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Enhancing Oxygen Assimilation through Smell

By Jodi Cohen

A woman with light brown hair wearing a blue shirt is indoors, holding a small blue bottle close to her nose with one hand while using the other hand to press one nostril closed. She appears to be using a nasal spray. A window is visible in the background.

My word for 2024 is “nurturing”, and there is nothing more nurturing than oxygen.  Every cell in your body needs oxygen to make energy. 

Oxygen enters the body through your nostrils and your lungs and anything you can do to enhance the ease of oxygen intake can support your health.  When you breathe, air enters your body through your nose and transfers to the air passages, which carry oxygen to your lungs. Your lungs then pass oxygen into your bloodstream where is it transported to tissues and organs.

It turns out that breathing through the nose – or smelling – has significant benefits over mouth breathing, according to James Nestor in his book Breath.  The nose eases the assimilation of oxygen by clearing the air, heating it, and moistening it for better absorption.

Nestor notes that nose breathing triggers the sinuses to release nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen to the cells.  He notes that “Immune function, weight, circulation, mood, and sexual function can all be heavily influenced by the amount of nitric oxide in the body.”  In fact, Viagra works by releasing nitric oxide into the bloodstream, which opens the capillaries in the genitals.

Nestor elaborates that “nasal breathing alone can boost nitric oxide sixfold, which is one of the reasons we can absorb about 18 percent more oxygen than by just breathing through the mouth.”  

Like other parts of the body, your nasal cavity responds to whatever input it receives.  This means that the more you focus on nasal breathing and deep inhalations, the more you exercise and enhance your capacity to assimilate oxygen through the nostrils.  

Essential oils can train the tissues inside the nasal cavity to stay open. Essential oils, with their natural anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties, can help support your nasal passageways and improve your ability to breathe easily again.

In fact, essential oils – like eucalyptus – are often used to help with smell retraining.  Research on “Effects of olfactory training in patients with olfactory loss” found that repeated exposure to odors improved olfactory function.  

Essential oils are ideal tools for olfactory training, as they possess potent, stimulating aromas and tend to have one dominant scent.  More specifically, after twice-daily olfactory training with essential oils with intense odors, including rose, eucalyptus, lemon, and cloves, improved nasal respiration.  The findings concluded that “structured, short-term exposure to selected odors may increase olfactory sensitivity.”

Elevating smell training to the next level involves targeting breathing through specific nostrils.  As Nestor notes in Breath, the right and left nostril impact the brain differently:

Right Nostril:  “The right nostril is the gas pedal.  When you’re inhaling primarily through this channel, circulation speeds up, your body gets hotter, and cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate all increase.

This happens because breathing through the right side of the nose activates the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” mechanism that puts the body in a more elevated state of alertness and readiness.

Breathing through the right nostril will also feed more blood to the opposite hemisphere of the brain, specifically to the prefrontal cortex, which has been associated with logical decisions, language, and computing.

Left Nostril:  Inhaling through the left nostril has the opposite effect:  it works as a kind of brake system on the right nostril’s accelerator.  The left nostril is more deeply connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and relaxed side lowers blood pressure, cools the body, and reduces anxiety.  

Left-nostril breathing shifts blood flow to the opposite side of the prefrontal cortex, the area that influences creative thought and plays a role in the formation of mental abstractions and the production of negative emotions.

Breathe™ blend is one of my favorite blends to smell during the winter months as it supports your respiratory system and nasal pathways.

The essential oils in the Breathe™ blend contain expectorant properties that can help de-congest and calm an irritated respiratory tract and support mucous drainage from your nasal pathways.

Expectorants help expel mucus from your body and support your respiratory detoxification.  In particular, eucalyptus oil possesses potent antibacterial, antiseptic, expectorant, and decongestant that can help clean and strengthen the lungs. 

Peppermint essential oil possesses expectorant qualities that may help support upper-respiratory congestion, caused by asthma, bronchitis, allergies, cold, or flu.

Eucalyptus radiata can be used on its own or as part of Breathe™ blend to help soothe inflammation in the lungs and calm bronchial spasms that can result in coughing fits. Since eucalyptus oil can be “hot,” meaning it can cause a hot or warming sensation when applied to the skin, including causing the skin to turn red, I recommend you dilute more aggressively with a carrier oil.

