The Science Behind PsychoaromatherapyI find that one of the biggest hesitations people have when first using essential oils is whether or not they really work. Some people enjoy the smell of essential oils but question the effectiveness and more importantly the science behind their use to improve mood and health. Therefore, in an effort to provide assurance that essential oils do physically interact with our bodies, I want to share my knowledge on the science that supports the connection between the aromatic compounds of essential oils and the brain. I have worked in the mental health field for nearly 20 years and have personally used essential oils for even longer. Therefore, my understanding of psychoaromatherapy is comprised of both personal experience, professional experience, and knowledge acquired in my doctoral studies. From strictly a scientific standpoint, essential oils are capable of causing physical changes in the body because they are made up of chemical compounds that communicate with the chemistry in our bodies. Within the human body, there are two types of communication systems; electrical and chemical which affect the nervous and endocrine systems. Research shows that the aromatic compounds within the essential oils interact with the endocrine and nervous system, resulting in physical changes within the body.
In studying the psychology of behaviors, emotions, and disorders, I look specifically at articles that observe the effects of chemical compounds on the brain and how they work at the psychological level. For example, science has shown that the effects of anxiousness in the brain causes a psychological imbalance with cortisol being released in high levels which in turn also interrupts GABA neurotransmitter, Glutamic Acid neurotransmitter and blood pressure just to name a few. Research on essential oils shows that they support the reduction of the effects of stress by binding to the cortisol which in turn lessens the effects to the brain. Limonene, a primary chemical component of citrus oils, has been scientifically found to modulate the level of GABA and Glutamic Acid and calm the body. The primary chemical constituents of Lavender, Linalool and Linayl Acetate, have also shown in studies to interact with the central nervous system by calming it. Therefore, lavender oil is considered to be effective in managing anxious emotions and olfactory inhalation is shown to influence mood. While science itself shows that essential oils physically affect the body and brain, I would love to also share an example from my professional experience which supports the research. While working in a high school, I often had teenage students come into my office disgruntled or experiencing anxious emotions. I found that diffusing essential oils in my office often had a positive effect on their willingness to talk through their frustration and find reasonable solutions. One day I had a very angry football player come into my office. I observed his tense body and anxious movements. However, within minutes of sitting, the student relaxed, took a deep breath, and complimented the smell of my office. His body had a healthy physical response to the citrus oils I was diffusing and supported the research that continues to show the effectiveness of essential oils on the brain.
So while essential oils do smell amazing, and we find pleasure in using them on ourselves and those we love, the science is a big part of it. They are effective not because we simply believe they are, but because they have physical compounds that interact with our physical bodies and create physical changes. It is the effectiveness of these oils that keeps us coming back for more. And while I wish I could say all essential oils are capable of the same results, not all essential oil brands comprise of the same levels of the chemical components that positively affect our bodies. Therefore, it is essential (no pun intended) that I specify the use of doTERRA essential oils which are the most potent and carefully processed oils.
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