How Essential Oils Work
Our sense of smell, and the influence that certain aromas have on our physical and emotional bodies, is extremely complex.
However, we have outlined below a basic explanation as to how a scent travels from the air into our nose, and the way in which it triggers the various responses in our brain.
The nasal cavity contains olfactory nerves, which are extremely sensitive to airborne molecules that get stuck to the mucous membrane within the nose.
Olfactory nerves lead directly to a primitive part of the brain known as the "limbic system".
The limbic system is the part of the brain that stores and recalls our sensory experiences, including memories and emotions.
The limbic system is located within the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus influences the release of four of the brain's most powerful hormones: Serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine and norepinephrine.
It's main function is to maintain the body's homeostasis (aka equilibrium) by controlling and regulating bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, appetite, energy levels, metabolism, mood/behavioral functions and sleep cycles.
In aromatherapy, it is believed that when certain scent molecules are encountered, the limbic system processes the information and determines the actions that the hypothalamus will take.
Depending upon the molecules encountered, the hypothalamus then, for example, might instruct the pituitary gland to release 'feel-good' hormones (endorphins) and trigger a change to the heart rate and stress levels.
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