The Sense of Smell, Oxytocin and Aromatherapy Essential Oils

The benefits of using essential oils to help you relax and feel a valued part of your family and community

How the sense of smell impacts on us in a subtle way 

The interactions between oxytocin and the sense of smell

How Neuro-science and Psychneuroimmunolgy inform Aromatherapy treatment

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The nerves which serve our nose are only one synapse away from our inner brain. 

Our sense of smell keep us safe and is closely associated with the sense of taste. That’s why taste goes when we have a cold.

In the same way as a lamb or baby knows it’s mother we are wired up to sense the threat of a lion.
This is all happening at a place in the brain called the Amygdala, part of the Limbic system. Here we react before the frontal intelligent neo-cortex has chance to say – ‘hang on a minute’ let’s think this through. Oxytocin the ‘cuddle and trust hormone’ modifies this reaction by reassuring the Limbic system when the lamb knows it's safe.

When we reassure the Limbic system with calming smells we are able to calm and reassure fear and anxiety. We are calming the stress response initiated by cortisol via the HPA (Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenaline)axis. This is the basis behind the WellBeingBlend. A blend of essential oils, selected especially for you, in an applicator sent to you in the post.

I have a great deal to say on this subject which is close to my heart and please excuse this long blog!


The sense of smell deeply affects us

Each moment of every day and we are responding to subtle messages and becoming more aware of these messages will benefit our lifestyle as a whole. When the lamb suckles it is deeply reassured and comforted and the mother and lamb produce oxytocin. Dr Candace Pert the author of the book 'Molecules of Emotion' identified the endorphin receptor and showed how chemical neurotransmitters are produced when a person experiences emotions. Emotion can be described as energy in motion. 

Robbi Zeck reminds us "Aromas, emotions and memory are closely interwoven. Aromatic anchoring can be valuable in changing present time perceptions, creating new options and allowing positive behavioural changes. Essential oils have the capacity to touch the core of the soul affecting the deeper sub conscious mind dissolving old emotional patterns".

Emotional learning can be mediated by pathways that bypass the neocortex which suggests that emotional responses can occur without the involvement of the higher processing systems of the brain – and evokes an immediate eg fearful response. 

Being emotional is a highly aroused state and supersedes concentration. 

The positive effects of the essential oils
Many of the compounds within essential oils are based on mevalonic acid which is the common precursor of many hormones - both of plants and animals - important for both our defence (immune system) and comfort (parasympathetic nervous system). Almost all types of chemical signals, in both plants and animals, from sex pheromones to highly potent defence mechanisms are found among the molecules originating from this terpenoid biosynthetic pathway which starts from this common precursor, mevalonic acid. Essential oils contain such compounds eg linalool, 1,3 cineol and geraniol which we as humans have been utilising successfully for many centuries within herbal remedies and compresses before the phramaceutical industry was born. 

Our body and mind relate to and respond to, easily and quickly, the components and smell of essential oils. 


Aromatherapy; the therapeutic application of essential oils

Aromatherapy, combines both physiological and psychological benefits. Plants are egalitarian and work in harmony with us. We share with plants a chemical intelligence that speaks directly to the human organism on a very deep level. We are connected via our psychological patterns and behavioural responses which have been honed over many centuries. We cannot escape these deeply ingrained responses.

Why is so much spent on perfume each year? Why do we feel such a sense of enjoyment when that perfume is ‘just right’ on that special person? Only our Limbic system knows the answer to that question. A sense of connection, safety and Wellbeing has been triggered. 

Professor Steve Van Toller I was so privileged to meet the Professor of Olfaction Dr Steve Van Toller at Warwick University many years ago. He was one of the few scientists who researched the sense of smell and the smell molecules outside of the perfumery industry; a sensory phychologist. He showed that seaside smells could be used to help agrophobia bringing back happy memories of time by the sea. He related emotions to odour using brain imagining sensory evaluation. Why is there no longer research being carried out independent of the perfume industry?

There is a distinct correlation between the sense of smell and Oxytocin; which has been shown to increase trust and affection, in particular in new relationships.

Oxytocin, which contracts the uterus and lets milk down in nursing mothers, has been described as a’ major state modulator of sensory processing with distinct functions within the Olfactory system influencing social perception’ 




The science of physchoneuroimmunology, which looks at the interaction between the central nervous system and the immune system, shows how important it is for the immune system that we keep calm and maintain a strong community around us.
These concepts have been pivotal to my understanding of the Wellbeing of my clients during my 30 years as a therapist.

Sharing this understanding and knowledge helps my clients to understand better how amazing our body and mind are, how best to keep it well and how important our relationships are in everyday life.  

