Your Nose and Your Brain’s Emotional Center

using essential oils aromatically

When an odor molecule is inhaled into the nasal cavity the molecules enter your olfactory epithelium which is the organ that helps you to sample the smells around you.  The receptor cells interact with the molecules and activates the olfactory bulb that sends a signal to five structures in the brain.  Your brain uses the signals to understand your environment.

  • amygdala - responsible for storing and releasing emotional trauma.
  • anterior olfactory nucleus - helps process smells.
  • olfactory tubercle, piriform cortex - passes the signal on to other structures that create a conscious perception of the odor.
  • entorhinal cortex - processes stimuli before sending them to the hippocampus, the long-term memory center of the brain.

The limbic system's structure includes:

  • hippocampus - long-term memory.
  • amygdala - emotions.
  • hypothalamus - autonomic nervous system and hormones.
  • cingulate gyrus - regulates blood pressure, heart rate, and attention.

It is due to the fact that the olfactory system is so closely connected to the limbic system that essential oils have such profound physiological and psychological effects.

Have you ever wondered how the faint aroma of something cooking can remind you of mom’s Sunday-morning cinnamon rolls, even 30 years later? It is basic human biology. There is a direct connection between your nose and your brain’s emotional control center, the limbic system.  Your body contains far more receptors associated with smell (over 1,000) than it does for any other sense.

You are capable of discerning countless aromas—many of which you may not even be able to describe—with amazing sensitivity and accuracy.  Human biology has made the olfactory system the most subtle yet effective means to induce specific and distinct responses.  This is one of the primary reasons why essential oils can be so powerful in influencing well-being.