Enhance Brain Circulation with Essential Oils

by Jodi Cohen

Brain circulation, or brain blood flow, is the movement of blood through the network of arteries and veins supplying your brain with energy.

Your brain needs a healthy supply of oxygen and nutrient rich blood in order to function properly.  Although your brain accounts for less than 2% of your total body weight, it consumes approximately 20% of your available oxygen and 50% of available glucose.

This high oxygen demand makes your brain susceptible to damage when brain oxygen levels are low.  More specifically, your brain contains the most dense network of blood vessels carrying oxygen in your body.  As such, any hindrances in oxygen-rich blood flow can contribute to brain cell death and degeneration.

The brain is the most vertical tissue in the body with the smallest blood vessels that are furthest from the heart. It is consistently dealing with the forces of gravity due to its vertical position. This makes the brain a difficult organ to deliver blood to.

Too little blood flow results in a lack of glucose and oxygen needed to keep neurons metabolically active. This lack of oxygen in the brain can contribute to brain fog, fatigue, memory problems or poor cognitive function along with an increased risk of dementia.

Anything you can do to support the health of your circulatory system will help enhance blood flow through your arteries to carry oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients to the brain.  Similarly, your veins carry metabolic waste is carried out of the brain and supporting the health of your circulatory system helps ensure that waste is properly eliminated.

Enhancing Oxygen in the Brain

Oxygen helps expedite your body’s healing process.  So increasing your brain’s available oxygen can improve your mood, energy and mental clarity while reducing your risk of dementia.  It’s not surprising that pharmaceutical drugs designed to improve brain function often enhance blood flow to the brain and improve the brain’s ability to utilize oxygen.

Brain circulation enables energy production in the brain and plays an important role in preserving cognitive functions.  Research back this up and finds that increasing brain circulation in certain areas of the brain may improve cognitive deficits and relieve brain fog.

In a research study designed to assess the factors related to dementia and cognitive decline, researchers found that in 1,716 subjects without dementia, an increased probability of cognitive decline was related to decreased brain blood flow.

Adequate blood flow is crucial to normal cognitive function. Any kind of injury to your brain — including concussions and TBIs — require good circulation to enhance healing.  Your brain is your most vertical tissue and the forces of gravity make it even more challenging to enhance circulation especially during an injury.

Enhancing circulation in the brain may be important in slowing down and even preventing cognitive decline later in life.

Symptoms of Poor Brain Circulation

Poor brain circulation contributes to a range of physical and mental disorders and may greatly impair quality of life, presenting as symptoms like:

  • No Brian endurance for focus and concentration
  • Cold hands and face
  • Must exercise or drink coffee to improve brain function
  • Poor nail health or white (instead of pink) on the nail beds
  • Fungal growth on toenails
  • Prefer to wear socks at night
  • Nail beds are white instead of pink
  • The tip of the nose is cold
  • Hair thinning or falling out

All of these indications reflect the lack of blood flow and nutrients to extremities. For example, blood flow to the scalp is responsible for caring hormones and essential nutrients needed by the hair follicles. Therefore when circulation is compromised to the head, many individuals complain of hair falling out and thinning.

An easy way to assess healthy circulation is to look at the circulation of the distal extremities like the fingers, toes and brain. You can also compare the temperature of the arms and the legs or the rest of the face. The temperature should be the same on both the distal extremity and the body if circulation is healthy.


Causes of Poor Circulation

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to poor circulation, including:

Low or High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood through your body and your brain.  A certain level of pressure is necessary to provide a healthy supply of oxygen to the brain.

Research demonstrates that “the brain is highly vulnerable to the deleterious effects of elevated blood pressure” as blood flow to the brain is dependent upon blood pressure within the arteries, known as arterial pressure.

When oxygen pressure to the brain falls outside of the normal range, your brain loses its ability to maintain constant blood flow, according to research.

Low blood pressure has been related to a risk of brain atrophy (loss of brain tissue). In a study examining patients with hardening of the arteries, those with lower blood pressure and less blood flow to the brain were more likely to have brain atrophy


Anemia occurs when your blood doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body and your brain. This can happen if your body doesn’t make enough or destroys red blood cells or bleeding causes you to lose red blood cells more quickly than they can be replaced

The iron-rich protein hemoglobin gives blood its red color.  Hemoglobin enables red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body and to carry carbon dioxide from other parts of the body to your lungs to be exhaled.

Your body needs to be able to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients like iron, vitamin B-12, folate to produce hemoglobin and red blood cells. Parasympathetic® blend can help support optimal digestion to enhance absorption and assimilation of iron.


Constriction or narrowing of the blood vessels, or vasoconstriction, reduces blood flow to the brain. It happens when chemical signals in the body tell your smooth muscles in blood vessel walls to constrict or tighten. This reduces the volume or space inside affected blood vessels. When blood vessel volume is lowered, blood flow is also reduced.

