Because the limbic system is directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance, scientists have learned that oil fragrances may be one of the fastest ways to achieve physiological and psychological effects. Let's review for a moment-the olfactory process which is located in the head.
Fragrance molecules enter the nose with the breath-migrate through the thin mucus layer covering the olfactory epithelium where there are the 5 to 10 million olfactory nerve cells. Each nerve cell has receptor sites to fit each aromatic molecule shape-like a key in a lock. They transmit the odor along the nerve fibers in the form of electrical impulses to the olfactory bulb which in turn passes the stimulus to the higher cortical centers of the brain. Do the various essential oil molecules actually enter the brain itself? NO-only the electrical impulses from the various compounds.
The electrical impulses pass first into the limbic system-amygdala, hippocampus and cortex to the hypothalamus which influences the endocrine and nervous systems→ we get an emotional effect. Past memories associated with the scent are evoked and immediately a feeling is registered. Once an odor is registered in the brain-it moves much more quickly the next time it is smelled.
The limbic system is involved with the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a very important brain center. It controls emotions, memory, *** behavior and certain visceral activities. The pleasure center lies here with the release of the endorphins and enkephalines.
Odor recognition primarily resides in the right hemisphere and therefore is largely independent of left-brain analysis, verbal memory, and speech. The right brain is the realm of emotion and imagination.
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From Linda L. Smith, director of the Institute of Spiritual Ministry and Aromatherapy, Inc.