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- CAN ESSENTIAL OILS GET INTO YOUR HEAD AND AFFECT YOUR MOOD? -

CAN ESSENTIAL OILS GET INTO YOUR HEAD AND AFFECT YOUR MOOD?

While more studies are needed in the area of determining proper dose and frequency, current available research has made it clear to us that essential oil constituents, when inhaled can break through the blood-brain-barrier.

 

The blood-brain-barrier (BBB) according to Dr. Petra Ratajc, PhD, is the barrier between the blood passing through the brain and the brain itself. It is meant to protect and maintain a stable environment for brain cells which is vital for proper neuronal functioning. The BBB is a complex form of highly selective barrier capable of precise control which substances can come into direct contact with the nervous tissue and which cannot. Essential oil constituents however, have a specific advantage in that they can readily pass the BBB and enter the brain, where they can interact with neurons.

We all have to deal with strong emotions at some point. But it’s one thing to deal with them once in a while depending on our circumstance and a totally different story to have to live with intense mood changes on a regular basis. As we become more aware of the reality of mental health concerns, it is no longer uncommon for us to know of a friend who suffers from one these days.

This is why the effect of essential oils in our brain is one of the areas in aromatherapy that I took particular interest in. I wanted to understand if it’s making any “real” physical difference in our bodies or is it merely giving us a “feel-good moment.”

However, if you happen to find this article because you are looking for ways to manage your mood without having to resort to intrusive substances, I hope that this gives you some answers and point you towards the right direction when it comes to using essential oils for mental health support.

TWO MECHANISMS OF ESSENTIAL OIL ACTION: PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHARMACOLOGICAL

Taking from my learnings in the essential oil pharmacokinetics class by Tisserand Institute, I would like to start off with a simple description of the two ways essential oils can affect us.

First, is on a psychological level, which is based on odor perception, is highly subjective and context-dependent. This is when we find ourselves experiencing pleasure from inhaling a beautiful aroma and when we associate a specific memory from a specific scent that leads to either positive or negative feelings.

Pharmacological level on the other hand, is substance-specific and dose-dependent and as the term suggest this is similar to how medicines interact with the molecules in our body leading up to a desired effect.

From personal experience, it is easy to for us to confirm that essential oils do make us feel good on a psychological level but the question we want to answer is, can it really affect our brains pharmacologically?

Is there reason for us to believe in the potential of essential oils as a legitimate form of support to help us manage our moods, stress levels and anxiety? If so, how might we use essential oils more effectively?

Q1: do essential oils have the potential to help us manage our moods, stress levels and anxiety (that is not placebo)?

Based again on the pharmacokinetics classes I’ve had with Dr. Petra Ratajc, PhD and Tisserand Institute, I am both delighted and amazed to learn that this can be answered with a clear, “yes.” Amazed of the wisdom behind God’s design and delighted to find a clear answer to this question.

While more studies are needed in the area of determining proper dose and frequency, current available research has made it clear to us that essential oil constituents, when inhaled can break through the blood-brain barrier. (At this point, I am referring to essential oil constituents and not essential oils per se because it’s the components that make an essential oil that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and not the whole essential oil.)

The blood-brain-barrier (BBB) according to Dr. Petra Ratajc, PhD, is the barrier between the blood passing through the brain and the brain itself. It is meant to protect and maintain a stable environment for brain cells which is vital for proper neuronal functioning. The BBB is a complex form of highly selective barrier capable of precise control which substances can come into direct contact with the nervous tissue and which cannot. Essential oil constituents however, have a specific advantage in that they can readily pass the BBB and enter the brain, where they can interact with neurons.

Furthermore, breaking through this blood-brain barrier has been one of the obstacles in modern day drug development because it prevents delivery of many drugs into the central nervous system (CNS) yet for the longest time, God in his infinite wisdom have long made it available for us to discover this quality in some natural essential oil constituents.

Q2: how can we use essential oils to more effectively manage our mood, stress levels and anxiety?

Naturally, the value in learning is found when it’s put to good use. How then is this supposed to inform the way we use essential oils to support our mental health?

A while ago I mentioned that more tests and studies are needed to arrive at precise dosing and frequency in using essential oils but while this is not available yet, this doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy the benefits essential oils can bring to our mental health now as long as we stay within safety guidelines (we have a section on safe use of essential oils on our website if you wish to learn more about this).

However, one important information we can take from this is that depending on our purpose, some routes of application will work better than others. And for concerns that impacts our emotions, stress and/or anxiety levels, inhalation would be the fastest route to our brain.

Hence, while a topical massage is a great form of relaxation too, combining it with diffusion or better yet the use of an aromatherapy inhaler would be more impactful in terms of speed and amount of essential oil constituents that can cross the blood-brain-barrier.

Practically speaking, if I constantly have to deal with stress, I would likely have an aromatherapy inhaler filled with calming essential oils with me which I would inhale intermittently throughout the day. In fact, taking deep breaths alone can already do wonders in calming us down but adding a dose of relaxing essential oils can take this experience to another level given that the presence of essential oil constituents brings in molecules that can interact with our endocrine systems which is responsible for mood regulation.

At this point, I am only touching the surface and I am seeing how this conversation can grow into more topics beyond this specific article. The obvious next step would be to provide a listing of well-researched essential oils and components which can be helpful in managing your mood, stress and anxiety. We will be making this content available in our social media posts, so feel free to follow us if this interests you.

caring for our mental health needs to go beyond ESSENTIAL OILS

For now, I would like to cap off this post by reiterating what we often communicate as a brand. Wellness is a journey and it’s not one size fits all. There are so many moving parts that need to be considered when it comes to improving our mental health because we are created not just to be physical beings but with mind, emotions and spirituality that sets humans apart from others. But if we set our mind towards progress, not perfection and put our trust on an all-knowing and loving God (not just self-reliance) then that puts us in a trajectory that we hope would lead you to find true joy that goes beyond the difficulties brought about by our current circumstances.

In the end, while we recognize essential oils as an awesome form of support for our mental well-being, the God who created us and nature knows and loves us in greater depth than we can fathom ourselves. It makes sense that while we find other forms of support, we ought to look to Him ultimately for the fulfillment of the love, joy, peace and wellness we are naturally designed to seek.

 

Tisserand Institute. Essential Oil Kinetics Masterclass. https://tisserandinstitute.org/essential-oil-kinetics-masterclass/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I’m Des and I’m an entrepreneur, certified aromatherapist and Christian cognitive behavioral therapy practitioner. After leaving behind a 10-year career in the corporate world, I took my certification in aromatherapy and started Aurae Natura. My hope goes beyond providing you reliable and credible information about aromatherapy and therapeutic-quality essential oils but to serve you meaningful content that will also nourish you mentally, emotionally and  spiritually.


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