Breathe™ blend contains three different types of Eucalyptus oil, a potent antiseptic, expectorant, and decongestant that can help clean and strengthen the lungs.  The proprietary formulation of Breathe™ includes:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Basil offers expectorant properties, helping to enhance respiratory and immune functions.

Basil is also antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory, and is believed to help protect against the development of infections and enhance the body’s natural ability to cope with both physical and emotional stress. 

Eucalyptus radiata, and Eucalyptus citriodora: Eucalyptus oil possesses potent antibacterial, antiseptic, expectorant, and decongestant properties that can help clean and strengthen the nasal pathways.  Basil also helps to open the breathing passages and is excellent to use when treating asthma, laryngitis, sore throat, colds, and other respiratory illnesses. They also help relieve suffering from a cold or other respiratory infection.

Myrtle (Myrtus communis): Helps clear coughs and chest complaints. Because of its sedative nature, it relaxes the airways and makes it easier to breathe. Can assist in the treatment of respiratory conditions including smoker’s cough, bronchitis, flu, colds, tuberculosis, sinus infection, asthma, and other pulmonary disorders. Can also help relieve sore throats.

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 the heart and blood vessel cells, which results in relaxed blood vessels and a greater supply of blood and oxygen” to the body and the brain.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita): Has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties, which help support the relief of pain and sinus inflammation.  Peppermint is also known to prevent biofilms and the viral load that can contribute to sinus inflammation. Research touts the antibacterial and anti-biofilm properties of Peppermint essential oil, noting that Peppermint essential oil “significantly inhibited the formation of biofilm, and inactivated mature biofilm.”  Most interestingly, Peppermint seems to prevent microbial growth by affecting the permeability and integrity of the cell membrane which allow Peppermint essential oil to break down biofilms.   Peppermint™ essential oil whose expectorant qualities may help support upper respiratory congestion caused by asthma, bronchitis, allergies, cold or flu.

Flavonoids contained in Peppermint were found to have a potent inhibitory effect on excessive histamine release from mast cells. The menthol constituent helps support throat infections, colds, and flu along with asthma, bronchitis, and sinusitis. Research on, “the anti-inflammatory activity of L-menthol compared to mint oil in human monocytes in vitro: a novel perspective for its therapeutic use in inflammatory diseases,” found that menthol is an effective treatment for chronic inflammatory conditions like allergic rhinitis and bronchial asthma. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that peppermint oil has an antispasmodic effect on the windpipe muscles and has “expectorant actions and is anti-congestive.”

Spruce (Tsuga canadensis): Helps break up excessive mucus and congestion to breathing problems, sinus congestion relief, and other respiratory infections. Derived from the leaves of the spruce tree, Spruce essential oil is high in camphene, a monoterpene known as a powerful mucolytic that is beneficial for inflammatory respiratory issues. It safeguards your respiratory tract from airborne viruses and pollution which helps break up excessive mucus and congestion to support the treatment of colds, flu, and other respiratory infections. Camphene is also a powerful antioxidant that also adds to its therapeutic benefits. Spruce also contains high levels of the chemical components a-pinene and bornyl acetate which give Spruce essential oil its anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and analgesic properties. Spruce essential oil has a high content of esters, which contributes to its balancing and antispasmodic properties which is why it is often added to saunas, hot baths, and massages.

To use, apply 1- 2 drops topically on the throat and upper chest (Breathe™ contains a lot of hot oils and can turn the skin red.  We, therefore, recommend diluting with castor oil, coconut oil, or olive oil before topical application).  Breathe™ can also be inhaled using steam inhalation (Place 2 to 3 cups boiling water + 5 drops of Breathe™ in a bowl, cover your head with a towel, close your eyes and bring your face close to the bowl and gently inhale the steam) or used with a hot wet towel compress to the lungs and throat areas.

When using Breathe™ which contains two powerful Eucalyptus oils for smell retraining, hold the first oil about 12 inches from the nostril and try to detect the smell  If you can’t move it an inch closer. Continue until you detect the smell  When you can, try to name the scent  Next, take a little essential oil and place it on the collar of your shirt under the nostril that you are stimulating  Vary the smell each day as much as possible

Repeat this 2-3 times daily with the goal of correctly identifying the smells.

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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

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.