I love all natural remedies related to wellness, including body oils, herbal supplements, handmade soaps, shea butter moisturizers, and clay masks. Whether it is applied topically, ingested, or inhaled, the natural remedy will do wonders to your body and overall well being. So why does Madison + Green only focus on making inhalers? The answer is simple - because we focus on the mental wellbeing of people.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many ways that consumed herbs and applied body oils can help you put in balance mentally, but there’s something very special to the method of inhalation. Here’s why…
Smell is the most direct means of communication with nature. We smell with every breath we take, constantly monitoring and experiencing the world around us, although we are not always conscious about it (only 8 molecules are needed to trigger an electrical impulse in a nerve ending, whereas roughly 45 nerve endings must be stimulated before we become aware of any smell).
In her book Scent, Annick LeGuere wrote the following:
“Humans produce a characteristic odor in the air around them that reflects their diet and/or health, their age, their sex, occupation, and race. It can be argued that the physiology of the olfactory apparatus, the most direct and proud impression we can have of another person is his or her smell. Indeed, smell bypasses the thalamus in the brain and penetrates directly to that organ’s oldest part, the rhinencephalon, known to the Greeks as the ‘olfactory brain,’ where it produces, willy-nilly, pleasure or repugnance.”
To fully understand aromatherapy and the effects of essential oils, we must have an understanding of two physiological processes:
- How the olfactory apparatus works
- How essential oils are absorbed into the body
How the olfactory apparatus works:
There are three stages in the process of smelling -
- Reception of the molecules. As molecules are inhaled, they travel inside the nose to dissolve in the mucous membranes called the olfactory epithelium (there are about 20 million nerve endings there!)
- Odor transmission. As receptor molecules are triggered, neurons interpret, amplify, and transmit the message to the limbic system. The limbic system contains the hypothalamus, hippocampus, olfactory cortex, and amygdala.
- Hypothalamus activates and relays the messages to other parts of the brain, such as the pituitary gland, which sends chemical messages to the bloodstream, the olfactory cortex (distinguish odors), the thalamus (connects odor messages with higher thought functions), and the neocortex (finely analyzes odor messages, relating them to the other senses, as well as to the higher brain functions that stimulate conscious thought).
This all happens in less than a SECOND (!!).
Smell is the only sense with receptor nerve endings in direct contact with the outside world, providing a direct contact to the brain. Why? Because the olfactory nerves evolved before the brain, and they are not protected by a “blood-brain barrier” that protects the brain. This barrier (a lipid-rich membrane) that protects the brain can allow small molecules to pass through, such as those from essential oils, some nutrients, and oxygen, but large molecules, such as those of most therapeutic drugs, cannot.
There have been numerous studies suggesting that essential oils directly affect the central nervous system, modifying the brain’s reactions. Just to give you a couple of examples -
- Sedative odors such as marjoram stimulate the area of the brain called raphe nucleus, triggering the secretion of the neurochemical serotonin, which helps us sleep
- Clary sage and grapefruit stimulate the thalamus to secrete neurochemicals called enkephalins, which are natural painkillers that also produce a general feeling of well-being
I hope the above explanation helped you grasp a basic understanding of why inhaling essential oils is such a powerful method for relieving psychological pain. There are hundreds of essential oils, and they are all slightly different chemically. For our inhalers, we carefully apply the understanding of chemical components of each essential oils to our uniquely formulated blends.