Want more science on how essential oils help sustain health and support wellness, at the cellular and systemic level? Here’s part one in a series that you can ponder over for a nerd-like fun fest, or, share with your health care providers who think “aromatherapy” is simply meant for “stress relief.”
Listen to this blog in about 6 minutes below.
The Warming Topic of Essential Oils
When you combine two subjects that spark my interest, such as those little buggy microbes with essential oils, I get that warm-fuzzy, grateful feeling inside… similar to a winter day over 30 degrees Fahrenheit in Upstate NY. I happened to experience this welcome emotion just recently, after a little bit of frustration.
This story begins a few days ago. The temperature was at chilling 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I was link hopping in an attempt to find PubMed references on Blue Tansy essential oil. Unfortunately, this was to no avail. Thankfully, I did find studies on one of its main constituents, chamazulene. This compound is most often associated with chamomile (M. chamomilla), wormwood, and yarrow oils.
A little frustrated, I suddenly got another “hit” that led me to a more satisfying search history. I decided to go with this cozy feeling and save my digging for blue tansy for a sunnier day.
The topic that got my attention was “epigenetics and essential oils.”
Immune and Cellular Modulation with Essential Oils
Around this time of year, at least in the cold Northeast, many are focusing on immune support. For this reason, I started my preventative blog series on using essential oils for alleviating sniffles in the fall. However, essential oils can be used for staying healthy in all the other seasons: summer, spring, and winter.
What does this have to do with epigenetics, the modification of gene expression through environmental factors?
A 2014 article published in BioMed Research International reviewed the in vitro and in vivo mechanisms of essential oils related to immune modulation of cellular health. The researchers concluded that essential oils (EOs) could influence cell processes in a variety of ways, including DNA repair and gene expression. The study reported the following:
The current review indicates that EOs and their constituents act by multiple pathways and mechanisms involving apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, antimetastatic and antiangiogenic, increased levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS), DNA repair modulation, and others to demonstrate their antiproliferative activity in the cancer cell. The effect of EOs and their constituents on tumour suppressor proteins (p53 and Akt), transcription factors (NF-?B and AP-1), MAPK-pathway, and detoxification enzymes like SOD, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione reductase has also been discussed.
(Now that’s an alphabet soup of biochemistry for your fellow geeks and docs!)
A 2015 systematic review provided more evidence for the multifactorial activity of essential oils on our bodies. The authors in this article reviewed how their biologically complex properties afforded their versatile actions on our physiology and biochemistry. For example, when they bind to certain cellular receptors in our bodies, they cause the release of neurological and hormonal messengers. Below is an excerpt:
How aromatherapy works
For centuries, the essential oils have found their importance as a fragrance with a curative potential on the body, mind and spirit. These aroma molecules are very potent organic plant chemicals that make the surroundings free from disease, bacteria, virus and fungus [27,28]. Their versatile character of antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory nature along with immune booster body with hormonal, glandular, emotional, circulatory, calming effect, memory and alertness enhancer, is well documented by many scientists [6,10]. Many pilot projects and studies have been conducted on humans to decipher their nature and role with disease and disorder . These oils are known for their energy specific character, as their potency is not lost with time and age. The stimulation properties of these oils lay in their structure which are closely in resemblance with actual hormones . The penetration potential of these oils to reach the subcutaneous tissues is one of the important characters of this therapy. Their effects are also complex and subtle due to their complex structure and chemical properties. The mechanism of their action involves integration of essential oils into a biological signal of the receptor cells in the nose when inhaled. The signal is transmitted to limbic and hypothalamus parts of the brain via olfactory bulb. These signals cause brain to release neuro messengers like serotonin, endorphin etc., to link our nervous and other body systems assuring a desired change and to provide a feeling of relief. Serotonin, endorphin and noradrenalin are released from calming oil, euphoric, and stimulating oil respectively to give expected effect on mind and body [2,31].
This means that not only do essential oils modulate our immune system through microbe-inhibiting actions, while supporting our microbiome, but these secondary metabolites have diverse effects throughout our whole immune system. For example:
- They support defense and cellular repair based on the internal and environmental influences.
- They can be considered immunoregulatory at the cellular level.
- They impact emotional, biological, and physiological processes causing the release of enzymes, hormones, and other cellular signals.
- Their holistic effects can be used for prevention as well as addressing the causative factors contributing to autoimmunity.
Next week, I’ll go over some more current research on the epigenetics of essential oils in more detail. Hopefully, this series will give the woo-woo pointers of aromatherapy a little break from trolling essential oil sites?
Drop an essential oil anyone?
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.
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.)