How Essential Oils Work – Summary
Essential Oils are extracted from various plants, barks & flowers, many of which have therapeutic or medicinal properties – and many of which have health-giving properties.
It is incorrect to presume that the essential oil has exactly the same properties as the plant it comes from.
Citrus fruits – as one example – are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, which is fabulous for guarding against colds and minor infections, but the essential oils do not carry these properties and are not used for this purpose. Citrus oils form a range of functions that are generally around reduction of anxiety, lifting of spirits and enabling open-mindedness and creativity. We’ll talk more about that in these blogs. In fact, if this interests you, here’s a blog specifically about lemon & lime essential oils.
This article is more about the top level question – “what do essential oils do and how do they do it”
Essential oils enter our physiological system primary through the olfactory system (the sense of smell). They are also able to do transmitted through the skin (transdermally).
On inhaling essential oils (or any smell), they enter our system within 30 seconds and will be through our entire body within 30 minutes – way faster than most medications.
The olfactory system interfaces directly with the limbic part of the brain – the part that is responsible for emotions and for memories.
This is why smells can sometimes trigger long forgotten memories – going way back to childhood. Our brains have unbelievable storage capacity and smells can invoke ‘memory file’ retrieval. Sometimes it can take a moment or two for the conscious brain to recognise the smell, but the unconscious brain gets it straight away.
Taking this a step further, certain scents have specific effects on us – emotive responses pre-set in the limbic brain, and this is the power of essential oils. We have unconscious responses to specific smells – impacting on our mindset. How these smells are blended together can have a powerful impact on how we feel.
But that’s not where it stops. Essential oils also affect us physiologically.
The limbic brain is closely interconnected with the central nervous system. Certain smells take the response a step further than effecting out emotions – they impact on our actions also. rosemary and peppermint, for example, enable energy. Lime & rosemary essential oils combined enhance memory recall. Lime and mandarin cause nervous butterfly-tummy to be reduced and ylang ylang & lavender can cause a reduction of hypertension & blood pressure. I have experienced that myself recently.
While they are not a substitute for prescribed medication, essential oils contribute powerfully to wellbeing. Learning about them is an exciting journey of discovery that you will love!