When it comes to aromatherapy the efficacy claims are across the board. Some may have amazing results while others find the same oil falls short of expectations or may even have the opposite effect. So why does this happen?
One way essential oils and aroma works is through our personal experiences and scent memory.
Aroma and the brain have a powerful connection that can directly impact your wellbeing.
When you inhale any scent (not just essential oils) the aroma travels directly to the limbic system. The limbic system is a network of connected structures linked within the central nervous system. These structures work together to affect a wide range of behaviors, including emotions, motivation, and memory.
Because scent has a unique connection to the limbic and is tied so closely to emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system (“rest & digest”) scent can be used to modulate different parts of the brain.
Essential oils (and other aromas) can bring things out of the unconscious making each person’s experience with a scent unique. This goes beyond the chemical makeup of an oil or the actions and indications. We can look at an essential oil like lavender and say chemically this oil should be a sedative for most people. It can help you sleep or relax before bed. However, if you’ve had a negative experience linked with lavender then you may smell it and find it offensive or it may make you feel anxious or agitated. Alternatively, in higher dilution or in individuals with autisms, or ADHD is may actually become a stimulant. This is one reason I never recommend diffusing in public places like classrooms, but that's a topic for another email.
When experiences happen that involve scent memories it may override the chemical make up of the plant. Which makes aromatherapy extremely individualized.
All this means we can cultivate a practice using essential oils intentionally to help facilitate healing and anchors in scent memories especially when it comes to our emotional wellbeing.
Learn more about essential oils for emotional support in Aromatic Anchors.