How Scent Makes a Difference
It’s good to have a bit of background on how scent from therapeutic-grade essential oils makes a difference. First, the fragrance of a therapeutic-grade essential oil can directly affect everything from your emotional state to your lifespan. It’s important to note that all essential oils are not created equally, 100% pure or organic essential oils will not produce the same results as a therapeutic-grade oil, such as Young Living.
What makes therapeutic-grade essential oils and aromatherapy unique, essential oils work differently than any other natural substance?
Unique features of essential oils are:
• Pass easily through our skin and cells membranes
• Diffuse through the entire body within half an hour
• Go directly to the brain through the olfactory bulb
• Affect our feelings and thoughts because smell is our most emotional sense
• Perform multiple functions because of their structural complexity
This explains ‘why’ one essential oil, using only a couple of drops, can do so many different things for you all at the same time – emotionally, physically, and mentally.
When any scent or fragrance is inhaled, the odor molecules travel up the nose where they are trapped by olfactory membranes that are protected by the lining inside the nose. Each odor molecule fits like a little puzzle piece into specific receptor cell sites that line a membrane, known as the olfactory epithelium. Each one of these hundreds of millions of nerve cells is replaced every 28 days. When stimulated by odor molecules, this lining of nerve cells triggers electrical impulses to the olfactory bulb in the brain. The olfactory bulb then transmits the impulses to the gustatory center (where the sensation of taste is perceived), the amygdala (where emotional memories are stored), and other parts of the limbic system of the brain.
Because the limbic system is directly connected to the parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance, therapeutic-grade essential oils can have profound physiological and psychological effects. The sense of smell is the only one of the five senses directly linked to the limbic lobe of the brain, our emotional control center.
Scent stimulates nerves to fire in the emotional center of the brain, but it also stimulates the master gland to release hormones. Hormones affect the fight/flight response, as well as digestion and heart rate. In this way, essential oils can affect us in many ways all at once, just through their fragrance.
Anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and joy all emanate from this region. The scent of a special 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 senses (touch, taste, hearing, and sight) 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.
The reason we are able to make instantaneous associations resides in the limbic region of the brain. The limbic system, known as the ‘seat of emotions’ [Molecules of Emotion, Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.], is the place where ‘scent’ begins and where our thoughts, responses, or reactions start.
For instance, the essential oils of frankincense and sandalwood are very high in a natural chemical compound called ‘sesquiterpenes’. Sesquiterpenes are known to increase oxygen in the limbic region of the brain. Increased oxygen to the brain can provide any number of benefits from a better attitude to being more alert. And that, is only the beginning!
Studies at New York University showed and proved that the amygdala gland (the gland in the limbic system responsible for storing and releasing trauma in the body) does not respond at all to sound, sight, or touch. They found in fact that the amygdala only releases emotional trauma through the sense of smell.
LEARN A BIT MORE ABOUT OUR SENSE OF SMELL:
Watch a TED.com video entitled “How Do We Smell”