Food can be powerful medicine. In fact, I previously discussed how dietary components and specific nutrients can nourish the mind and supply the brain with precursors to its chemical messengers, neurotransmitters. I also highlighted two natural supplements, N-acetylcysteine and L-theanine. I use both of these products frequently in my naturopathic medicine practice to promote better mental health.
Supporting the physical brain is an important first step to addressing cognitive wellness. With my naturopathic and functional medicine clients, I aim to address all the factors involved in brain health. It is my goal to treat mental health through a more integrative and holistic lens.
In this post, I will discuss:
- How the mind and body are connected.
- The impact of excessive stress on the brain and body and how essential oils mitigate, and help reverse, the negative impact.
- How essential oils support emotional balance and modulate mental health physically, biochemically, and psychologically.
The Unnecessary Schism of Mind-Body Medicine
The schism of mind-body in Western culture has led medicine to separate psychiatric illnesses from other medical specialties. Oftentimes, practitioners do not consider the intricate interplay between them. (source, source, source) This has led to fragmented care, increased health costs, and the stigmatization of “mental health.”
Thankfully, in recent years there has been some progress in both mental health and medical specialists acknowledging how mind and body are connected. Even the most conventional doctors have had to admit that the literature and their patients have proven that emotional stress does not just perpetuate many illnesses, but also instigates them. (source, source, source, source, source)
If one overwhelming thought can create downstream turmoil on the body in successive and rapid fashion, it becomes evident that physicians need to find means to balance the mind, as they address its physical repercussions, for true healing.
Essential Oils for a Stressed-Out Mind-Body
This area of mind-body integration is where essential oils shine. They are able to modulate emotions and alleviate stress as they also support our physiology, psychology, spirituality, and relationship health. Below is a summary from a previous article on the mechanisms of essential oils for modulating the stress response holistically:
- Odors have the ability to create an instantaneous change in mood and induce memory. This is because smell is the only sense that has direct connections to the emotional areas of the brain.
- The aromatic influence of essential oils is combined with the biochemical effects of their secondary metabolites to mitigate the stress response at the start. This means that while easing the brain and supporting the strain on the body, essential oils address the root of the issue. In this way, they can break detrimental coping strategies that result from panic.
- The change in mood that can result from essential oils further shifts the body toward restoration versus survival. The grounding fir oils and emotional blends can increase courage to move into healthier response patterns. Furthermore, essential oils that promote hope and a sense of positivity can support better health outcomes in a variety of ways.
- In addition to emotional and physical benefits of essential oils, they have also been used to enhance spiritual and religious practices since ancient times.
Essential Oils for Emotional Health
Previously, I have explored the science of how blending essential oils to create emotions in a bottle are legit. Specifically, I was discussing the relevance of blends of essential oils that are intended to shift mood.
Here is another summary from a past post. It discusses how emotions really can be “hacked” by a therapeutic bottle of essential oils:
- Smells can trigger an emotional response based on previous associations of the odor to 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 and well-being 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. (source)
One of the emotional blends I’ve discussed in the past is gratitude. During the holiday season, I also provided you with various essential oils blend to inspire hope, joy, and abundance. You can access a recap of them here.
Essential Oils for Mental Health
Clinical studies have proven the benefits of essential oils for those with mental health diagnoses, including for depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. Furthermore, human clinical trials have also demonstrated that essential oils can alter brain wave patterns on EEGs. This validates how essential oils can shift brain function and physiology. (source, source, source)
In my article series on essential oils for mental health, I discussed the mechanisms of how they can change brain signaling and modulate cognitive functioning. I also have explained in the past that essential oils impact brain biochemistry through their influence on specific neurotransmitters. (source, source, source, source, source)
You can watch a video summary of some of my favorite essential oils for the brain here. These include bergamot, jasmine, rosemary, and orange oil.
Summary: Essential Oils for Nourishing the Brain
This is why they are a perfect companion to any mental and cognitive wellness protocol that aims to nourish the brain. I believe they are one holistic modality that can connect the mind-body and lead to true healing.
Please comment below.
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.
For additional safety and medical information, visit my essential oils database. It includes a full category on how to use essential oils safely and potential drug interactions that can occur.
Please be extra cautious and be 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.
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.