Essential oils can benefit your health, mood and brain, study finds

“Take a whiff of that.”

“That’s it! That’s the old lady smell!”

“Oh, I’m so glad. People always say old ladies smell like lavender.”

“You like that?”

“Yes. I love being an old lady. And I love that smell.”

“You’re weird, Grandma.”

That’s an excerpt from a post by The Feminist Grandma, a fantastic blog by a Florida grandmother who unexpectedly finds herself raising a grandchild and being a mother once again.

In this particular blog entry – Lavender and Old Ladies – she describes her granddaughter’s thoughts on how old ladies smell, and her own love for lavender.

She’s not alone. It’s a favourite fragrance for many, voted 28th best smell in the world, can evidently make women more attractive to men and, according to Aroma Talking, is the most popular essential oil for beginners.   

It may also have strong potential benefits for your health, mood and your brain. 

Read: How to … make a lavender sachet

Research from Monash University scientists uncovers the benefits of some essential oils.

The findings, published Neurochemistry International, outline how aromatherapy has clear benefits to your health, but only under the right conditions.

Essential oils (EOs) are mixtures of volatile compounds extracted from plants and are used in aromatherapy because they can be released into the air and inhaled at room temperature.

When EOs are inhaled, they are quickly taken into the brain and can have wider reaching benefits than if the same compounds were ingested.

Read: Seven uses for eucalyptus oil

However, there are no clear guidelines for how EOs should be used, or an understanding of which types or what dose would produce the optimal benefit.

Until now.

“Aromatherapy under particular conditions is reported to consistently enhance emotional health, including lowering anxiety and depression,” said the study’s lead author Professor Louise Bennett.

“However, achieving benefits requires understanding which types are best and what dose is required.

“We believe the interaction of essential oils with the naturally high levels of ascorbate (for example, vitamin C) in the brain can produce either antioxidant or pro-oxidant effects. It is the antioxidant … not the pro-oxidant effects that lead to the mood benefit.”

Lavender EOs consistently produce a mood-improving effect, say the researchers, which they now believe is related to its strong antioxidant effect in the brain.

“For the first time, this work paves the way to select and classify EOs according to their mechanistic properties and to potentially develop inexpensive but effective therapies for the brain,” said Prof. Bennett.

The study has been able to identify which EOs benefit mood improvement and which will produce anti-infective properties.

“We are working towards developing EOs for a range of applications including treating depression and anxiety, infection, inflammation and potentially even cancer,” said Prof. Bennett.

Read: How to relieve a headache

The team is now working on understanding doses required for optimal effects.

“We can predict the volatile and potentially inhalable ‘dose’ of any EO and at any temperature, including climatic extremes,” said researcher and PhD candidate Minoli Aponso.

“This research represents a significant breakthrough as it characterises the effects of EOs in the brain so as to optimise their therapeutic potential.”

Do you like lavender? What is your favourite smell? Which is your favourite essential oil? Why not share your opinions in the comments section below?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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