BY: Deborah Najman, Certified Aromatherapist
What does the smell of rain-soaked earth remind you of? How do you feel when you inhale the scent of jasmine flowers? Our sense of smell and touch are our most primitive senses. They are closely linked to our emotional body, which registers in our right brain. Smell memory lasts longer than visual memory because it is attached to limbic system (emotions) and acts on a subconscious level. Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our other senses!
When a fragrance is inhaled, the odor molecules travel up the nose, and are trapped by olfactory membranes. These membranes are very tiny, and well protected by the lining inside the nose. They contain about 800 million nerve endings, that receive the micro-fine, vaporized oil particles, carry them along the axon of the nerve fibers and connect them with the secondary neurons in the olfactory bulb in the brain.
Each odor molecule fits like a little puzzle piece into specific receptor-cell sites lining a membrane, known as the olfactory epithelium. When stimulated by odor molecules, this lining of nerve cells triggers electrical impulses, which are then transported to the limbic system and olfactory sensory nerves at the base of the brain. The olfactory bulb then transmits the impulses to: the amygdala (processes emotion), the hippocampus (responsible for associative learning and short-term memory), the thalamus (a relay station of sensory information), and the hypothalamus (stores emotions and long-term memories).
Essential oils work holistically. They act on the physical, mental, emotional, and energetic levels. They have small molecules that penetrate the skin and travel in the bloodstream and the lymphatic system through the entire body and exit within 20-24 hours through the liver and kidneys. This means there is no toxic buildup. Essential oils act as catalysts to regenerate the body’s systems and organs. They find receptor sites on a cell that can use its action and cross the blood brain barrier to the limbic (emotional) brain.
The beauty of these oils is that they are a wonderful complement to other modalities, and in this case Chinese Medicine. An article in the journal Acupuncture Today by Josephine Spilka, M.S., L.Ac., states that “with the advent of essential oils . . . therapeutic applications using Chinese medical principles are exponentially increased.” Spilka continues to write that they “can explore the use of essential oils following the patterns and systems of Chinese medicine, revealing essential oils as easy to use, cost effective, and often miraculous in their powers to stimulate healing and potentiate change in a very short span of time” (June, 2015, Vol. 16, Issue 06, pp.38).
This year is the Chinese year of the wood sheep. “The Wood Sheep brings a feminine Yin energy of togetherness which strengthens relations and inspires community-building as collective/group consciousness comes to the fore” (http://www.mysticmamma.com/2015-year-of-the-wood-sheep-meaning-and-significance). It is with this energy that we can cultivate collaboration amongst different modalities. Blending the use of essential oils with acupuncture is an effective and wonderful partnership that can benefit everyone.
“As an experienced acupuncturist with many years of introducing collaborative therapies- I see the effects of the subtle blends of the oil blends and my patients love the combination of acupuncture and aromatherapy! ~Truly complimentary therapeutic care” Jenny Crissman MS L. Ac.