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Natural plant oils can enhance brain functions

03 January 2015

DELPHOS - The winter months can sometimes be dreary and evoke emotions of sadness or exacerbate depressive disorders which could be combated with a natural alternative medicine called aromatherapy.

By using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being, people can naturally stimulate their brains to induce pain relief, mood enhancement and increase cognitive functions.

Embrace Yoga’s Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Yoga Instructor Amy Urton said there are a wide number of essential oils available and each have their own healing properties.

“Essence oils are the concentrated fragrant essence of a plant and the foundation of aromatherapy, which is based on the idea the aromatic oil from a plant has healing properties,” Urton said. “The inhaled aroma from these oils is believed to stimulate brain function.”

When an odor molecule is inhaled into the nasal cavity, it binds to receptor cells that travel to the olfactory system in the brain, including the olfactory bulb which is the brain’s limbic system or “emotional brain,” an area associated with memory and feeling. When people first smell a new scent, it is linked to an event, a person, an object or a moment in time.

The olfactory bulb accesses the parts of the brain that processes emotion and is responsible for associative learning or conditioned responses. The link between a smell and a memory - associating the smell of Lilac flowers with spring or chlorine with summers at the pool - evokes a memory or mood. Since people encounter most new odors as a child, countless aromas remind them of childhood memories.

Wise Choice Living Center, Inc. reports therapeutic grade essential oils can have profound physiological and psychological effects on the limbic system which is connected to the hypothalamus or “master gland” where heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and hormone balance is controlled.

For example, lavender oil has the ability to increase the release of serotonin, a hormone produced by the body that promotes a calming effect on the body. Roman chamomile oil has a sweet, apple-like fragrance which can be used to treat insomnia and induce calming effects. The sedating effects are linked to the plant’s naturally occurring biological compound apigenin that binds to specific receptors in the Central Nervous System (CNS).

“Certain essential oils can trigger physical or emotional effects on their own,” Urton detailed. “Peppermint is a mood lifter and blending Ylang Ylang with grapefruit relieves stress.”

There are three types of oils sold on the market and if an individual is in need of healing, they should look for therapeutic grade (TG) or certified pure therapeutic grade oils (CPTG). Most oils sold for their aromatic properties are synthetic and have no therapeutic value.

“Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote whole-body healing,” Urton detailed. “Some aromatherapy oils are too concentrated to apply directly to the skin, the oil is combined with a ‘carrier’ oil or lotion to dilute its strength and avoid rashes or burns. People who are pregnant or are diagnosed with certain illnesses should avoid using essential oils.”

Essential oils are extracted from plants either by steam distillation or expression or pressing. When the essential oil is extracted via the expression method, it is pressed from the plant source the same way lemon juice is pressed from a lemon.

Practitioners of aromatherapy base their belief system on the ideology that aromatherapy oils, have medicinal benefits –including antidepressant and antibacterial properties.

Urton recommends adding a few drops of these popular essential oils and blends into a diffuser, a pot of hot water or onto a cotton ball to achieve a desired effect:

• Sadness and grief - bergamot, roman chamomile, clary sage, frankincense, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, lemon, orange, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang;

• Stress - bergamot, chamomile, lavender, lemon, orange, patchouli, vanilla and ylang ylang;


• Anxiety and fear - bergamot, chamomile (roman), cedarwood, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, neroli, patchouli, rose, sandalwood;

• Self-esteem - bergamot, cypress, grapefruit, jasmine, orange, rosemary; • fatigue - basil, bergamot, clary sage, frankincense, ginger, grapefruit, jasmine, lemon, patchouli, peppermint, rosemary, sandalwood;

• Agitation - roman chamomile, lavendar, mandarin, sandalwood;

• Isolation - roman chamomile, bergamot, clary sage, frankincense, rose; • memory boosters - basil, cypress, lemon, peppermint, rosemary; and

• Aphrodisiac - clary sage, jasmine, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, ylang ylang.

For more information, call Urton at 419-296-0571.

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