The Science of Aromatherapy

olfactory-bulb-limbicThe use of Essential Aromatherapy oils is an Art and a Science. The research that has been done has surprised many members of the scientific community.

Aromatherapy has been shown to effect mood and behavior.  Research on such oils as lavender and vanilla have revealed their calming and stress reducing qualities. It has been known for many years that lavender is successful in helping to treat insomnia. Other aromatherapy research has shown that some essential oils are highly effective in reducing appetite and may assist with weight loss.

The Japanese have researched aromatherapy for years and found that essential oil of orange, when ingested, helped to produce serotonin in the body and was a better anti-depressant than some of the medication on the market as it assisted the body in balancing and restoring the serotonin. They have also produced studies that have shown results of the free radical scavenging properties of essential oils high in linalool, one of the chemical constituents contained in certain oils such as Bergamot.

Preliminary scientific research suggests that certain holistic aromatherapy practices may have verifiable benefits in terms of mood regulation and stress reduction. Aromatherapy may help with insomnia, anxiety, and stress. There are several studies in which aromatherapy was used to alleviate sleeplessness in hospital patients. In Tisserand’s study , some essential oils, including marjoram, lavender, geranium and mandarin, were used in a hospital to help patients get to sleep. The oils were used in place of sedatives, and were found to be quite effective. Other studies have also shown the sedating effects of lavender when used for hospital patients.

The strongest evidence in favor of the stress reducing effects of aromatherapy was in a  study on anxiety in hospital patients. In a study conducted at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital, the scent of vanilla was shown to help reduce stress related to claustrophobia 63% during MRI scans. This is a dramatic statistic, and has helped raise interest in the science of aromatherapy.

Effective and Rapid results

Inhalation is the most rapid method of absorbing essential oils.  For a chart of the pathway essential aromatherapy oils follow through the body please see How Essential Oils Travel Through the Body. When inhaled, the oils are absorbed into the body through the respiratory system, and the aroma of the oil is perceived and analyzed by the olfactory system and the brain. The olfactory bulb is directly connected to the limbic system in the brain. This system is a component of the more primitive part of our brain and is involved in how we process emotion and stress.

In another study on anxiety which occurred in a dentist’s waiting room, orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oil diffused into the air was found to have a relaxing effect on patients awaiting their appointment, as compared to the control group who sat in the waiting room with no diffused odors. Women, in particular, reported feeling more positive and had lower levels of anxiety when exposed to the orange oil.

A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience revealed that lavender oil has been found to increase alpha brain waves in those who inhaled a 10% lavender solution for 3 minutes. The increase in alpha brain waves was interpreted as an increased state of drowsiness. Alpha waves dominate the EEG trace in normal adults who are in a relaxed state. In this study, the individuals receiving the lavender treatment had lower anxiety scores and were more relaxed.

When you are stressed, essential oils can help. A few deep breaths while inhaling a calming essential oil may produce an almost immediate results. Essential oils are very portable and versatile, and can be used at home or away.  For formulas that can help with very types of stress please check out our Aromatherapy brochure. These products were developed by Marilyn in her healing practice to assist with various stressors and to enhance the healing process. They are highly effective.


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Singlet Oxygen Scavenging Activity and Cytotoxicity of Essential Oils from Rutaceae


for more info on the olfactory bulb limbic system connection go to: