06 Nov
The Power of Aroma: How Essential Oils and Our Sense of Smell Can Support Mental Health

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I wanted to share this article written by Jade Shutes, my Instructor at the School for Aromatic Studies. It is my hope it will help you better understand how powerful essential oils can be on our psyche.

Essential oils, in particular, provide concentrated aromatic compounds that can have profound effects on both body and mind. Understanding the science behind how essential oils impact our emotions through aroma, and learning how to harness them can be an important part of an integrative approach to mental health.

The Link Between Smell and the Brain

The limbic system is a collection of brain structures located in the medial temporal lobe that regulates emotion, behavior, motivation, and long-term memory. Within the limbic system, the amygdala plays a key role in processing emotions, especially fear and anxiety – stimulating the “fight-or-flight” response to perceived threats. Due to its extensive connections to other brain regions, the amygdala also helps attach emotional significance to memories and events. When inhaled, essential oil compounds are detected by receptors in the nasal cavity, which triggers a signaling cascade along the olfactory nerve pathways to the limbic system and other parts of the brain involved in emotion, memory, and autonomic nervous system regulation. Essential oils are believed to exert pharmacological effects via absorption through the skin or mucous membranes as well as binding directly to receptors once in the bloodstream. Individual essential oil constituents interact with various neurotransmitter systems, including the serotonergic, cholinergic, GABAergic, glutamatergic, and opioid systems. 

Using Essential Oils for Depression and Anxiety Relief

Because essential oils can rapidly shift emotional states through their effects on the limbic system, they hold great potential for managing depression, anxiety, and stress. For depression relief, combining essential oils that boost serotonin and dopamine levels can help counter depressed or low moods. Good options are sweet orange, lavender, clary sage, bergamot, patchouli, rose, and ylang ylang essential oils.Create an aromatherapy diffuser blend using 2-3 of these oils together. Place the diffuser in a frequently used space like a bedroom or living area and inhale the aroma for at least 10-15 minutes once or twice a day. Essential oils containing high levels of linalool, such as bergamot, lavender, and coriander seed, are great choices for anxiety relief. Create a rollerball diluted oil blend with any of these oils mixed with a carrier oil. Apply a small amount to pulse points like wrists, temples, or neck, and take slow, deep breaths of the scent when feeling anxious.

Having the oil readily available makes it easy to use aromatherapy on-the-go to stop anxiety before it escalates.

Citrus essential oils with high limonene content are also excellent for anxiety relief. Add 2 drops of lemon, grapefruit, neroli, or sweet orange essential oil to a diffuser and inhale the scent for a few minutes when stress levels feel high. The refreshing citrus aroma helps promote relaxation and balance mood.

Breathing Space

To Relieve AnxietyOne Roll On Bottle

    • 10ml Jojoba or other carrier oil
    • 3 drops Neroli
    • 4 drops Mandarin
    • 2 drops Sandalwood or Patchouli
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