Essential oils have an emotional impact that reaches deep into the psyche. Our sense of smell is more acute than our other senses, and smells travel to the brain faster than sights or sounds. The aromatic compounds and molecular structures found in essential oils also stimulate the limbic lobe, which is the emotional control center of the brain.
Hundreds of studies support the use of oils for emotional health. Essential oils have been shown to help patients with anxiety, improve mental clarity, reduce stress and decrease agitation in people with dementia.
Keep in mind that only pure, therapeutic grade essential oils from plants should be used for these purposes. Synthetic fragrances or essential oils that have been adulterated can be toxic and should never be administered orally.
How Oils Help Emotional Health
Here are just a few of the ways science has shown essential oils can aid emotional health:
Antidepressant Qualities: Antidepressant medications work by making the neurotransmitter serotonin linger in the gaps between brain cells. In a similar way, essential oils work with the body to accelerate serotonin production. One study showed oral use of lavender oil was as effective as a daily dose of the anxiety drug Lorazepam, but without the negative side effects (Woelk & Schläfke, 2010).
Better Sleep Quality: Many people with depression, anxiety and similar conditions also have trouble sleeping. Doctors at Worchester Hospital in Hereford, England, discovered that vaporizing lavender enabled patients to have more natural sleep patterns. Many of the patients were successfully weaned off of sedatives altogether.
Reduced Anxiety: At Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, essential oils are used to lower the anxiety levels of patients undergoing MRI scans. The oils have been shown to reduce anxiety by 63 percent.
ADD/ADHD: A study in 2002 showed that essential oils restored normal brainwave patterns and improved scholastic performance and behavior patterns in children ages 6-12 who were diagnosed ADD/ADHD. Lavender oil increased performance by 53 percent, cedarwood oil by 83 percent and vetiver oil by 100 percent.
What Oils Should I Use?
When it comes to emotional health, lavender is tried and true. University studies have shown lavender can decrease mental stress (Motomora, 2001), induce relaxation (Dimpfel, 2004), alleviate anxiety (Itai, 2005), and reduce depression (Lee, 2006). Lavender has a calming effect on the central nervous system and also reduces blood pressure (Tanida et al., 2006). Lavender oil is also an efficient remedy that can produce tremendous relaxation in a relatively short period of time (Mathers, 1991).
In university studies conducted in Vienna and Berlin, researchers found that substances called sesquiterpenes increase oxygen levels in the brain by up to 28 percent (Nasel, 1992). Such an increase in brain oxygen may lead to a heightened level of activity in the hypothalamus and limbic systems. Oils that contain high amounts of sesquiterpenes include cedarwood, frankincense, patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver.
Aromatherapist and psychiatrist Florian Birkmayer theorized that the dopamine and serotonin molecules in the human brain are able to interact with plants and promote healing. Research and experience demonstrate the ability of essential oils to heal both body and mind.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Essential oils to consider for emotional support include:
- Roman Camomile
- Citrus Oils
- Black Pepper
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang