2012 November

Bodywork 101: Essential Oils for Holiday Fever (1 of 2)

Research has shown that effects of fragrance and aromatic compounds on the sense of smell can impact the brain, especially the hypothalamus and limbic system. Some essential oils high in sesquiterpenes – like myrrh, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, melissa, and frankincense – can dramatically oxygenate the brain. This may directly improve the function of many body systems.

When a fragrance is inhaled, the odor molecules travel up the nose and are trapped by well-protected olfactory membranes. Each odor molecule fits like a little puzzle piece into specific nerve receptor cell sites. When stimulated by odor molecules this lining triggers electrical impulses to the olfactory bulb in the brain. The olfactory bulb then transmits the impulses to the gustatory center (where emotional memories are stored) and other parts of the brain directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. Essential oils can have a pro-found physiological and psychological effects.

The sense of smell is the only sense directly linked to the limbic lobe of the brain – the emotional control center. 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 the other senses go through the thalamus which acts as the switchboard, passing stimuli onto the cerebral cortex (the conscious thought center) and other parts of the brain.

The limbic lobe (a group of brain structures that includes the hippocampus and amygdala located below the cerebral cortex) can also directly activate the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is one of the most important parts of the brain, acting as our hormonal control center. It releases chemical messengers that can affect everything from sex drive to energy levels…and that is where the holidays come in! Who couldn’t use a little more uumph for the season?? The production of growth/sex/thyroid hormones and neurotransmitters are all governed by the hypothalamus, the master gland.

Diffuse peppermint or cinnamon essential oil for an energy boost and a safe, chemical-free holiday scent around your home!

Did you know? Spices that Help Your Health

  • Anise: Aids digestion, helps stop coughing
  • Basil: Helps clear head congestion
  • Cardamom: Helps digestion of dairy products, soothes stomach
  • Cilantro: Helps prevent food poisoning, removes mercury from body
  • Fennel: Controls bad breath when chewed after spicy meals
  • Oregano: Powerful infection-fighting properties
  • Peppermint: Stops gas, calms indigestion, controls nausea, sweetens breath
  • Parsley: Promotes urinary flow, provides antioxidants
  • Rosemary: Powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, calms nerves
  • Sage: Treats congestion and stuffiness associated with colds, clears headaches, kills parasites/bacteria/yeasts. Sage essential oil may improve memory.
  • Thyme: Natural antibiotic, kills parasites/yeast, soothes chest, halts coughing
  • Turmeric: Cancer fighting, lowers unfavorable gas- and bloating-causing bacteria in gut, anti-inflammatory properties.
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