How does Aromatherapy Work in the Body?
Most people do not realize that aromatherapy essential oils enter the blood stream of the body and act as catalysts to create balance in the cells and organs.
Let’s take a short and very simplified journey with a molecule of essential oil through the body. To begin, the molecules of oil are small due to the distillation process. Their small size and the polarity determine how fast the oil molecule will penetrate through the outer layer of skin, the epidermis. They often go through via a hair follicle or sweat gland. Larger chemical molecules in an oil like Jasmine are often held in the epidermis reservoir. Jasmone, a large ketone molecule will take longer (20-30 minutes) than the tiny monoterpenes in Jasmine (10-15 minutes). The oil molecule than travels to the dermis and enters the blood capillaries there. Eventually it passes to the arteries and veins throughout the body. As the oil molecule moves through the blood stream, it finds the right cell receptor for binding. For example, a molecule of Rosemary travels to cell receptors on the liver. Finding the right cell receptor, it acts to regenerate and balance this vital organ. The oil molecule will leave the body in 4 to 24 hours. Usually, it is processed by the liver to become water-soluble. It then moves out of the body through the kidneys into the urine.
Factors affecting the Absorption Into the Skin
- Condition of the Stratum Corneum, the top layer of the Epidermis - Skin diseases such as eczema can hinder the flow, but psoriasis can facilitate it.
- Skin Hydration - A hot bath or shower can increase the absorption of essential oils.
- Occlusions - Covering the skin with clothes, bandages etc. will increase the temperature and absorption of essential oils
- Viscosity of Carrier Oils - Apricot oil is thinner than the viscous Avocado oil, so it facilitates absorption of essential oils.
- Temperature - Warmth of air or water increases blood capillary circulation and absorption of essential oils. Heat due to exercise increases absorption also.
The Olfactory Introduction into the Body
The other main path for essential oils to enter the body is through the olfactory system. This is how the name Aromatherapy came about. As a person inhales the essential oil, the molecule of oil goes up into the back of each nostril to the postage size Epithelium patch. The molecules attach to receptors on the cilia hairs in the nose space. They turn into nerves on the other side of the mucous patch, which sends the odor info on to the olfactory bulb. This means the essential oil itself is not sent to the brain, but instead a neural translation of the complex essential oils. The millions of nerves enter through the ethmoid bone to the olfactory bulb and coalesce into two large nerves that go back to the limbic brain in the inner center of the head. The right nerve goes back to the Amygdala, a center for emotions in the limbic system. There the aromatic info is connected to the emotions of the situation.
For example, you are at a Flower Show with a good friend. As you smell the freesias and gardenias, your friend turns to you and says he loves you. You will always have a wonderful feeling about the smell of these flowers.
The nerve information is sent on from the Amygdala to the Hippocampus, a center for short term (3 years) memory in the Limbic system. So, right away, the smell, emotion, and memory are commingled, as they are stored in the Limbic system. Then this information goes on to the Hypothalamus for long-term memory. It is passed on to the Pituitary or master gland and eventually the whole endocrine system.
This is a very elementary version of how essential oils affect the emotions, memory, and our hormonal system.
The Stupendous Benefits of the Aromatherapy Essential Oil Process
The incredible value of aromatherapy essential oils is there is no toxic build up in the body. The oils are excreted through the sweat glands, exhaled through the respiratory system, and filtered by the kidneys.
There are no physical allergies since particles of pollen are too large to make it through the distillation process.
There are no side effects associated with aromatherapy essential oils since their connection to cell receptors is natural with no optical isomers involved. It makes the use of oils in general much safer than pharmaceutical drugs, if the proper amount is used.