Factors Related to Mood and Hormonal Harmony
My previous series covered in depth the connection between hormones and mood. Specifically, I highlighted how estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, testosterone, and oxytocin hormones impact brain health and emotions. To summarize, hormones have been linked to a variety of psychological disorders through various mechanisms and their complex interaction with neurotransmitters. This latter relationship is reciprocal; therefore, an imbalance in either of these chemical signals perpetuates the other and has profound effects on behavior and state of mind.
The process of achieving hormonal regulation and balancing brain health can be quite complex, but they both share many of the same aspects related to their imbalances. A naturopathic and functional medicine doctor will assess all these underlying conditions to not only address symptoms, but to find the root cause of the hormonal and/or mood issue.
Below is a review of some of the areas I consider when a client comes to me with a psychiatric or hormonal concern:
- Inflammation and oxidative stress
- Genetic variations (such as SNPs related to MTHFR, DRD2, DRD4, COMT, CBS, and serotonin transporters )
- Nutrition and assimilation
- Dietary triggers and deficiencies (including cerebral folate deficiency)
- Mitochondrial dysfunctions and imbalances
- Stress & cortisol levels
- The microbiome
- Environmental toxicants
- Blood sugar levels
- Stealth infections
- Childhood adversity
- Emotional tone and spirituality
- Brain trauma
- Hyper or hypo-activity in a brain region
- …and more!
Essential Oils on the Brain
I’ve written many articles on how essential oils have been shown to modulate neurotransmitters and aid the brain on the physiological and functional level. They have clinical evidence for benefiting emotional health and impacting the brain in a variety of ways, including many of the factors listed above. They have even been used as modalities to assist with substance abuse treatment.
In the remainder of this post, I will provide a summary from my previous writings of the main points on how essential oils can support psychological well-being. A follow-up post will explicitly review essential oils that modulate estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, thyroid, testosterone, and oxytocin hormones.
The Calm of Essential Oils on Brain Patterning
On the physiological level, essential oils and certain fragrances have been shown to alter brain wave patterns, affecting concentration, focus, relaxation, and emotions. This handy chart provides examples of this effect of aromatics on electroencephalograph (EEG) activity.
For example, it was demonstrated in a small study with 20 participants that inhalation of jasmine oil caused an increase in beta wave power in the anterior and left posterior region of the brain, indicating increased alertness. Subjects also reported a greater feeling of well-being and less drowsiness when inhaling jasmine as compared to the control condition that used almond oil.
It is important to note the individual differences in aromatic preferences and gender can affect these patterns.
Essential Oils and Brain Biochemistry
In vitro and animal studies have shown various mechanisms on how essential oils impact brain signaling. Below are several examples.
- Sage- modulates dopamine (the reward-motivation neurotransmitter)
- Lavender– effects serotonin (equated with mood and calming)
- Lemon– suppresses dopamine and accentuates serotonin
- Bergamot– enhances synaptic connecting for better brain communication
- Bitter orange– impacts serotonin (source)
In a twelve-minute video, I reviewed more on how essential oils modulate these chemical messengers and brain biochemistry.
Essential Oils and Mental Health
Human trials with essential oils have shown their ability to support mental health and the stress response.
- An overview of bergamot essential oil’s beneficial properties and its calming aspects on the body, nervous system, heart, and mind.
- Orange oil’s use for soothing anxiety and how it uplifts spirits
- Rosemary’s stimulating characteristics that benefit focus, stress relief, and alleviation of low mood.
- Jasmine essential oil’s ability to calm the electrical activity on the brain and its psychological benefits.
- A summary of which oils are best to use for memory, mood, anxiety, and stress.
‘Tis the Season for Feelings of Gratitude
This week is the celebration of American Thanksgiving. In past years, many would be gathering together, reflecting on the blessings of the prior year, and taking a pause of gratitude surrounded by friends and family. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances, this freedom and sharing of cheerful feelings will not be felt by many. 2020 has been a tumultuous year and the majority have felt more strain, isolation, and fear than any other year.
Furthermore, we have been guided to cultivate this beneficial appreciative feeling of connection in different, safer ways. Although using this time for making new traditions and cultivating connections virtually can ease the feelings of loss of a familiar tradition, it is not the same. This is where a little olfactory manipulation can be helpful.
For those who are struggling from missing loved ones, losing traveling liberties, media triggers, or just being stressed out from the extra hassles, an “aromatic boost” of gratitude may be needed. Previously, I discussed how a mixture of essential oils and their constituents can combine to enhance the mood and allow one to feel more grateful. Below is an excerpt.
This synergistic blend of essential oils can promote gratitude by its aromatic effects of calming the mind, easing tension in the body, and promoting a refreshing and alert state. Furthermore, it enhances our sense of well-being with the addition of conifer tree blends, whose scent reminds us all of the spirit of the season, as their phytoncides modulate our overall physiology. Finally, the addition of spiritual oils, high in sesquiterpenes, positively impacts our brain and neurological system.
All emotions can be treated as a guest and we can learn to embrace them, but sometimes we need a little help moving through them. That’s where essential oils come in! (Link)
Using essential oils can be a tool to support psychological well-being during trying times and assist with moving through emotional blocks. May this Thanksgiving be one where you are all able to find some peace, gratitude, and rejuvenation from this exhausting year.
I am feeling incredibly grateful for you!
May essential oils help to make your holiday a bit more cheerful.
Feel free to share your thoughts below and stay tuned for my upcoming post on using essential oils for hormonal health.
Mental Health Resources
*If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and/or are suicidal, please seek professional mental health support:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
- Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org
Other Helpful Resources
Below are some of the highlights of the many free resources on this website:
- Four Essential Oils Blends for Supporting the Mind-Body and Easing Tension
- VIDEO: How Your Brain and Body Suffer with Too Much Stress & Naturopathic Medicine Tips for Calming the Mind and Relieving Overwhelm
- Video Recap: Essential Oils to Ease the Stress & Anxiety of Back to School
- The Importance of Fun, Music, & Play for Mental Health
- Video Recap: Essential Oils for Brain and Mental Health & Soothing Stress
- 10 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress and Calm the Mind-Body During Trying Times
- Video: A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Thyroid Health Using Essential Oils: Video Recap & Additional Resources
Additional Supportive Techniques & Tools
- The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress- Podcast interview by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald with Nick Ortner.
- Stress management tips and resources
Disclaimer: 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. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
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 standardized constituents. 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. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.