Scents are powerful.

So powerful the vaguest waft of a familiar perfume can transport you to a far-away time and place.

So powerful that a home-baked loaf of bread can sell a house.

So powerful that the enticing smell of a freshly brewed pot of coffee can make you feel more alert, even before you’ve had a single sip.

It’s little wonder then, that essential oils can have an intense effect on your mood, your emotions, and even how you heal.

This week, as part of my healing modality series I’m looking at these often underrated heroes of the healing world. If you’ve ever wondered how they work, why they work, or which oil would be right for you, read on…

What are essential oils and how do they work?

Essential oils are often seen as a nice-to-have. A lovely but trivial addition to your bath, your skincare, or your favorite candle.

But, when used correctly, essential oils can actually be a powerful tool for healing.

Essential oils are concentrated, fragrant plant-based oils, often extracted via steaming or cold-pressing. Healers have been using these precious oils for therapeutic purposes for centuries — and for good reason…

A direct route from your nose to your brain.

The reason many people find them so effective is down to the connection between the olfactory system and the brain’s limbic system.

When we inhale essential oils (or any type of smell), scent molecules travel from the olfactory nerves to the limbic system, and the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center. Not only is this part of the brain responsible for controlling our stress responses, it’s also connected to the formation of long-term memory, which explains why smelling a certain spice can remind you of being in your mom’s kitchen at Christmas.

But more than that, the brain’s limbic system plays a role in several of the body’s essential physiological functions, helping regulate your heart rate, your blood pressure, and even your breathing.

How essential oils could help you.

Studies (and my own experience with patients) suggest that essential oils can be used to treat a whole host of conditions, ranging from the physical to the emotional.

They may help you cope with conditions such as:

  •   Depression
  •   Anxiety
  •   Insomnia
  •   Nausea
  •   Low appetite

Choosing the right oil.

Incorporating essential oils in your healing journey rests on matching the right oils to the right ailments. For example, scientists are currently excited about the use of citrus oils for their antibacterial properties; tea tree oil has been shown to improve acne; and there is promising research on the use of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood to treat people experiencing hair loss.

Here are some of the most common essential oils and their uses:

  •   Lavender — to promote sleep and ease anxiety
  •   Peppermint — to boost energy and reduce nausea
  •   Chamomile — to help you relax
  •   Jasmine — to help with symptoms of depression
  •   Tea tree — to boost immunity
  •   Ylang-ylang — to ease headaches and treat skin conditions

However, it’s important not just to choose the right oil, or combination of oils, but to ensure that you’re using a good quality product. Look out for oils that have been extracted by cold-pressing and those that list the Latin name of the plant from which they’re derived as these are more likely to be a high-quality product.

A few safety caveats.

Essential oils shouldn’t be ingested and you should never apply them directly, undiluted, to your skin. It’s also worth noting that some oils could have adverse effects on pregnant women, young children, or pets so always do your research before using an oil diffuser in your home.

When it comes to both buying and using essential oils, my best advice is to play it safe and only use essential oils as recommended by qualified professionals. If you’d like to find out more about how to incorporate essential oils in your own healing, I’d be happy to help steer you in the right direction — just drop me a message.

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