Note: This is the fourth article in my series on natural approaches to mental health that focuses on essential oils. Click here to get a summary.

In these next few posts, I will provide examples of essential oils that have been confirmed in human trials as well as studies that outline their biochemical actions in vitro and in vivo. I start with lavender essential oil.

The Calming Smell of Lavender Oil

Studies in petri dishes and rodents have evaluated the mechanisms for lavender essential oil by assessing the effects of its various constituents and of the whole oil. I previously stated in my earlier post that an article review mentioned lavender had an effect on serotonin receptors. Other studies have found this essential oil to also have an impact on many other neurotransmitters including NMDA, dopamine, GABA, histamine, and acetylcholine. (source, source). These neurotransmitters are involved in the balancing of brain excitation and inhibition, focus, memory, mood, and more.

In this mega-lavender review article, the authors report on this “universal” oil’s antioxidant effects and its many impacts on the nervous system. The implications of lavender’s multiple actions for various neurological disorders and its pain relieving, antianxiety, antidepressant, and anticonvulsant actions are also discussed in detail. Below is an excerpt:

Antioxidant and relatively weak cholinergic inhibition was reported for lavender [38, 40] and linalool [41–43]. Linalool inhibited acetylcholine release and alters ion channel function at the neuromuscular junction [44]. These findings indicate that several targets relevant to treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; anticholinergic, neuroprotective, and antioxidant activities could be found in lavender. The neuroprotective effect of lavender oil against cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury is suggested to be attributed to its antioxidant effects [38]. Evaluation of the effects of lavender oil on motor activity and its relationship to dopaminergic neurotransmission revealed that intraperitoneal application of lavender significantly increased rotarod activity and enhanced dopamine receptors subtype D3 in the olfactory bulbs of mice [45]. Lavender oil is also suggested to modulate GABAergic neurotransmission, especially on GABAA receptors, and enhance inhibitory tone of the nervous system [29, 36, 46]. Cholinergic system is suggested to play a role in lavender analgesic, antianxiety, antidepression, and anticonvulsant effects of lavender [16, 26, 33].

In human trials, lavender oil’s positive effects on mood and relaxation response has been assessed and confirmed through brain imaging techniques, both fMRIs and EEGs (electroencephalogram).  Lavender oil’s calming effect is so well-respected overseas that it is used as a drug (taken by mouth!) for anxiety in Europe, marketed as Silexin.

I have provided a summary on how lavender oil influences the nervous system here. You are also welcome to explore in more detail the mechanisms of action of lavender for anxiety and other organ system applications, including the cardiovascular and hormonal systems, here.

My Favorite Ways to Use Lavender Oil

I diffuse about eight drops in my atomizer diffuser for a peaceful night sleep.

I place a dilution of a few drops of lavender in about a tsp of carrier oil and apply it to my feet and the back of neck at night. This helps to calm my brain from a busy day. I also use this on my face on occasion for clearing up any unwanted “dots.”

I inhale directly from my bottle to balance my brain.

In the next few articles, I’ll continue with more examples of essential oils that have been studied for brain support in both animals and humans.

Stay tuned!

Now, a bonus oil tip for the “oil scent of the summer,” citronella! I sent out a similar, shortened version of this write-up this weekend to my essential oils’ subscribers and I wanted to share it with all my readers. If you don’t want to miss any of my updates, make sure you sign-up for my weekly essential oils and health newsletter.

Highlighting Citronella Essential Oil:
Lending a Scent for More Summertime Fun

(Reading time: about 1-2 minutes)

Citronella is from the lemongrass family and there are two main species that have similar chemical profiles. It is pretty well-known that the scent of citronella can be useful in keeping pesky, blood-sucking critters away. This makes enjoying outdoor picnics a little easier due to less mosquitos hungrily hoovering over its victims with their buggy little eyes.

I was delighted to learn that this “summertime” oil also appears to have uses that expand throughout the whole year. It seems to be good at deterring other unwanted bugs in the human vicinity and it may even come in handy for Fido!

One particular study with citronella recently got my attention. It was a placebo-randomized trial with children subjects to test if it would help decrease their risk of lice infestation. Catching the “itchy head crazies” would definitely be something that dampers anytime fun!

The tested potency of citronella oil was in the form of a 3.7% diluted micro-encapsulated oil. This dose is equivalent to about 18 drops/oz in a carrier oil, though the authors did not specify exact methods of dilution. The children received .3-.9 ml daily from a 200 ml (about 6 oz) bottle that was applied to their hair 6 days a week. This would be equivalent to 108 drops in the full 200 ml bottle for a total dosage daily of .5-1 drop.

The results showed that only 12% in the citronella group got the lice infestation (n=100) vs. 50.5% of the kids in the placebo arm (n=98). The oily smelling kids also had less chance of being re-infested.


More Good News for Citronella Oil Lovers

An in vitro study with citronella oil lured away (unwanted) kissing bugs.

It also seems to be a Fido “silencer” by decreasing barking when used on a collar (vs. a tested placebo). (I guess a less irritated pooch makes for quieter summer nights?)

Practical Tip: Bug Rub Away with Citronella

If you want to try citronella for a “bug away rub,” I suggest you start with diluting about 6 drops in an ounce of carrier oil (1% dilution). For the experienced essential oil devotee, you could increase up to 18 drops for a more potent 3% solution. You may need to reapply it about every hour you are outside, depending on the mosquito hunger quotient.

I base this dose on the efficacy of one drop from the study on children with lice discussed above, and the timing from a very small study of fifteen brave participants. In this latter experiment, the subjects volunteered their forearms to test various mosquito repellents’ effectiveness. The citronella-based oil bracelet was reported to be helpful at keeping bugs away for about 20 minutes. However, it’s important to note that these products were commercial and not undiluted, quality essential oils.

Please read my safety tips and be aware of your own body’s response! Always use your best judgement and of health professionals.

Hope you enjoyed this essential oil tidbit!

*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.

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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.

Thanks Pixabay.

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