The Under-appreciated Mammalian 2-Legged Walking Essential Oil Aroma Diffusers
Essential oil enthusiasts may appear as mysterious creatures to many outsiders. After over 14 years, the curious side glances that occur as I walk by strangers who catch a whiff of my radiating mist of essential oils has become commonplace. Reactions can range from pleasant smiles to mischievous grins from past patchouli lovers. However, passersby may not realize that these vaporous essential oils aroma clouds may be producing positive health effects on their unsuspecting sniffers.
Reason 1: Vapor Shields in a Buggy World
Just as we emit our own microbiome cloud similar to Pig Pen from Charlie Brown, many essential oil lovers also produce their own “buggy vapor shield” of sweet- smelling flowers and plants. It’s not that we are (necessarily) germaphobes or microbe fearers. It’s the fact that quality essential oils have been shown to help our immune response while not harming our good belly bugs.
Essential oils are plant secondary metabolites (such as polyphenols, phenylproponoids, terpenoids, etc.). This makes them important for plants’ survival and supports their immune defense. These same compounds have been studied and shown to exhibit similar benefits for humans as well.
Furthermore, it’s common knowledge of many esteemed integrative practitioners that certain essential oils prevent biofilm formation and trump other pathways that make microbes stay around too long in our bodies
Even more exciting, the polyphenols in essential oils may actually serve to feed or modulate the decline in beneficial microbes in our bellies. In contrast, other microbe-eating methods may wipe out or harm our one trillion + tiny friends residing in our inner tubes.
Therefore, if one believes this strange practice of essential oils rubbed on the body as just an expensive non-toxic perfume and beauty product, they may want to think again. Beyond the pretty smell of essential oil vapor, many are surprised to learn of essential oils’ in vitro (cell culture studies) support for preventing cellular growth issues. This makes the alternative of perfumes that may be loaded with xenoestrogens and endocrine-disruptors linked to a variety of diseases just plain toxic.
Reason Two: Stress Relieving Scents
Various constituents such as phytoestrogens and other compounds in essential oils can enter our bloodstream though inhalation and topical actions. Studies have shown these applications may have an effect on modulating stress and hormonal imbalances using specific measurements.
For example, one small study classified 22 menopausal women in their 50’s into normal and depressive tendency groups using the Korean version of Beck Depression Inventory-I (KBDI-I), KBDI-II, and Korean version of Self-rating Depression Scale. The researchers examined changes in neurotransmitter concentrations, cortisol, and thyroid stimulating hormone in relationship to inhalation of the oil and the versions of depression inventory. The researchers found that inhalation of clary sage decreased cortisol and increased 5-hydroxytrptamine (the monoamine, serotonin).
In a randomized study of sixty-three healthy postmenopausal women, researchers wanted to determine the effects of inhalation of the essential oil of Citrus aurantium L. var. amara (neroli oil) on menopausal symptoms, stress, and estrogen. These women were randomized to inhale 0.1% or 0.5% neroli oil or almond oil (control) for 5 minutes twice daily for 5 days. The researchers measured menopause-related symptoms, as determined by the Menopause-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (MENQOL); sexual desire visual analog scale (VAS); serum cortisol and estrogen concentrations, blood pressure, pulse, and stress VAS, before and after the intervention. The authors summarized the results as follows:
In summary, the present randomized controlled trial showed that inhalation of neroli oil by postmenopausal women improved their quality of life related to menopausal symptoms, increased sexual desire, and reduced blood pressure. In addition, inhalation of neroli oil may reduce stress levels and stimulate the endocrine system. These findings indicate that neroli oil can be used to relieve various symptoms related to menopause.
The researchers suggested that various constituents could be responsible for these beneficial effects, including adrengengic amines which modulate autonomic nerves, limonene, and terpenes.
