Listen to this blog in about 9 minutes below.
Last week, I took a break from my essential oils’ hormonal series and took a walk down mental health and mood imbalance lane with you. In the oily tip for the weekend, rather than just summarizing the research in this area, I branched out into the territory of what to consider when selecting an essential oil for supporting mood balance, or for any wellness area for that matter.
I decided to keep it short and sweet and just give the outline of the three most important factors to keep in mind when selecting an essential oil. These included:
- The complexity and multifactorial actions of essential oils
- Essential oils’ individualized effects and epigenetic impact
- The concept of synergy
These three aspects are imperative to comprehend so you understand the limitations that exist with studies’ conclusions, experts’ advice, and media hype regarding essential oils.
The goal is to have a balance and appreciation of the art and science of essential oils. I want to provide you with the research for a sensible review of the evidence as you take into account your own body’s wisdom. Each of you has a unique biochemistry, lifestyle, and health history. This means that an individual’s experience with the many molecules found within an essential oil will likely differ, subtly or greatly, from another’s response.
Now that I’ve given you a taste of this complexity, and some ideas to start, I’m going to deliver what I promised.
In this series, these factors are going to be flushed out in more detail for a more thorough and comprehensive review of each one. As usual, I got a little verbose, so I will separate each consideration into three articles.
It is my hope that these posts will not only help you to appreciate and honor your body and the science of essential oils but will also cause you to be awed at the wisdom of nature and their medicinal and healing properties!
I still am, every day.
Welcome to a new clarity of the unpredictable, amazing, powerful, harmonious experience of using essential oils.
Let’s get started!
Three Reasons Why You Should NEVER Base Your Decisions on Which Essential Oils to Use Solely on Any Expert, a Well-Meaning Blog, or Any Research Study
The Actions of Essential Oils are Complex, Multifactorial, &
Mood and Physical Effects Intricately Interact
Science is now becoming more aware of what has been known for centuries, that the emotions, mindfulness, mindset, and stress all impact the physical body. This makes the “calming” of the mind important for effecting physical outcomes. Unfortunately, many studies stop short of fully assessing all the mind-body connections that can be influenced.
Previously, I explored that the impact of essential oils does not stop at the brain with the aroma impacting mood. In my blog series on emotional blends, I highlighted specific ways essential oils can exert an effect on the emotions with blends of essential oil. Here’s an excerpt:
In Part I, I presented six reasons why “emotions in a bottle” are legit. These included:
- Smells can trigger an emotional response based on previous associations of the sniffer.
- Odors have been demonstrated to effect psychology, physiology, and biochemistry through their interactions with receptors in the body.
- The ability to detect odors has been correlated to neurological disorders and longevity, indicating how the sense of smell is intricately linked to health outcomes.
- Certain odors can also trigger memories based on one’s previous associations and evoke specific behavioral responses. These reactions can affect social interactions through the emotions they trigger. This psychological influence interacts with the odorants properties to additionally alter physiological responses.
- There are odor receptors throughout the whole body. This means that beyond smell, odorant molecules excerpt their own biochemical and physiological effects independently.
- Smell can impact emotional intelligence (EI), a determinant of social connection. (see references in Part 1).
This means with every sniff, you are getting literal mind-body interactions and a multitude of versatile impacts!
A Little Biochemical and Mechanism of Action Review for Fellow Geeks
Now, let’s look at how the biochemistry of these secondary metabolites found in essential oils impact our overall health. I’ve had many new members to my team lately, and I know some of my fellow geeks may appreciate the review.
In an article I wrote for Ben Greenfield on an ancient essential oils blend, I went into the details of the complexity of essential oils including their history, biochemistry, and uses. Below is an excerpt that reviews the properties of essential oils.
So what exactly are essential oils? Essential oils are volatile secondary plant metabolites extracted from aromatic plant material by steam distillation or mechanical expression.1-10 Oils which are produced with the use of chemical solvents are not considered true essential oils due to the resulting alteration of chemical constituents from the solvent residues.1,10
These powerful compounds are produced by plants in order to provide defense from infestations, modulate immune function, and to stimulate various molecular pathways needed for thriving.1-10 Their constituents can interact with cellular pathways to alter biochemical responses and optimize physiological function.1-14 Essential oils have been demonstrated to: inhibit microbe growth,3-5, 8-10 act as antioxidants,4-5, 8,10,13 support hormones,8,10 and calm inflammation. 2-6, 8,10,14
These plant substances not only exert modulation of molecular pathways and cellular receptor interaction,1-14 but also provide a profound impact on our bodies and mind through their aromatic qualities alone.15-24 For example, it has been demonstrated that odor can act as a stimulus producing changes in physiology independent of, and in connection to, psychological and memory-based associations of the smell.15-18, 21-25 These effects include modulation of skin conduction, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and regional cerebral blood flow.20-24 Furthermore, the psychological and memory-enhanced associations with odor can impact mood, stress, and emotional state.15-25
Essential oils are absorbed easily into our system through skin application, inhalation, or ingestion and excreted quickly, mostly through the kidneys.8,10,26-29 They have a low toxicity profile, when used in their proper, pure form.8,10
For an easier read and for those who just want the overview, this blog would be the place to land.
Alas, wouldn’t you be so much happier with an easy, cookie-cutter blog of a list of essential oils for mood support? Not that those lists aren’t helpful for a general idea of where to start, but as you can see, they have their shortcomings when used alone and not considering these various factors discussed.
Although measuring the effects of aromatherapy on mood outcomes and a few physical measurements is important, it may be shortsighted with covering all the benefits that can also impact emotional tone subtly over time.
Essential oils provide a holistic means to address many of the triggers and underlying imbalances that are contributing to long term disease processes. I previously discussed this concept in regard to essential oils and autoimmunity.
The good news is whatever essential oil you choose it will likely bring harmony, if you use it safely and with proper application. These multi-factorial actions will all be working together with every oil, every time. However, if you aren’t getting the response you desire, it’s time to dig deeper and look at the reason why or try a different oil.
Now, that’s enough for one post, right?
When you’re ready, click here for the second factor to consider when selecting essential oils for health and wellness support. I review:
- The epigenetic-lifestyle interactions with essential oils
- Medication considerations
- What to be aware with the “sensitive types”
- And more…
All newbies and the curious should review the resources for essential oils safety here.
Many blessings from my heart to yours!
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.)
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 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.