Vasoconstriction of the blood vessels can help your body maintain healthy blood flow and keep your body temperature from getting too cold. It can also raise blood pressure when it’s necessary. Vasoconstriction can also control how blood is distributed throughout your body, send more nutrients and oxygen to organs that need them and protect your body against blood and fluid loss. On the negative side, it can contribute to high blood pressure, headache and migraine pain and Raynaud’s syndrome where the small arteries that supply blood to fingers and toes spasm or narrow, limiting how much blood can reach these outer areas, causing them to feel cold or numb.

The opposite of vasoconstriction is vasodilation. This is when blood vessels relax and widen, increasing blood flow and dropping blood pressure.


Essential Oils for Circulation

Natural compounds, like essential oils, have been shown to increase circulation and blood flow to the brain.

Essential oils may help improve circulation by relaxing the smooth muscles that line the blood vessels and improving the health of the blood vessels.  This helps more blood circulate through them, improving your circulation and increasing brain oxygen levels in the process.

Plant compounds, including the highly concentrated essence of plants found in essential oils,  have been shown to help the veins contract, stimulating blood flow and enhance “brain microcirculation,” which is the flow of blood through the body’s smallest vessels.  They may help reduce some of the buildup of triglycerides that can form and restrict blood flow.

More specifically, plant compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids, have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation in the brain (Study). The process of distilling these concentrated plant essences into essential oils makes them more accessible to the brain to help calm brain inflammation and enhance brain circulation. Essential oils of Thyme and Basil are high in flavonoids (Study). Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, bergamot and grapefruits contain numerous flavonoids (Study)

Terpenes – the highly aromatic chemical component of essential oils that are believed to provide the first line of defense in the plant’s immune system – increase cerebral blood flow, thus indirectly enhancing delivery of oxygen to the brain. Research on the “Functional imaging of effects of fragrances on the human brain after prolonged inhalation” demonstrated a direct increase in blood flow to the brain following the inhalation of essential oils.

“The effect of the fragrance 1,8-cineol, which was described in literature as ‘stimulating’, on regional and global cerebral blood flow in the human brain after prolonged inhalation was investigated.” (Full Study)

Sesquiterpenes are a subclass of the large terpene chemical family that are abundant in essential oils derived from plants including black pepper, cedarwood, frankincense, ginger, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, spikenard, and vetiver.  Essential oils that are high in sesquiterpenes have been shown to help oxygenate your brain. Sesquiterpines are carbon chains that do not contain oxygen molecules but seem to pull oxygen in. This may be one reason why essential oils high in sesquiterpines increase oxygen levels in the brain when inhaled or topically applied to the skin around the head.


Circulation Blend

Vibrant Blue Oils Brain Balance Circulation™ blend contains a proprietary formulation of organic and/or wild crafted essential oils that work synergistically to support healthy circulation and blood flow to the body and the brain.

Black Pepper helps to warm the body and stimulates circulation, increasing blood flow to your digestive system. This helps to boost nutrient absorption so much that it is often added to supplement formulations to enhance the effectiveness of the supplement.

Black pepper and its active compound piperine have been found to enhance circulation, increasing blood flow to your digestive system, which helps boost nutrient absorption.

Piperine helps stimulate digestive enzymes, enhances digestive capacity, increases absorption in the intestines, and also significantly reduces gastrointestinal food transit times. This means that your cells are better able to utilize nutrients and healing remedies when piperine is added, so much so that it is often added to supplement formulations to enhance the effectiveness of the supplement. Dr. Datis Kharrazian, a Harvard-trained clinical researcher, found that adding black pepper to his supplement formulations increased the absorption 200 to 400 percent.

Black Pepper also contains high levels of the sesquiterpene constituent Beta-caryophyllene which helps support healthy blood sugar levels.

Cypress helps to improve circulation and contraction of the blood vessels, making it easier to stimulate blood flow.

Derived from the twigs and needles of coniferous cypress trees which are known to calm the respiratory system, Cypress essential oil has a diuretic and detoxifying action and can help to flush out toxins from the body, which helps promote better blood flow and circulation.

Cypress essential oil may help alleviate some of the triglycerides that can form and restrict blood flow. Cypress also helps to balance and calm the nervous system and work as an antispasmodic agent.

Seventy compounds were identified or tentatively identified in the oil.

Cypress essential oil is high in the compound α-pinene exhibits anti-inflammatory activity in research which helps with blood flow.

Frankincense contains sesquiterpenes, which enable it to cross the blood-brain barrier to assist in increasing oxygen in your brain.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, frankincense of Boswellia carterii is commonly used as a remedy for improving blood circulation and relieving pain.  Research has found that Frankincense has a positive effect on the respiratory system.

Boswellic acids found in frankincense have shown to be responsible for the inhibition of leukotriene biosynthesis and, therefore, can reduce and prevent the inflammation in many chronic inflammatory diseases like asthma.

