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A Primer on Aromatherapy
Brittyn Coleman
By Brittyn Coleman
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Aromatherapy, also known as essential oil therapy, is an approach to holistic wellness that uses the inhalation of plant extracts as a treatment for certain health conditions and overall well-being. Aromatherapy is commonly used for sleep [1, 2], stress [3, 4], anxiety [5, 6], and pain [5, 7], among other uses. While many people report they feel better when using aromatherapy, they are usually not aware of how aromatherapy actually works.

 

Whenever we inhale an essential oil, some of the molecules from the essential oil dissolve into the mucosal lining inside your nose. Inside this lining (also called epithelium) are many receptors that are stimulated by smell (called olfactory receptors) that pass off a signal to the sensory neurons that then carry them to the olfactory bulb, a structure located in your brain that receives the information about odors that are detected by the cells in your nose.

The olfactory bulb then processes and interprets the smell and passes the translated message via mitral cells to your olfactory cortex and other parts of the brain, such as your amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is directly involved in memory and emotions, which could trigger a positive reaction to the smell you just inhaled. Long story short: the smells you inhale travel straight to your brain and have an effect on your mood, feelings & emotions!

 

That being said, not every essential oil is going to make you feel the same way. There are some oils that are intended to be more excitatory (aka they’ll wake you up!) and others that are meant to be more relaxing and calming. It’s important to know the difference so that you can use the right oil to get the response you’re needing. For example, oils such as lavender and sandalwood are used for anxiety [5], while oils like bergamot, lemon, other citrus oils are used to improve and uplift mood [8]. There are many ways to experience aromatherapy, with the most common method being a diffuser, but can also be used via a spray or steam. 

 

Brandless has recently added 4 new essential oils including peppermint, lemon, tea tree, and eucalyptus. They all have different uses and results, so it’s important to use them appropriately!

Lemon Oil

Lemon Oil is said to improve mood [9] and help with anxiety and depression [10]. This is a great oil to diffuse in the morning to help you mentally prepare for a busy day ahead.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint Oil is most commonly used for nausea [11], tension headaches [12] and digestive support [13]. Diffusing peppermint oil the moment you feel a headache coming on is a great way to get ahead of it! Peppermint also is great for disguising unfavorable smells! Add a few drops of lemon oil for a refreshing way to deodorize your home or office.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil is most known for its antimicrobial and antiseptic qualities [14]. This would be a great oil to diffuse during cold and flu season! Try mixing this with peppermint or lemon oil for an uplifting and fresh feel.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus Oil is commonly used in aromatherapy to help clear nasal and sinus congestion and other respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and COPD [15, 16]. The next time you get a cold, think about diffusing some eucalyptus oil. Tip: add a few drops of peppermint for an extra cool and refreshing inhale. 

 

Essential oils are a great way to approach a more natural and holistic side of health and wellness and improve mood and well-being. A few drops can go a long way!