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What is Cognitive Aromatherapy and Why is it Important?

What is Cognitive Aromatherapy?

Cognitive aromatherapy is the use of essential oils and botanicals for mental and emotional health, optimal brain and neurotransmitter functions. It focuses on bridging gut-brain communications to ignite, transmit and deliver neurotransmissions in an accurate, efficient and effect way. Mental health is an issue that plagues our society today. There are so many culprits, but bottom line, neurotransmitter messages are being affected, and its slowing down cognitive efficiency. These deficits can cause some people to have paralyzing fear, debilitating anxiety and overwhelming depression. Cognitive aromatherapy seeks to empower, inspire and motivate mental and emotional movement. It encourages someone get unstuck, decongested, and decluttered to release negative thoughts, unhealthy behaviors, lifestyle habits and reactive patterns.

When you combine and integrate aromatherapy practices into a daily health regimen, the results can accelerate and sustain. Olfaction is  a powerful sense that not only activates the brain, it fuels it. It helps it to hold on to what is healthy, and block out was in unhealthy. It can help you stay focused, motivated and consistent.


Why Is Cognitive Aromatherapy Important?

In my research and personal experience, I find that not only does all disease begin with inflammation in the gut, there is a simultaneous disconnect in neurological functions. Helping family members through brain disorders, cognitive deficits such as dementia, various autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal issues, arthritis, cancer, heart and lung ailments, I am seeing a correlation and common denominator with poor neurotransmission activity. It sends either too much or too little of a particular neurotransmitter such as acetylcholine. In addition, messages are short circuited, in accurate, and/or incomplete.http://lung

Why does this matter? When you are seeking help for relief solutions of these sometimes debilitating pains, you need to be using remedies that deliver precise, effective and efficient results. In the herb world, we have a saying, “when you match up the right remedy to a particular situation, you will always get results. If results are not happening, you are missing a key component to the case, and need to shift directions of support.”  For example, you might be using calming remedies for a situation, however energizing and stimulating remedies might be needed. That is why really analyzing the situation, knowing the direction of support needed, tissue states, mind and body sensitivities, and your anatomy and physiology “requests” are key components to an effective remedy solution plan.

For me, I learned how to help myself becuase there weren’t as many holistic practitioners as there are today or knowledge.  I had a background in science, anatomy, physiology and psychology which helped me understand terms and conditions. I pulled out my school books and refreshed my mind of how things worked, and what happened when they were broken. This is the approach I take when helping myself, my family and clients.  Sometimes, you are in a state of distress, weak and lethargy without the knowledge, resources or references to get yourself ahead of the health game. This is why finding a qualified and trained professional aromatherapist, herbalist, health coach or holistic minded practitioner or doctor for your team, can be so important. It can save you time from having to go through a learning curve, as well as money. You want to invest in something that works. Investing in your health and people who can enhance your health can pay off in the long run with quality of mind and body health.


The Power Essential Oils Have on Brain Functions

We know the practice of aromatherapy has been around for centuries. We can learn a lot from our ancestors and ancient cultures on how to use essential oils and herbs for medicinal, cognitive and environmental support. Essential oils activate the olfactory processes, creating a connection on a much deeper level. It is more profound than any other sense. When we smell a 100% pure essential oil, it travels straight to the “head brain” via the olfactory nerves and bulb. This in turn triggers communications with the “gut brain” via the vagus nerve. Tis process produces a physiological and psychological response, simultaneously to initiate some type of movement. One may experience their physical body relaxing. Muscles may relax, overcoming spasms and increasing mobility. Mentally, the brain may be sharper and have more accurate memory recall. Emotionally, one may feel less sad, angry or fearful.

Essential oils are activators. They help the mind and body address, shift and respond to stresses, situations and environments. When you smell them, a response is elicited in less than one second. Science has shown the most powerful way to use aromatherapy is via inhalation as it engages the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb then engages other limbic structures such as the hypothalamus, thalamus and amygdala.


What Do Neurotransmitters Do and How Can Cognitive Aromatherapy Help?

Well, this is a loaded question. I’ll give a basic overview, as this could really be a whole class. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit messages via nerves to cells.  Their job is to relay messages that activate actions by body systems, organs and processes to do a job such as regulate metabolism, balance hormones and modulate brain chemistry. This activation is crucial for mind-body health and balance.

