The Effects of Essential Oils on the Brain

Essential oils have been used for centuries to promote physical and mental wellbeing. They are believed to have therapeutic effects by stimulating the olfactory system, which is connected to the limbic system of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for controlling functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, memory, stress levels and hormone balance. When you smell essential oils, the body can respond by releasing chemicals into the body, such as serotonin which helps to calm the body and endorphins that help it relax by releasing tension in the muscles.Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefits.

When inhaled, the aromatic molecules of essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially affect the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. Numerous studies have shown that essential oils affect our emotions. According to the National Cancer Institute (PDQ), “Studies have consistently shown that odors can produce specific effects on human neuropsychological and autonomic function and that odors can influence mood, health perception, and arousal.”These studies suggest that odors may have therapeutic applications in the context of stressful and adverse psychological conditions. People often use essential oils when coughing or inhaling peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita) to reduce fatigue or nausea.

Therefore, it is essential that we selectively pay attention to information relevant to the target while inhibiting irrelevant or distracting information.Monoterpenes are the most abundant molecules of essential oils (about 90%) with a wide variety of structures. The objective of this study was to use event-related potentials (ERP) to find out how blended essential oil affected the performance of humans in the task of selective attention. The amplitudes of P300 in C4, P3 and Oz were significantly higher in the NP condition than in the control condition for the “no essential oil” group.The PLV analysis showed that essential oils induced stronger intracerebral functional connections during the performance of the selective attention task. The potential event-related technique was used to examine the brain mechanisms underlying the effects of blended essential oils on human selective attention.Several studies have shown that fragrances can produce specific effects on human neuropsychological and autonomic function and influence mood, health perception and arousal.

They found that reaction time was significantly lower with lavender than with control, suggesting that lavender essential oil helps to curb a decline in vigilance or maintain sustained attention on long-term surveillance tasks.The EEG spectrum values of fast alpha waves increased by 50% during inhalation of San-Jo-In essential oil, suggesting that it was able to alter activity of EEG and has positive effects on mood and cognitive functions of the brain. Research has also been conducted on how essential oils affect short-term human image and numerical memory.The author found that prolonged inhalation of fragrances affects parameters of autonomic nervous system and states of brain. Common examples include applying a mixture containing essential oil of black pepper (Piper nigrum) or ginger (Zinziber officinalis) to reduce arthritis pain and improve flexibility, or applying German chamomile essential oil (Matricaria recutita) to treat eczema.In conclusion, research has shown that essential oils can have a positive effect on mood, cognitive functions and physical wellbeing. They can help reduce stress levels, improve focus and concentration, reduce fatigue and nausea, reduce arthritis pain and improve flexibility, as well as treat eczema.