Written by: Deidre Bridges
Throughout my childhood every December my Mom donned her Christmas apron, pulled out her special sugar cookie recipe from her files, and began the baking process. The carefully prepared dough required sufficient chilling so I, along with my best friend Bobby and my siblings, could successfully roll it out on the old oak table and cut the dough into various Christmas shapes. Once cut and placed on trays, we decorated the cookies with colored sugar, tiny chocolate morsels, cinnamon balls, and a lot of laughter and love before placing them in the oven. The rich aroma of almond, vanilla and cinnamon flooded our home all day as those tasty cookies baked. We anticipated this day every December and relished tasting pieces of dough as well as enjoying a few cookies when they were done. To this day I still gravitate toward those smells because they evoke strong memories of warmth, friendship, family and love. In short, they give me all the feels.
Why is that? Why do certain smells evoke certain feelings? In my story the feelings were good. For some people there are certain smells that conjure up uncomfortable or bad memories. But one thing is for sure. We often associate specific memories with specific smells.
Without getting too technical, the reason memories and smells are entwined is because our olfactory bulb is located in the limbic system in the brain, thereby connecting smells, memories and emotions. According to the Queensland Brain Institute, “the limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioral and emotional responses, especially when it comes to behaviors we need for survival: feeding, reproduction, and caring for our young, and fight or flight responses.” One of its many jobs involves the formation of our memories and the emotional and behavioral responses we had to those experiences when we were young. Good Therapy has a great little blog on the limbic system here:
To take a little closer look, according to an article in the Harvard Gazette, “odors take a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory.” The Gazette goes on to quote Professor Venkatesh Murthy, chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, saying, “The olfactory signals very quickly get to the limbic system.” So it is within the limbic system that smells, memories, behaviors and emotions all mesh tightly together. Isn’t the complexity of our brain amazing?
In a year that has decidedly produced much stress and anxiety in people, we have multiple tools we can use to calm our bodies. One of those often overlooked is aromatherapy using clean, good quality essential oils. Aromatherapy encompasses using essential oils for inhalation as well as topical application. As we just looked at the role of fragrances and the limbic system, why not take advantage of what we know about ourselves and use it to our benefit? When we know certain scents that evoke calm, happy memories and emotions in ourselves, by all means let’s take advantage of the opportunity to give our brains and bodies the OK to relax and lean into those good emotions through aromatherapy. Just one essential oil can be enough to bring calm or encouragement or sleep. Combinations of essential oils work as well. Any stress in life we can alleviate, well, deal me in. I mean, it’s 2020, right?
Using aromatherapy brings another benefit to the table for our bodies. The Aromatherapy Lifestyles newsletter by Quinessence explains how essential oils stimulate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland to produce certain neurochemicals and hormones that help control bodily systems like the endocrine, immune and nervous systems. When we inhale essential oils, they in turn trigger a response or several responses within our bodies. We know from studies that blood pressure, mood, heart rate, pulse, breathing, arousal, digestion and more can be significantly altered with the use of aromatherapy.
Moreover, we can actually raise our own body’s frequency through the use of oils since essential oils have the highest vibrational frequency of any substance known to man according to nuworld Botanicals. In essence, a sick body vibrates at a lower frequency, and cells can begin to mutate when our body’s frequency drops below 62 MHz. Nuworld Botanicals goes on to say a well body vibrates at a frequency in the range of 62-70 MHz. It is totally possible to raise a person’s vibratory quality with essential oils through the principle of entrainment. Since oils are higher frequencies than the human body, their use influences or entrains the cells of the body thereby raising the energy in the body. Good research is indeed proving essential oils can change mood, behavior and productivity!
At a recent gathering I saw a very smart, young mother at her wit’s end rubbing down her very fussy, tired three-year old son with an oil she had called Peace. A small drop was massaged into the sole of each foot, and then she rubbed her hands through his hair to keep the aroma close by for him to inhale. Within minutes the fussy little dude was happy and content for the duration of the evening. So were we. Thank you, essential oils.
Others I know trust essential oils to aid in concentration, to lift their spirits, to invigorate their mind, or to calm their racing thoughts. Children experiencing attention problems can often be helped through aromatherapy. Tara Wagner, a life coach who instructs others on how to use essential oils for emotions believes generally we can characterize the florals as calming and relaxing, the mint oils as invigorating, the citrus oils as energizing and the herbs/spices as complex and heavy lifting.
I want to give a word of caution here about essential oils before suggesting ways to inhale them. Only use pure oils from clean sources! Dr. Matalone’s store has a quality brand, and his staff can help you make good choices.
If you are unfamiliar with how to use essential oils, here are some ways you can experience the benefits.
- Using a diffuser that can cover a good size room.
- Rubbing a drop or two into the palms of your hand and inhaling deeply for 30-60 seconds.
- Using a few drops in a very hot cup of water, placing your face just above the cup. Some people drape a towel over their heads to increase the steam effect.
- Wearing a piece of jewelry specially crafted to hold oils.
- Inhaling an oil straight from the bottle.
- Rubbing a drop onto the soles of your feet, back of your neck, temples, wrists or even rubbing some into your hair.
- Adding several drops into a hot bath and soaking in it.
- Placing a drop on a cotton ball near the head of your bed for calm and sleep.
- Place a cotton ball with a few drops of oil on an air conditioning vent near where you are working or in front of a vent in your car.
- Place a few drops on a wool dryer ball as you dry your clothing.
There are so many ways to effectively use oils, and the bottles are small and easy to throw in your purse if you choose to take them with you.
I asked Carri and Candi at Dr. Matalone’s office for ideas for diffusing essential oils. They came through with some awesome winners we can all enjoy both during the Christmas season and beyond. Please feel free to share your favorite blend in the comment section below. Merry Christmas, friends!
12 Pack Diffuser Blends
Clear your Mind: 5 lavender, 4 eucalyptus, 3 peppermint
Perky: 6 lemon, 4 peppermint
Motivation: 2 eucalyptus, 2 grapefruit, 2 lemon, 2 orange
Bedtime: 7 lavender, 3 peppermint
Fresh air: 4 eucalyptus, 4 tea tree, 3 rosemary
Mood changer: 4 peppermint, 4 frankincense
Fresh & Clean: 3 grapefruit, 3 peppermint, 3 orange
No More Headache: 3 peppermint, 3 lavender, 2 eucalyptus, 2 rosemary
Anti Flu: 4 lavender, 3 lemon, 3 tea tree
Room Cleansing: 6 lavender, 4 tea tree
Inner Peace: 4 frankincense, 3 peppermint, 2 lavender
Good Morning: 4 geranium rose, 2 eucalyptus, 2 rosemary
Let Go: 4 lavender, 3 eucalyptus, 3 geranium rose
Clean Air: 1 oregano, 4 lemon, 3 orange
Breathe Again: 2 oregano, 2 lemon, 2 tea tree, 2 peppermint
12 Pack Plus Single Oil Diffuser Blends
Christmas Spirit: 3 clove, 3 cinnamon, 2 peppermint, 2 lemon
Be Well: 2 cinnamon, 2 clove, 2 eucalyptus, 2 rosemary, 2 orange
No More Allergies: 4 lemon, 4 lavender, 2 peppermint
Super Chill: 5 lavender, 2 peppermint, 2 chamomile
Spicy Cider: 4 orange, 3 cinnamon, 3 ginger
Feel Better: 2 rosemary, 2 clove, 2 eucalyptus, 2 cinnamon, 2 orange
Candi’s favorite (which you might smell in the store):
Use equal parts of Clove, Peppermint and Orange.