Science is not equipped to explain the miracles of life to which the interaction with essential oils, plants and humans offers a glimpse. 

Synthetic vs natural;  Without going into the stereochemical or enantiometric chemistry of molecules my biochemical knowledge helps me understand that, when a synthetic form of a natural chemical is produced, the body will only be able to use half of the molecules produced - and the rest are potentially toxins. Any synthetic 'smell' is potentially harmful and smell chemicals are very reactive, often containing sulphur based molecules. Essential oils naturally only contain the half which the body can use. There are often 200 compounds in each essential oil and some are present as only a trace - yet these compounds are vitally important; especially with regard to the sense of smell.

An understanding of Neuro-science shows how the sense of smell can modulate our brain - and our emotional - responses
The relationship between the human brain and our mind – our conscious awareness – is an ever-evolving, powerfully dynamic, two-way flow of energy and information.
It is not the hard-wired command and control model we’ve assumed for so many years. In other words, we are not necessarily the prisoner of our mind or of our brain!

We have the ability to consciously change our brain’s neural wiring shown by Norman Doidge’s work showing how the brain can heal itself.  We are, in a very real way, the architects of our neural pathways  – whether we’re intentional with it or not – by the way we use our conscious minds. We have choice in how we wire our brain. Our brain, in a way, is a reflection of the focus of our conscious attention. We can, in fact, be whatever we want to be. And our brain then becomes a subservient ally to support whatever choices we consciously make. In the same way we are able to 'undo' a neural circuit which is impeding our progress.

Self-preservation within a safe community is the driving force of our conscious and sub-conscious lives.
To be included we learn to manage our emotional reactivity and judgments of situations and other people.
If this is overused during stressful situations we suffer from critical self-talk that undermines our self-confidence and effectiveness in life. We may even become anxious and/or experience problems with our digestion which also needs us to be relaxed to work at it's best.

Whether we like it or not, we are intensely social animals and our physical and emotional Wellbeing in the present is dependent upon the quality of bond we had with our mothers in the first few years of life. Human relationships literally shape the kind of neuronal connections we have in our brain. A particular type of neuron, called “mirror neurons”, discovered only in the last ten years actually track and map the mental state of another person. Human bonding is the glue of the brain.

“Regardless of disadvantageous experiences, especially in early life, individuals who truly want to develop their capacity to be happy and content can do so through personal discipline and focused attention”… and I would add to this ‘ and by harnessing the evocative sense of smell

We all bring with us, today in this moment, our own particular combination of life experiences and, with an intentional focus of attention, can create all we choose – when we are clear as to what that is. For example we are in a meeting when we know it's important to keep calm.  

When a sense of calm is imprinted, or 'anchored', and reinforced with the sense of smell using a tailored blend of essential oils, chosen specifically for you, in the WellbeingBlend your personal discipline and focused attention are enhanced.
You are the “master of your soul.”

In addition I highly recommend we take high quality food supplements and I recommend Zinzino.

Add to this a Mindfulness exercise using the power of touch and you are using a powerful combination which is evoking a response in your sub-conscious; at the level of your Limbic system thus soothing the reaction of the potential fear response.
Even better come to me for an Aromatherapy massage to enjoy the whole combination at it's best. Prices

This concept was explored by Dr Tim Betts at Birmingham University with epileptic patients combining relaxation with the sense of smell to stop onset of the epileptic fit thus combining essential oils with relaxation at the same time.

Let's anchor a comforting smell with an inner picture of calm and relaxation (mindfulness) for a positive outcome.

Let's think about something really simple – which you wish to create in your life now this moment eg more relaxed shoulders. How do they feel now? Are they hunched? Where are they feeling tense? OK rub the place – the comforting sense of touch - and think about the smell your special blend of oils and think about that special place where you felt relaxed and happy and content. When you add to this Mindfulness you will find that your shoulders naturally drop and relax.

Breathe and relax. See the WellBeingBlend page for more information.

Combine a blend of essential oils with the reassuring sense of touch and a relaxing picture  and your whole being feels safe and comforted and nurtured; and at the same time your immune system and hormonal system are supported.

More information on Comfortable Body page 

The symptoms of chronic disease syndromes in particular may be soothed as the person is able to modulate the messages within the brain and depress the fear and feelings of lack of control with which the disease presents.

“By understanding how the brain integrates and stores our life experiences into a constantly evolving and highly subjective memory, we can learn to be more present in the immediate moment”


Combine AROMATHERAPY with the soothing sense of touch you receive during MASSAGE - a powerful therapeutic combination. 

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