In a study, several patients with chronic bronchial asthma were treated with the B. serrata preparation of 300 mg thrice daily for a 6-week period. The improvement of the disease was obvious in 70% of the patients by disappearance of physical symptoms and signs such as dyspnea (difficulty in breathing), rhonchi (hissing lung sound), and the number of attacks. The data show a definite role of gum resin of B. serrata in the treatment of bronchial asthma.

Frankincense helps relieve nervous tension and stress related conditions. Contains sesquiterpenes, which enable it to go beyond the blood brain barrier to assist in increasing oxygen around the pineal and pituitary glands.

Frankincense oil has long been heralded for its anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and pain-relieving properties. Research shows frankincense, and its anti-inflammatory constituent alpha-pinene, significantly inhibit inflammation and enhance immune supporting properties, including healthy circulation. The chemical constituent borneol possesses anesthetic and anti-spasmodic properties.

Ginger root helps warm the skin and blood vessels, promoting circulation. It also helps to flush toxins and reduce the inflammation of the blood vessels, improving blood flow throughout the body.

Ginger may also help calm inflammation  that interferes with healthy circulation. The beneficial effects of ginger polyphenols have been extensively reported in research such as “Assessing the Effects of Ginger Extract on Polyphenol Profiles.”

The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger are often attributed to secondary metabolites, like essential oils and gingerols.  More specifically, Ginger oil triggers bronchodilation (dilates the bronchi and bronchioles to improve airflow to the lungs) possibly by stimulating the beta-adrenergic receptor, which improves breathing in people with chronic respiratory diseases, according to 2013 research published in Fitoterapia.

Zingerone, an antioxidant found in Ginger prevents the death of neurons and reduces oxidative stress in animals with insufficient blood supply to the brain, according to research.

For example, Ginger oil reduced the production of pro-inflammatory constituents released during respiratory infections in vitro. The research discovered that ginger oil reduces inflammation by preventing the migration of excess leukocytes from the blood to tissues. Leukocytes travel to the site of damaged tissue to encourage tissue repair; however, when they migrate excessively to the area it causes an abnormal inflammatory response.

Grapefruit stimulates the liver and gallbladder. It supports the lymphatic system, which helps promote blood flow.

The limonene present in grapefruit helps to reduce inflammation and regulate the production of inflammatory cytokines.  Grapefruit also contains high levels of bioactive flavonoids like  naringin, which demonstrate anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, lipid-lowering, and antioxidant activities according to research published in Oxid Med Cell Longev. titled “Bioactive Flavonoids, Antioxidant Behavior, and Cytoprotective Effects of Dried Grapefruit Peels”.

The Research notes “data suggest that grapefruit peel has considerable potential as a source of natural bioactive flavonoids with outstanding antioxidant activity which can be used as agents in several therapeutic strategies.” Flavonoids were observed in the oil glands of citrus peels ( Essential oil are found mainly in the oil glands).

Peppermint is stimulatory essential oil that can act as a vasodilator. This simply means that it can help to dilate, or open up, your blood vessels. One reason for poor circulation is narrow or constricted blood vessels.  When vessels are too narrow, there is less space for blood to flow easily.  Peppermint essential oil can help expand and widen the space in the blood vessels. Widening or expanding space in your blood vessels allows more blood to flow through your vessels.

Research found that Peppermint essential oil significantly improved exercise performance.

The improvement was believed to be “due to the peppermint effects on the bronchial smooth muscle tonicity” and oxygen increasing capacity.

Peppermint essential oil contains high concentrations of the property menthol which works to enhance exercise performance, boost energy and stimulate concentration. According to a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, peppermint essential oil enhances energy, alertness and memory.  Research from the University of Cincinnati found that inhaling peppermint oil increases the mental accuracy by 28%, again possibly due to increased oxygen flow to the brain.

Myrtle helps relax blood vessels balance the nervous system and calm nervous tension and anxiety that can raise blood pressure.

Research found that “a methanolic extract of myrtle reduced intestinal and aorta spasms, enhanced bronchodilation (relaxation of the bronchi and bronchioles to increase airflow in the lungs) and vasodilation (relaxation of the blood vessel walls, which causes decreased blood pressure).  Agents that block calcium channels prevent calcium from entering heart and blood vessel cells, which results in relaxed blood vessels and greater supply of blood and oxygen” to the body and the brain.

Nutmeg helps improve circulation and helps support cardiovascular and respiratory health. Nutmeg essential oil works as a stimulant, helping to increase blood circulation and relax blood vessels.  This may help to thin the blood cells and reduce the amount of pressure that is being placed on the arteries and veins.

Nutmeg essential oil is high in anti-inflammatory compounds like Eugenol, Sabinene and  A-pinene that may help ease pain and swelling.

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About The Author

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.

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