You’re frazzled. How do you deal? Yoga, meditation, exercise? If you want to try something new or deepen your self-care practice, use scent to bring you into a more balanced head space. While sometimes overlooked, essential oils boast therapeutic benefits—including greatly affecting the central nervous system. Recently, aromatic plant medicine has crept into consciousness as neuroscience research demonstrates a promising link between essential oils, the brain, and our ability to heal.
The sense of smell is considered the first to develop in utero, and the olfactory cranial nerve is even labeled No. 1. Evolutionarily, it seems as though we’ve moved away from our old friend, olfaction. Philosopher Walter Ong wrote, "Sight reveals only surfaces" and perhaps it’s true. To get beyond our cultural flings with appearance, analysis, and detachment, smell can take us where vision and thinking cannot. Recently, fragrant molecules have piqued the interest of many medical professionals because they can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier, which is a big deal. While scent touches on different emotions for different people, the cellular level of the brain doesn’t discriminate. In fact, just smelling essential oils influences neurotransmitters. One study showed that lavender creates an affinity to bind to GABA, the brain’s relaxing neurotransmitter, which aligns with lavender's well-known calming effect.
Here are five essential oils for tapping into the mind-body connection and fine-tuning the brain to influence behavior: