This is the first in a three-part series where I’ll discuss the different ways in which doTERRA’s essential oils can be used. All three offer therapeutic benefit, just in different ways. Essential oils have been around for a long time and research about their use is starting to catch up! Thankfully, companies like dōTERRA are leading the charge in taking essential oils mainstream and have done an enormous amount of work to make access to this research easy to find and available to us. Websites like aromaticscience.com is a great place to see some of that research.
One of the most well-studied areas of essential oil research is the effect of smell on emotions and mood. Ample evidence exists demonstrating that simply inhaling the aroma of an essential oil is effective for calming nervous or anxious feelings in a variety of settings. One of the first things we usually notice when we unscrew a cap off a bottle of essential oils is the powerfully fragrant aroma. The aroma is due to the fact that essential oils are volatile. This means the compounds which make up the oils are very small and readily evaporate into the air. These compounds then interact with olfactory (smell) receptors in the nose. The chemistry of essential oils varies widely from oil to oil, which explains why essential oils possess such widely different aromas, and thus, can affect us in different ways.
The smell receptors located in the upper surface of the nasal cavity make a direct link with the limbic system of the brain, an area that governs the body’s emotional responses. This close connection between aroma and emotion shows up in our everyday life as certain odors trigger memories or specific feelings. Some aromas directly impact mood (for example calming, balancing, or invigorating), while others trigger memories of a specific experience, often one tied to a strong emotion.
Intriguing new research demonstrates that aromatherapy with essential oils extend far beyond just emotional regulation. Olfactory centers in the brain are also intricately linked with the hypothalamus, a structure which controls many different physiologic functions throughout the body. The hypothalamus interacts directly with the pituitary gland, which secretes hormones involved in the regulation of blood pressure, hunger and thirst signals, thyroid function, sleep cycles, production of sexual hormones, and memory, among other things. Because of this link between the olfactory system and the hypothalamus/pituitary gland, essential oil aromas are capable of positively influencing neurochemistry throughout the body, and, in turn, creating powerful health outcomes.
There are multiple ways to utilize essential oils aromatically, or through your nose. Aside from smelling the oil directly from the bottle, apply a drop of oil to your hands, rub them together and cup your nose while inhaling. You can also place a drop on a cloth or tissue and do the same thing. Using a vaporizer, diffuser, or humidifier produces a very fine mist which can stay in the air for extended periods of time. Wearing an essential oil as a perfume or cologne or placing a drop on a cotton ball and putting it near a vent or fan also puts essential oils to work. All of these modalities can induce positive localized effects in the sinuses, larynx, bronchial tubes and lungs. Inhalation of essential oils can also produce systemic, or whole body, effects once the oils reach the bloodstream.
If you’re wondering how the aromatic use of essential oils might benefit you or your family, reach out with your questions or comments.
Ceccarelli I, Lariviere WR, Fiorenzani P, et al. Effects of long-term exposure of lemon essential oil odor on behavioral, hormonal, and neuronal parameters in male and female rats. Brain Res. 2004;1001 (1-2):78-86.
Conrad P, Adams C. The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in high risk postpartum woman – a pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2012;18(3):164-168.
Fayazi S, Babashahi M, Rezael M. The effect of inhalation of aromatherapy on anxiety level of patients in preoperative period. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2011;16(4):278-283.
Inouye S, Uchida K, Yamacuchi H. In-vitro and in-vivo anti-Trichophyton activity of essential oils by vapour contact. Mycoses. 2001. 44:99-107.
Lehrner J, Eckersberger C, Walla P, et al. Ambient odor of orange in a dental office reduces anxiety and improves mood in female patients. Physiol Behav. 2000;71(1-2_:83-86.
McCaffrey R, Thomas DJ, Kinzelman AO. The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students. Hollist Nurs Pract. 2009;23(2):88-93.