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  • Writer's picturecourtney

The Science of Essential Oils - Nerdy Nerd Post 1 - The Limbic Brain

I was researching, writing about, and diffusing rosemary last weekend, because I have been on a MISSION to curate bends of oils that help increase focus.

And before we go any further, you should know this about me. I am an information sponge. I love to research and study and learn and most of all, investigate. Which makes me ferocious at trivia and almost always in the middle of some research project, just for me.

But you should also know this. After more than a decade on benzodiazepines, I started noticing memory loss greater than the norm for age about a year ago. My once perfect card catalog of memories and information has big holes where things like the first food I ate as a child and whether the federal government can exercise eminent domain once lived.

I could perhaps handle this loss of memory as an attorney with any number of hacks, but as a person, it steps WAY too far into the information collecting and investigating part of me.

So back to reading research studies on essential oil and focus. I started finding articles on the long term benefits of rosemary on mental acuity.


I already take rosemary oil internally as a part of a blend I use to support anxiety relief, I love to diffuse it with lavender for calm focus, and it's a part of several great immune support blends.

So before I jump into why rosemary has unique properties good for the brain. Here's a little science.

CPTG oils can be taken in one of three way: (1) internally, (2) topically, and (3) aromatically.

When taken aromatically, the oil enters the body through the olfactory system. It's components quickly send messages to the limbic brain. The Limbic brain is the part of the brain that governs feelings and compulsions and memories. So if you have ever taken a good deep sniff of a pasta sauce, or a rose, or a bunch of herbs and had a strong memory along with the feelings of that memory, that is the limbic brain working for you. It's one of the foundations of aromatherapy, the ability to alter mood through smell by engaging the memories and emotions in the brain.

It is an AWESOME bio hack that our bodies created because it's useful. Our sense of smell is the sense most strongly connected to memory and emotion and with some time and practice, you can become skilled at influencing your moods. As no doubt our ancestors did, because the olfactory properties of plants have been used to promote wellness for thousands of years. .

What I find even more fascinating is that if I trace the constituents (i.e., molecular ingredients) in each oil, I can find other oils that affect the brain in different ways. Think of it as operating code: I want to feel more relaxed - add an oil high in linalool or alpha-pinene - plants and fir trees. I want to feel more joyful - limonene in citrus oils.

And if this were the whole story on what essential oils do, it would be a really good story. Change your oil, change your mood, change your emotion. And so some of what rosemary does is the a-pinene in it telling the brain to focus and calm down, giving it the cues to increase seratonin production and release other hormones.

Of course it's not the ONLY story, because the molecular component of essential oils can slip into cells, and bind to receptors there on the cellular level.

But that is a story for another day. For now, how about we have a productive and relaxed Sunday morning with a Sunday morning focus and relax blend?

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