By: Christina Smith, Certified Aromatherapist
Smell is such an incredibly powerful sense. Smell an apple pie or fresh bread baking in the oven and be transported to your grandmothers kitchen. A whiff of perfume or cologne might remind you of a first love. Catch the smell of lilac and think about spring. Olfaction, or sense of smell, is one of our five senses. Since we only have 5 – it’s also very important. Did you know that females have a stronger sense of smell than males? This may explain why our males friends don’t seem to have the same benefits that women do! Wow! No wonder aromatherapy is so effective for those of us who use it! In order to understand why smell is so important, let’s take a look at your limbic system which contains olfaction.
How your Limbic System affects you:
Your limbic system is responsible for many functions like, emotions, memory, behavior and olfaction. What’s really neat about your limbic system is how these functions work together. When you smell lavender – it can calm you. That just smelling it, not rubbing it on your skin in a lotion or ingesting it in a pill! How awesome! On the other hand, when damage occurs to the limbic system it can result in conditions such as amnesia or Alzheimer’s disease. That means that your limbic system is a really important piece of the puzzle that is your amazing brain. Your limbic system influences your hormone secretions, your metabolism, your emotions, your mood, and many other aspects of your daily life!
What does this mean in relation to essential oils?
Since we know that essential oils have a smell and we know that smell can affect the limbic system, aromatherapy has nearly everything to do with your sense of smell. Now, lets be honest here, aromatherapy is not a cure all. However, it can be very useful in symptom control in the case of physical conditions and is very effective in helping to manage emotional conditions. Since your brain can’t experience the world on it’s own it relies on senses to “tell” it what’s going on. The brain receives information from nerves and sensory organs. The olfactory nerve connects to the thalamus (which acts as kind of a filter, only sending on some input) and is the only one of the senses that connects directly to the cerebral cortex. Ok, I know that sounds complicated – but it means that smell can bypass the filter and act directly on the brain itself. Cool, right?
How does this effect how I use my essential oils?
Now what does all this have to do with how we use our essential oils? Most people want to know where to put oil on the body. While topical application is certainly excellent for things like sore muscles or some other injury, as I have learned more in the field of aromatherapy I have begun to realize that inhalation is really the most underused and safest method available. This is especially true for emotional concerns. If simply smelling an oil can help with your mood or fight off germs, why bother with rubbing, dabbing or spraying it ON you?
I have two favorite tools for inhalation. My diffuser, which I use anytime I am at home. Personal inhalers which I can take anywhere with me. Since I can personalize the oils inside, it’s perfect for those of us with small kids or pets who we don’t want to expose to oils that may not be appropriate for them.
Hopefully this helps you understand a bit more about the “why” aromatherapy works so well! Please let us know if you have questions or comments! You can email us at [email protected]
Also – check out our Facebook Group