. Therefore, they are called aromatic. Larger molecules stay put and are not easily registered by our noses.
The limbic lobe of the brain
Processes what we smell. It is the emotional control center, storing memories of events that caused strong emotions and is also responsible for the “fight or flight” response. When stimulated, the limbic lobe releases endorphins, our natural “feel good” chemicals. Interestingly, each of our other senses; touch, taste, hearing and sight are routed through another part of the brain called the thalamus. The thalamus acts as the brain’s switchboard, passing these four senses’ stimuli on to the corresponding parts of the brain. The sense of smell bypasses the thalamus. Because of this, we are deeply tied to memories that become associated with a certain smell.
As a smell is inhaled
It travels across the olfactory nerves located inside the nose and up to receptor sites on a membrane that is located on the Limbic lobe. These receptors are capable of distinguishing about 10,000 unique scents! As the molecules of the smell are processed by the Limbic System, we react with a varying scale from pleasure to outright disgust. When you smell an essential oil, it has a unique electrical frequency that is sent to the receptor sites. Nerve cells in the receptor sites trigger electrical impulses which can trigger emotional memories and affect heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels, breathing, memory, digestion, and the immune system.
Essential oils have the power to activate the healing process and initiate positive changes physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well as on energetic and cellular levels, thus restoring our health and wellbeing.
Essential oils of every species cross the blood-brain barrier
The blood-brain barrier is really not really a barrier at all, but rather a sieve through which only smaller molecules may pass. It is a wondrous protection mechanism that keeps damaging substances from reaching the neurons of the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid. Research has shown that naturally occurring chemicals in plants called sesquiterpenes found in many essential oils can increase levels of oxygen in the brain up to 28% and they cross the blood-brain barrier. Sesquiterpenes have properties like hemoglobin and can carry oxygen molecules throughout the body and into the cells themselves. They can also delete faulty information in cellular memory that can cause disease.
Inhalation of essential oils involves the processing of the smell’s molecules by the Limbic System which affects emotional memories, and can positively affect the stress response. All essential oils cross the blood-brain barrier and some essential oils have properties which make them uniquely able to address disease, both from a physical and emotional perspective.
Some inhalation aromatherapy benefits that are more commonly known include:
- emotional wellbeing
- stress reduction
- alleviate physical and emotional pain
- improve self esteem
- ease panic, anxiety, fear and doubt
- promote self assurance, strength and courage
- lift feelings of depression
- reach deeper states of meditation
- sustain higher levels of consciousness
- quiet mental chatter
- encourage feelings of peace, harmony and relaxation
- heighten awareness of self
- surrender outdated thoughts, patterns and imprints
- space for new beginnings
- release energy blocks in chakras
- increase energy flow in meridians
- improve sleep and waking patterns
- increase focus and alertness
- improve productivity and creativity
- improve memory and recall