By guest contributor Tom Malinsky M.S. L.Ac. L.M.T
Essential oils can be applied topically to the skin. How does this work? Our skin is somewhat permeable. The active compounds in essential oils are absorbed just like the ingredients in common pharmaceuticals such nicotine patches.
Factors That Increase Skin Absorption
Different factors can affect the absorption of essential oils through the skin. If you massage the area first, it will increase circulation to that area, thereby causing an increase in absorption of essential oils. Heat will likewise increase circulation and thus enhance absorption.
Another way that essential oils enter the body is inhalation through the nose or mouth. Common examples include inhaling lavender to calm the nervous system cough or inhaling peppermint essential oil to reduce fatigue or nausea. One of the most common ways that essential oils are inhaled is through a diffuser.
The olfactory system includes all physical organs or cells relating to, or contributing to, the sense of smell. When we inhale through the nose, airborne molecules interact with the olfactory organs and, almost immediately, the brain. This is accomplished by hydrocarbon and oxygenated compounds crossing the blood brain barrier.
Molecules inhaled through the nose or mouth are also carried to the lungs and interact with the respiratory system. Thus, inhaled essential oils can affect the body through several systems and pathways.
Interaction with the Limbic System (Emotional Brain)
During inhalation, odor molecules travel through the nose and affect the brain through a variety of receptor sites, one of which is the limbic system, which is commonly referred to as the “emotional brain.”
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. This relationship helps explain why smells often trigger emotions.
Chinese Medicine and Essential Oils
Chinese Medicine is comprised of many facets. First and foremost it is about educating the patient and guiding them to balance. Chinese Medicine is founded on the theory of YIN and YANG. To have health we need to find Balance of these two ideas. The Chinese Medicine practitioner will use different techniques to achieve this Balance. The most well known is Acupuncture. However one of the most powerful treatments comes from using herbs to regulate the system. When working with herbs plants, sometimes minerals and animals are used to make a medicinal decoction. This decoction is accomplished by cooking the gross matter down in a pot to extract the volatile oils “the immune system of the plant”. A similar process is done to extract the essential oils from plants.
Application of essential oils on acupressure/acupuncture points is very effective and non invasive. It stimulates the meridian system (pathways of electromagnetic energy) and allows the body to move toward homeostasis (balance).
The Essential oils are categorized by their thermal nature (hot/warm/cool/cold) and what organ network they are associated with. There are 12 major meridian networks that affect us physically, mentally, and spiritually.
For example during the autumn the 2 paired organ networks are Yin Lung and Yang Large Intestine. These meridians are of the element Metal and have an Emotional tendency toward grief/sadness (another article). When certain essential oils are used on points along these meridians they help release particular holding patterns (physical, mental, emotional).
Tom Malinksy is a Licensed Oriental Medicine Practitioner and Licensed Body- Worker. Tom earned a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine.Tom has been involved in the Integrative Health Care field since 1997. His knowledge and training in Acupuncture, Manual Medicine, Herbal Medicine, Nutritional Therapy, and Essential Oils, give Tom a unique approach to his Healing Sessions.