This article continues with the theme of using integrative methods to support psychological health and brain disorders. For previous highlights on specific essential oils that have been clinically validated to support mental health, please watch my latest video. Click here for a summary of earlier subjects on this topic.
In my current series that focuses on brain and mental health, I have provided evidence on how essential oils can soothe the mind and body, support mood, and tame the psyche. In the preceding post, I revisited the power of sage oil beyond its benefits for memory. I described how it also has multiple properties that have the potential to prevent cognitive and neurological decline.
Now, I go into more detail on how various other essential oils have also been studied for their potential to impact memory and learning.
The Neuroprotective and Youthful Promoting Properties of Essential Oils
Sage oils provided an example of how essential oils can be neuroprotective and have the potential for preserving brain function, before it declines.
One article review further detailed the potential of sage and several other essential oils for neurological disorders. The authors give detailed explanations of various mechanisms found in experimental trials and correlation to these outcomes with human studies. The abstract states:
The use of essential oils (EOs) and their components is known since long in traditional medicine and aromatherapy for the management of various diseases, and is further increased in the recent times. The neuroprotective and anti-aging potentials of EOs and their possible mechanism of actions were evaluated by numerous researchers around the globe. Several clinically important EOs and their components from Nigella sativa, Acorus gramineus, Lavandula angustifolia, Eucalyptus globulus, Mentha piperita, Rosmarinus officinalis, Jasminum sambac, Piper nigrum and so many other plants are reported for neuroprotective effects. This review article was aimed to summarize the current finding on EOs tested against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer disease (AD) and dementia. The effects of EOs on pathological targets of AD and dementia including amyloid deposition (A?), neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), cholinergic hypofunction, oxidative stress and glutamatergic abnormalities were focused. Furthermore, effects of EOs on other neurological disorders including anxiety, depression, cognitive hypofunction epilepsy and convulsions were also evaluated in detail. In conclusion, EOs were effective on several pathological targets and have improved cognitive performance in animal models and human subjects. Thus, EOs can be developed as multi-potent agents against neurological disorders with better efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness. (source)
This article begins with a basic overview of essential oils in history and their biochemical proprieties. It also touches on how manufacturing and harvesting impact what compounds will be produced. I have reviewed these concepts regarding chemotype (primary metabolite found in a species) and quality methods in detail. This is important to keep in mind when using essential oils therapeutically for brain health, or for any other matter.
Next, the authors summarize how modulating specific enzyme pathways in the brain may support memory function and the essential oils that have been studied in experimental trials to have these effects. This link to a figure provides an overview. For those who want more details, the caption reads:
Neuronal synthesis of acetylcholine (ACh). ACh is stored in the vesicles and subsequent to action potential they get fused with the membrane and release the ACh at neuronal junction. After their action on cholinergic receptors they are enzymatically cleaved by acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE). EOs can inhibit the action of these cholinesterase’s and can restore their action for prolong time. Thus they are useful for the symptomatic management of Alzheimer disease (AD).
The review also lists several human trials that support the action of several essential oils on cognitive function. These clinical studies included:
- A small trial that showed a combination of aromatherapy and massage decreased anxiety and improved some immunological markers in breast cancer patients. (Not randomized.)
- An abstract on how lavender oil helped subjects with sustained attention over a vigilance task compared with controls.
- “A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder” concluding the oil was just as effective as the drug.
- A small trial that compared jasmine oil massage vs. using a placebo on mood and nervous system measurements. Besides subjective ratings, autonomic parameters (i.e. blood pressure, pulse rate, blood oxygen saturation, breathing rate, and skin temperature) were determined as markers of arousal level of the autonomic nervous system. The study concluded, “the stimulating/activating effect of jasmine oil and provide evidence for its use in aromatherapy for the relief of depression and uplifting mood in humans.” (abstract)
The review continues with how other essential oils also have additional actions such as antioxidant, anti-amyloid, anxiolytic, and anti-convulsant activity. This table provides a summary of both mechanistic and human trials of various essential oils and how they can impact cognition (memory and learning).
Beyond “sage advice,” essential oils have amazing potential to help keep the brain healthy. The psychological impact of essential oils is now well documented in human and experimental trials. The various mechanistic studies of their other actions on brain health should also be explored more in human trials.
For now, the correlations between memory enhancement, attention, and their in vitro and in vivo effects is very convincing evidence that essential oils may be the most ancient “nootrophics” we have.
*Safety reminder: Please be extra sure to check with your doctor if you have a seizure disorder. The Epilepsy Society of the UK lists certain essential oils implicated for their antiseizure effect as well as those that have stimulating properties.
For additional safety and medical information, please be sure to visit my essential oils database. This includes a full category on how to use essential oils safely and potential drug interactions that can occur.
If you and/or your physician are interested in consulting with me to assist with supporting the integration of essential oils safely into a therapeutic protocol, essential oils consultations are available.
Coming Up: More Oils for Brain Health and the Essential Oils “Baby Wipe” Craze
I will briefly highlight a few more oils that have brain-boosting benefits and then wrap up the series with a summary of the oils highlighted and how to use them.
I will also be providing an EXCLUSIVE article to my email subscribers on one of my favorite essential oils products. It is practical and safe for infants and adults alike and very handy for the summer months. I’m talking about Baby Wipes! It’s true!
Learn why a combination of essential oils on a wipe has me excited!
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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.