Essential Oils and the Brain

The Positive Power of Essential Oils on the Brain

The Positive Power of Essential Oils on the Brain

Jan 04, 2017

Can a simple scent trigger or calm an emotion, boost your energy, or support immune function?

Yes, it can!

Think of how often you are reminded of a childhood memory by something as simple as your mother’s perfume, or recall your grandmother when the aroma of chocolate chip cookies wafts through the air? 

The scent has the most rapid effect on the areas of the brain that uplift feelings, emotions and the ability to concentrate.

The sense of smell is an underrated and powerful tool in re-establishing inner harmony, strength and overall well being.

Research continues to prove the power of scent…

60% of patients showed improvement in a placebo-controlled study of lavender oil as a treatment for agitated behavior.[1] 

In addition, “an evaluation was made of the usefulness of fragrance application in discontinuing the long-term use of hypnotic benzodiazepines, in primary insomniacs with low-dose dependence…a new fragrance consisting primarily of sandalwood(35%), juniper berry (12%), rose (8%) and orris (6%)”

A total of 42 outpatients with low-dose dependence on hypnotic benzodiazepines, all of whom met DSM-IV criteria for primary insomnia participated in the study.

In advance, all subjects attempted to reduce the doses of drugs gradually (25% reduction a week if possible) and 29 subjects who failed to do so at all participated in the study on the application of fragrance…

The application of fragrance reduced the doses of hypnotic benzodiazepines in 26 of 29 subjects and 12 subjects did not require any drug for sound sleep.

The present study indicated that a kind of fragrance may prove effective as an alternative to hypnotic benzodiazepines [ex. Xanax].”[2]

An essential oil is a plant’s immune system – protecting it from viruses, bacteria, and disease…

This concentrated oil is extracted from different parts of a plant and carries that plants unique chemical properties and aroma. The oils have been used for centuries, since 10,000BC, in healing the body and balancing emotions.

The chemical properties of the oils are so effective – by naturally reducing germs, bacteria and viruses in the air –  that they are pumped through the ventilation systems in many hospitals throughout Europe.

Since they naturally empower our own immune system to stimulate good health, they have also been used across the world for centuries and are a standard part of medical treatment in present-day France.

Inhaling essential oils can influence our emotions and affect our psychological and physiological health…

Certain smells can help us relax (lavender), reduce nausea (mint), clear nasal passages and soothe coughs (eucalyptus) or increase memory.

The olfactory system, including all organs and cells associated with smell, is the highway that directs scents to deeper parts of our brain. Due to the strong aroma of essential oils, they can quickly travel through the olfactory system to be processed by one of our receptor sites called the limbic system.

This system is considered to be our emotional switchboard and directly relates to the brain in controlling breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, stress, memory, and hormones.[3]

Essential oils carry positive power because they hold active volatile compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB)…

BBB is a filter made up of cells to protect the brain from foreign visitors. The molecular structure of essential oils is so small, and because they are lipid (fat) soluble, they can quickly and easily travel through cells deep into our brain. [4] 

In fact, size is precisely what makes them so aromatic in the first place…their tiny molecules are constantly bursting around them, into our olfactory system to quickly and easily communicate directly to the limbic system.

his is why a drop or two of an essential oil can be powerful enough to create change within our physiological and psychological well being.

“In the US, aromatherapy is the fastest growing of all [alternative] therapies amongst nurses.”

“In the US, aromatherapy is the fastest growing of all complementary therapies amongst nurses.” In addition, it “has recently been recognized by the US State Boards of Nursing as a legitimate part of holistic nursing.”

In one case study for depression by Jane Buckle, RN from the Department of Botanical Medicine and Psychology, Bastyr University in Seattle, WA…

“Mrs. H was an 85 year old woman with depression. Many of her friends were dead and she lived in a nursing home a long way from her family who did not visit her often. She did not sleep well and was prone to hyperventilation and palpitations. Two drops of rose were inhaled on a facial tissue four times a day. Within 1 week she was smiling, sleeping better, and discussing how she could become involved with looking after the houseplants in the facility.”[5]

As we can see here, evidence suggests that essential oils can be a valuable addition to any medicine cabinet for supporting our brain with positive power, and for boosting both the immune system (physiology) & emotional well being (psychology).


1. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, April 17, 2002.
2. The International Journal of Aromatherapy, Volume: 16, Issue: 1, 2016 
3. Higley, C., Leatham, P. & Higley, A. (1998). Aromatherapy A-Z. Hay House. Retrieved January 1, 2017 from: 
4. Cleeland, Charles S.; Fisch, Michael J.; Dunn, Adrian J. (18 November 2010). “Cancer Symptom Science: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Management”. Cambridge University Press. 
5. Retrieved September 25, 2014 from:

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