What is aromatherapy? It isn't some kind of witchery...it's actually science.
You’ve probably already heard that aromatherapy, the therapeutic use of essential oils, can have a positive impact on your emotional health. You may have already experienced this. Perhaps you like to inhale the scent of lavender to help relieve stress or wild orange to uplift and give you a burst of energy. But how do essential oils actually affect our emotions?
Aromatherapy has a direct impact on the olfactory and limbic systems of our brains. When we inhale a scent, it travels through our nasal passage and into our olfactory bulb. From the olfactory bulb, it is sent into the brain where the limbic system processes it. The limbic system is the seat of learning, emotion, and memory. The limbic system then releases neurochemicals which can be relaxing, sedative, energizing, etc., depending on the essential oil that is being used. Scent has further influence on the brain as different scents can make us think of different things and stimulate memories. For example, the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking may make us think of making cookies with our grandma, and this memory makes us happy.
Or you may have things that do not make you happy that are triggered by the aroma of certain things. If you’re me, the scent of ylang ylang essential oil reminds me of rotten Easter lilies! Ylang ylang is a wonderful essential oil, but I use it in very small quantities because I find the smell so overpowering. All people will have different reactions to the same scent. Most people think lavender smells lovely, but I know a couple people who can’t stand the smell of it. It’s interesting to see various people’s different reactions to a scent.
So what about when essential oils are applied topically? Applying oils topically can also affect our emotions. Naturally we’re going to still smell them when they are on our bodies, and so we are still getting their influence through the olfactory bulb. However, applying them to our skin allows them to soak into the layers of our tissue and into our blood, and from there to our cells and the brain. Applying oils topically is certainly helpful for physical issues (example: oils that support digestive issues being rubbed onto the area of the stomach), but, and here’s the big deal: our physical and emotional well being is DIRECTLY CONNECTED. And aromatherapy helps to support BOTH emotional and physical wellness.