How Do Essential Oils Work?

Essential oils work in harmony with the body to normalize and balance. They produce certain effects that we can count on, but can also adapt to the needs of different people. Used for their undisputed anti-microbial and antiseptic effects, essential oils are not only less toxic than synthetic antibiotics but also support life (eubiotic) by working with the body’s own natural healing abilities (through which the only true healing occurs).

Essential oils enter the body by two methods. When inhaled they enter the body via the olfactory system, which has a direct connection to the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is known as the primitive brain and it encircles the top of the brain stem and forms a border linking cortical and midbrain areas with lower centers that control automatic, internal body functions. It comprises the hippocampus, amygdala, septal area and several regions of the cerebrum. It is associated with feelings such as hunger, thirst, anger, sadness, sexual arousal and pleasure. It is also associated with creativity, learning and memory. This is one of the reasons why so often something that we smell will trigger a memory or remind us of something or someone. This can be both pleasant and unpleasant. The sense of smell is very sensitive and in fact we do not even have to be able to consciously smell something for it to have an effect on us. 
When diluted and applied externally, some of the essential oil molecules may permeate the skin, pass through the capillaries and into the blood stream which will of course carry them to all parts of the body.

What Are The Effects?

Oils can directly or indirectly affect the body’s physiological systems. For instance, a couple of drops of peppermint taken orally can aid digestion and inhalations of mucolytic oils can relieve respiratory symptoms. Used topically for their antiseptic and soothing effects, essential oils can successfully treat minor skin conditions. It has been demonstrated that the application of certain essential oils to the skin can produce vaso-dilation which in turn causes warming of underlying muscles, however this is an indirect effect of the oil acting on the superficial tissues, it is not a pharmacological effect produced as a result of the oil entering the systemic circulation via the skin. In addition, because of the effect of relaxation on the brain and the subsequent sedating or stimulating of the nervous system, essential oils can also indirectly raise and lower blood pressure and possibly aid in normalization of hormonal secretion.