Circadian rhythm balance plays a key role in neurotransmission functions. If the circadian rhythm gets disrupted or “off-schedule”, it can inhibit, impair and impede adequate and proper neurotransmissions. When this happens, one may experience neurological issues such as spasms, tremors, neuropathy and extreme fatigue, as well as mental and emotional imbalances. Sleep can play a factor too. If you constantly wake up at night and not get a full, restful sleep, the body cannot repair, restore and replenish to the levels it needs to function optimally. For example, it you wake each night

The 5 major neurotransmitters and supporting essential oils are:

  • Acetylcholine: helps one with movement and to work through feeling “stuck”
    • Lymphatic essential oils would be beneficial like cypress, lemongrass and patchouli
  • Dopamine: pleasure button
    • Citrus and camphoraceous essential oils are helpful like orange and eucalyptus 
  • GABA: supports nerve health; it can inspire courage to conquer anxiety and fear.
    • Nervine essential oils would be beneficial such as clary sage, helichrysum and marjoram
  • Nor-epinephrine (a hormone that functions as a neurotransmitter): energizing and support adrenal functions
    • Citrus and wood essential oils that support adrenal function such as orange, pine and Tanacetum annuum
  • Serotonin: relaxing & nourishing to aid gastrointestinal health. When imbalanced, mood and emotions will be affected
    • Flower oils are helpful such as chamomile and lavender

Together, these regulate your mood and ability to respond in a healthy way to thoughts, emotions, stresses, pain and inflammation. Responses will vary depending on which ones are combined together, and based on their level of concentrations (volume). When imbalanced, either too high or low, imbalances will occur that affect sleep, mood and metabolic functions.


How Do Essential Oils Effect Neurotransmission?

Essential oils interact within the body in three ways – physiological, psychological and biochemical. This employs the practice of cognitive aromatherapy. Physiologically, they have an effect on body functions. Psychologically, when we smell a scent, the limbic system is activated, thus triggering chemical and neurotransmitter responses that can affect, adjust, shift and inspire mood and behavior. Biochemically, when essential oils are metabolized in the bloodstream, they interact with enzymes, hormones and other processes.  All of this occurs via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, also known as the 10th cranial nerve, is the powerhouse behind gut-brain communications. This is one reason craniosacral treatments are so helpful with psychological imbalances and neurological issues.

Beneficial neuroprotective essential oils include:

  • Black pepper helps cognitive stimulation to overcome indecisiveness, sluggish, lonely and fatigued; beneficial with dementia (source)
  • Eucalyptus helps when you feel overwhelmed
  • Helichrysum is a nervine to enhance gut-brain communications, calm heated emotions and modulate cognitive functions
  • Jasmine stimulates memory, motivation & mood modulation (source)
  • Lavender is a relaxant; beneficial with dementia
  • Lemon modulates dopamine (source)
  • Peppermint stimulates cognitive functions, energizes nerve communications and enhances memory (source)
  • Rosemary stimulates circulation to overcome sluggishness & enhance cognitive functions (source)


Brain Support & Cognitive Aromatherapy Recipe Corner

Boost My Brain Power Nasal Atomizer

  • 1 nasal atomizer. On the unscented scent wick, add the following essential oils.
  • 5 drops Rosmarinus officinalis
  • 5 drops Citrus limonum
  • 5 drops Mentha x piperita
  • 4 drops Citrus Sinensis
  • 3 drops Cedrus atlantica 
  • Smell 2-3 times daily, and as needed to boost your brain power, combat confusion, brain fog and mental sluggishness


Connect My Gut & Brain Aromatic Spray

  • 2 ounce bottle. Add in the following, in this order.
  • 5 drops Anthemis nobilis
  • 4 drops Citrus junos
  • 3 drops Piper nigrum
  • 3 drops Cymbopogon flexuosus
  • 2 drops Rosmarinus officinalis
  • 2 drops Ocimum basilicum
  • 1 drop Foeniculum vulgare
  • 1 ounce Lavandula angustifolia hydrosol
  • 1 ounce distilled water
  • Spray around you 2-3 times daily to strengthen the vagus nerve, and enhance the bidirectional gut-brain communications.


Neuro-Power Roll-on

  • 10 ml roll-on bottle. Add in the following, in this order.
  • 3 drops Citrus recutita
  • 3 drops Salvia sclarea
  • 2 drops Helichrysum italicum
  • 2 drops Cymbopogon martinii
  • 2 drops Melissa officinalis
  • 1 drop Eucalyptus globulus
  • 1 drop Jasminum grandifolium
  • 1 drop Laurel nobilis
  • Place the roller-top inside of the cap, upside down. Then, press on the cap, tightening it. This will push on the rollerball to make it easier on your fingers. Then, roll the bottle between your hands to mix the ingredients together before use. Use 2-3 times daily to activate brain power, and efficient neurotransmissions.


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Author: Jennifer Pressimone, Certified Clinical Phyto-Aromatherapist

Jennifer Pressimone is a Certified Clinical Phyto-Aromatherapist and Herbalist. She is the President of JennScents & JennScents Aromaversity. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Central Florida, and has received numerous certificates and continuing education in the field of aromatherapy, herbalism, natural health and entrepreneurship. Jennifer has taught for close to 20 years, all over the world, and has a natural gift for teaching and connecting with people on a personal level. She is fun, innovative, creative and well-educated in aromatherapy and herbs/ Jennifer is the Vice-President of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, as well as Regional Director. She enjoys teaching, blending, spending time with her family and traveling around the world.


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