Why Inhaling Essential Oils Is So Powerful
Essential oils can enter the body via inhalation through the nose. This can be done directly from the bottle or diffusing the oil in the air. Molecules inhaled through the mouth and nose also go to the lungs where they support respiratory health. So even when we inhale essential oils, they have many pathways into the body and effects on several body systems.
How do they have an effect on our emotions?
Essential oils works on all levels; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. However, it has a very deep impact on the emotions which can determine our behaviours and this is often overlooked. Smell is the first sense we use when we are born. The sense of smell is the most primal of all the senses and these molecules can be instantly recognised (once stored) for up to 70 years. Do you recall any time when you smelled freshly baked bread and it brought you back to childhood where you smelled baking for the first time? The limbic brain can give you instant access to your past through the sense of smell. Did you know the sense of smell is 10,000 times more powerful than the sense of sight or sound? Scent will go to the brain faster than sight and sound.
Olfactory and Limbic System
When we inhale the aroma of an essential oil, the odour molecules travel up the nose to the olfactory bulb and into the nervous system. The olfactory neurons are the only neurons that get replaced regularly by the body every 4-8 weeks. These signals go to the amygdala where all our memories are stored. The only way to release these memories and stored emotional traumas is by the sense of smell. This area of the brain is also known as the emotional seat of the brain. The amygdala is about the size of an almond. The function of the amygdala is to determine if there is a threat or a challenge. The main things the amygdala is looking for are emotional and physically safety, a sense of familiarity, routine and routine. Beyond that the amygdala initiates a stress response and activates the fight/flight response with the hypothalamus.
Why smell is so instant
Of all the senses, smell is the fastest to be processed. This is because the signals to the cortical brain tissue, the highest level of brain tissue, are only 2 synapses. All other senses go through a type of relay centre called the thalamus.
How does smell affect our behaviour?
The hypothalamus is our regulator and always trying to bring the body back into balance. Therefore it a huge effect on the fight/flight response or stress levels. The hypothalamus controls heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels and hormone balance. The brain causes the release of hormones and neruochemicals which alter the body physiology and behaviour. So you can see why essential oils have profound physiological and psychological effects.