Another study with women also demonstrated the calming effect of another essential oil, clary sage, during the stressful experience of a urinary exam. Interesting, lavender had the opposite effect, which makes this study an outlier in that account. However, the methods used in the study indicated that the sample size only included 10 subjects in control and 12 in each of the oils groups, which could have masked lavender’s effects. Alternatively, it could be that, in this particular instance, the constituents in clary sage were needed in this study population.
Finally, in a study with 22 volunteers, lavender and rosemary essential oils were shown to reduce cortisol and increase the body’s antioxidant protection.
Reason Three: Healthy Blood Flow
A 2008 study demonstrated how the relaxation effect of lavender inhalation improved coronary flow velocity in healthy young men. The abstract reads:
PURPOSE: It has been reported that mental stress is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events and impairs coronary circulation. Lavender aromatherapy, one of the most popular complementary treatments, is recognized as a beneficial mental relaxation therapy. However, no study has examined the effect of this therapy on coronary circulation. We aimed to assess the effect of lavender aromatherapy on coronary circulation by measuring coronary flow velocity reserve (CFVR) with noninvasive transthoracic Doppler echocardiography (TTDE).
MATERIAL AND METHODS: We enrolled 30 young healthy men (mean age 34+/-4.7 years, range 24-40 years). Coronary flow velocities in the left anterior descending coronary artery were recorded by TTDE at rest and during hyperemia induced with an intravenous infusion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). CFVR was calculated as the ratio of hyperemic to basal mean diastolic flow velocity. CFVR was assessed at baseline and immediately after lavender aromatherapy (four drops of essential oil diluted with 20 ml of hot water and inhaled for 30 min). Simultaneously, serum cortisol was measured as a marker of stress hormones. To exclude the relaxation effects of rest, the same measurements were repeated in the same volunteers without aromatherapy as a control study.
RESULTS: CFVR measurements were obtained in all volunteers (100%). Blood pressure and heart rate responses to ATP infusion were not affected by lavender aromatherapy. Serum cortisol significantly decreased after lavender aromatherapy (8.4+/-3.6 to 6.3+/-3.3, p<0.05), but remained unchanged in controls (9.1+/-3.5 to 8.1+/-3.9, p=ns). In addition, CFVR significantly increased after lavender aromatherapy (3.8+/-0.87 to 4.7+/-0.90, p<0.001), but not in controls (3.9+/-0.8 to 3.9+/-0.8, p=ns).
CONCLUSIONS: Lavender aromatherapy reduced serum cortisol and improved CFVR in healthy men. These findings suggest that lavender aromatherapy has relaxation effects and may have beneficial acute effects on coronary circulation.
Furthermore, in a randomized, controlled trial with 83 hypertensive and pre-hypertensive subjects, the researchers reported, “In conclusion, the inhalation of an essential oil had immediate and continuous effects on the home SBP, daytime BP, and the stress reduction. Essential oils may have relaxation effects for controlling hypertension.”
I also previously discussed how essential oils can modulate nervous system tone and assist with focus and performance for back to school here.
Reason Four: Human Interactions
The sense of smell is an amazing thing, intricately linked to emotion and social interaction. Smell, therefore, could both positively and negatively impact social cues from the emitter, as well as effecting pheromones. (Most reports have been on the positive side of pheromones in an unscientific survey I ran for this blog with a simple yes or no from various clients and family members.)
As a bonus, the sense of smell has been shown to modulate pain pathways.
When to Tame the Human Diffusing Option
For those who have over-responsive nervous systems, multiple chemical sensitivity, or brain trauma, certain essential oils may be too stimulating. In these cases, it may be best to calm the brain and nervous system inflammation or tone before becoming a human diffuser. In these instances, you may also want to warn your essential oils friends to just go a little lighter on the fumes until you’re up-and-running on full speed again.
Learn More During My Upcoming Essential Oils Webinar
I’ve been doing a lot more geeking-out on essential oils for my upcoming Essential Oils Introduction teleseminar/webinar next week. Make sure you are on my essential oil blog newsletter list if you want to receive the log-in information within the next few days.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and quality and standardized. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
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