Humans have been attracted to aromatic plants since the beginning of time. We use them for flavouring food, for scenting our homes and bodies, and even for ceremonial and religious purposes. Despite many time-honoured traditions and usages, little was known about the biological mechanisms of aroma until the 20th century, when researchers turned their attention to understanding the science of aroma.
Interestingly, there is convincing evidence that simply inhaling an aroma is effective for calming nervous or anxious feelings. How does it work? The smell receptors located within the nasal cavity link directly to the limbic system of the brain, an area that governs both memory and emotions. In fact, specific types of aroma molecules have been shown to produce specific emotional effects. This is why lavender is associated with relaxation, and peppermint is associated with mental alertness… the chemistry of these aromas produces different results within the olfactory system.
Research has also shown that aroma has even more far-reaching effects, however. Messages from the olfactory system are also passed along from the limbic system to another part of the brain called the hypothalamus, creating a cascade of neurotransmitter activity that can affect physiological functions such as regulation of blood pressure, hunger and thirst signals, thyroid function, sleep cycles, production of sex hormones, and numerous other things. In this way, aroma influences biochemistry throughout the body, and, in turn, can create powerful health outcomes.
Because they are very concentrated, essential oils are one of the best and most convenient ways to access the power of aroma. Use them in a variety of simple ways, from non-toxic cleaning to natural air freshening to beauty and skincare routines, and a lot more.
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