The Mind and Emotions, or rather the way we think and feel, are effected by essential oils via our sense of smell, as are all the odours we consciously and UNCONSCIOUSLY detect.
The Sense of Smell forms the greater part of our Sense of Taste (note how your sense of taste and smell is affected when you have a head cold or blocked up nose. The sense of smell is also affected by pollution, smoking, trauma to the nose itself and a mucous forming diet).
The sense of smell of our ancient ancestors was far superior to ours. They identified one another by smell as well as sight, and could even detect the usefulness of a plant by its smell. They also tracked animals by smell. The sense of smell helps us to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ odours, which tell us if food is fit to be eaten or if there is disease or hygiene present.
How Do Essential Oils Work
A couple of hundred years ago, physicians would use the sense of smell as a diagnostic aid. Arthritis and rheumatism have an acid smell, a good midwife could tell a post-partum haemorrhage by the smell of blood passed, diabetes gives an acetone smell to the breathe and the urine, perspiration can give us clues as to the health of the kidneys and lymphatic system, the smell of faeces also can tell us the type of disease in the digestive tract. Natural medicine still uses this method of diagnosis.
The human nose has the ability to distinguish many thousands of different odours, and the memory of these odours is stored deep in our sub-conscious minds. (See R. Tisserand ‘The Art of Aromatherapy” pages 60-73).
When we inhale air molecules which, are carrying the `odoriferous’ molecules of an essential oil, these molecules adhere to our Olfactory nerve endings in the back of the nose, producing stimulation of these nerve endings.
Sensory stimulation of the Olfactory centre is by a relay of nerve impulses from the sensory nerve endings in the nose to the brain.
This is a very rapid and direct pathway to the part of the Brain which directs, controls, interprets and responds to sensory input.
This pathway is very different to sensory stimulation of the sensory nerves in the skin which is more complex, being transmitted from a sensory nerve ending to the spinal cord, to the brain, back down the spinal cord, down a motor nerve ending and then to the appropriate organ. For example when we touch a hot object, the heat affects the sensory nerve ending in say the finger. This nerve relays a message along the sensory nerve fibre to its root in the spinal cord. The impulse is carried to the brain. The brain says “ouch !!! that’s hot, take the finger off now”.
This message is relayed down the spinal cord to the motor nerve root, and then to the appropriate muscle(s) organ(s) etc. to remove the finger from the hot object. As you will know from your own experience of touching something hot, there is often a time lag between touching the hot object and recognition of pain.
With the Olfactory Nerve there is no relay station – stimuli goes straight to the part of Central Nervous System called the LIMBIC SYSTEM, and the response is instant. Furthermore, the message cannot be blocked by the conscious mind.
The interesting and exciting aspect of this use of Essential Oil Therapy is that different essential oils produce different responses. Some affect the higher thought processes in the Cerebral Cortex by altering the electrical activity of different Cortical areas, and some affect the Hormone Producing cells in the Limbic System. These `Brain Hormones’ will then either effect the mental and emotional responses of the Brain itself, or will be released into the blood stream from where they may be carried to distant organs to produce the desired effect on the body chemistry.