If you know much about aromatherapy, then you know there’s a whole lot more to essential oils than their aromatic qualities. These irresistible natural products can improve our lives in countless ways, providing therapeutic benefits for physical, psychological, and emotional health.
So how do essential oils affect the limbic system?
Essential Oils and the Limbic System
The brain is one of the most intriguing structures of our bodies. And despite it being one of the most studied parts, there are still countless mysteries as to how it functions. That being said, we do know that within the brain there are different systems that play their own special roles in making our minds and bodies work.
The limbic system is one of those systems. And arguably one of the most important ones.
The limbic system is a relatively small section of the brain (when compared to the overall volume of what’s inside the skull). That being said, it contains some of the most important roles of the brain’s function.
Without getting to deep into the weeds, the limbic system is composed of multiple structures in itself (i.e. Hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, fornix, and limbic cortex).
Many people refer to the limbic system as the “emotional brain.” For some researchers, this is accurate. Others contest this argument because of the system’s many other functions and structures.
Either way, emotions and some of the most visible brain activities play central roles in many of the limbic brain’s structures. For example:
- Hypothalamus: Helps regulate hormones.
- Hippocampus: Associates with focus, memory, and attention.
- Amygdala: Spurs or quells stress and fear.
- Septal Nuclei: Ties to pleasure and learn-reward behavior.
- Cingulate Cortex: Involves a variety of memory and emotional-related issues.
The limbic system harnesses environmental data through sensory information. Everyone has experienced this…
- Your favorite meal gives you pleasure and comfort.
- An abrupt, loud noise can cause rapid anxiety.
- Listening to calming music can provide calming sensations.
- And on and on.
How and What Essential Oils Affect the Brain
There are a range of popular essential oils that can affect the main limbic system structures. Why?
Smell is one of the most powerful senses, because it overpasses sections of the brain that other senses typically cannot. This is why certain scents can spur potent, instant emotional reactions. Within a millisecond, a smell can bring us back to a past event.
This might sound familiar… The scent of freshly baked cookies reminds you of fond childhood memories.
This is why essential oils have extraordinary impacts on the limbic system. When applied, the potent fragrance these products hold travel through the brain barrier in nearly an instant. The aromatic molecules that comprise essential oils can interact with your pores, lungs, and more. Research suggest that scents and memories tie together through the hippocampus.
Based on various essential oil smells, sensors emit powerful emotional signals, beginning in the limbic system and percolating to the rest of the body. Direct inhalation of oils is the quickest ways to experience mental and psychological benefits.
Here is a list of benefits you can gain from inhaling essential oils:
- Enhanced memory: Rosemary, lemon, peppermint, and cypress.
- Mood improvement: Lavender, ylang ylang, and any citrus oil (orange, grapefruit, etc.).
- Stress reduction: Lavender, vetiver, and frankincense.
- Weight management (to curb appetite): Cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, and fennel.
- Better sleep: Lavender, vetiver, and sandalwood.
- Congestion and cough: Peppermint, lemon, and eucalyptus
As noted, inhalation is arguably the best way to send aromatherapy benefits straight to the limbic system. Take a look at our lava stone diffuser jewelry below. Just a couple drops and you’ll have a beautiful “inhalation accessory” that can be used throughout the day!