The Neuroscience of Essential Oils: How essential oils can help rewire your brain.
The practice of using essential oils to treat the concerns of body and soul is thousands of years old but it’s only relatively recently that science has begun to catch up with what our bodies have known for millennia.
Research is starting to show that tapping into your olfactory system can help increase your emotional and physical wellbeing, capitalising on the olfactory nerve’s intimate connection from the nose directly to the limbic system – the intuitive, emotional pathways of the brain.
Essential oils - the kind used by aromatherapists to improve emotional and physical wellbeing - are extracted from plants using a variety of processes that produce an aromatic oil. They are highly concentrated and made up of hundreds of aromatic molecules that are perceived by our olfactory nerve as we use our sense of smell.
Our sense of smell plays a vital role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, and working capacity, and electrophysiological studies using an electroencephalograph (EEG) have shown that various fragrances affect spontaneous brain activities and cognitive functions, as well as influencing physiological functions.
The Olfaction Process
(AKA What Happens When We Smell Things)
In the olfactory process, smells are handled by the olfactory bulb, a tiny structure in the front of the brain, located in the nasal cavity.
Here, fragrance molecules in the air attach to the cilia of olfactory receptors, which generate electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain by olfactory sensory neurons, taking a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus; regions of the brain related to learning, emotion, intuition and memory.
Modern neuroscience attributes this connection between smell and memory to the brain’s anatomy, and the proximity of the olfactory nerve to its processing systems.
Despite these advances, olfaction remains the most enigmatic of our senses. It was only in 2004 that the principles for recognising and remembering different odours were finally understood. An achievement that earned the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Other studies have shown that the inhalation of scent affects physiological responses as well, influencing the neuroendocrine system, neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, resulting in changes such as blood pressure, muscle tension, pupil dilation, skin temperature, pulse rate and brain activity.
Researchers are now studying the neuroprotective properties of certain essential oils against degenerative disorders like Alzheimer disease (AD) and dementia, with mounting evidence that odour can modulate mood, cognition, and behaviour.
How to Harness the Power of your Neurochemistry
The most wonderful thing about essential oils is their ability to support your body as it heals itself. This is why de Mamiel skincare is designed to be used in simple rituals that harness the power of aromatherapy and the parasympathetic nervous system to heighten the efficacy in the potent natural essential oils.
Studies have shown the remarkable neurological benefits inherent in several oils, including lavender, rosemary, peppermint and ylang-ylang - all of which are at work in many de Mamiel products.
Here are a few of our favourite standalone essential oils:
The scent of peppermint has been found to enhance memory and alertness. And research has shown that peppermint oil can bring significant relief to tension headaches and help treat other types of headaches.
FIND IT IN: Altitude Oil, Altitude Bath Soak
FRAGONIA (TEA TREE)
Potent anti-fungal and anti-microbial qualities that suit it to treating inflamed and infected skin. Research suggests it has potential antihistamine properties, making it a great treatment for some insect bites and to relieve hayfever symptoms.
FIND IT IN: Restorative Cleansing Balm, Altitude Oil, Pure Calm Cleansing Dew
Such a marvelous all-rounder, lavender has been shown to improve cognitive function while also improving mood, and its anti-inflammatory qualities have made it a soothing healer.
FIND IT IN: Altitude Oil, Sooth, Settle, Anchor, Pure Calm Cleansing Dew, Intense Nurture Antioxidant Elixir, Spring Facial Oil, Winter Facial Oil
This oil is rich in molecules that are shown to be very protective and supportive of cognitive function. Research has shown that, when inhaled, the scent of rosemary has been shown to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate and boost your immune system.
FIND IT IN: Rise, First Fix, Exhale Daily Hydrating Nectar SPF30, Pure Calm zCleansing Dew, Spring Facial Oil, Summer Facial Oil, Autumn Facial Oil, Pregnancy Oil, Winter Facial Oil, Salvation Body Oil, Revitalising Body Serum
The scent of lemon oil has also been shown to have a powerful effect on mood, with one study suggesting that lemon oil vapour has antidepressant qualities, and another found that the scent of lemon oil elevated the mood of participants, whose blood showed elevated levels of anti-stress hormone norepinephrine.
FIND IT IN: Summer Facial Oil, Autumn Facial Oil, Revitalising Body Serum
Warm a few drops in the palms of your hands, cup them over your mouth and nose and inhale deeply for a few breaths. The process of slowing your breathing has the added benefit of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system and stemming the release of ageing stress hormones.
Improve Your Mood With A Bath
Why taking a bath can help reduce anxiety and how to make the most of your time in the tub.