Essential Oils for Memory

by Jodi Cohen

human profile outline, colorful brain

The neurotransmitter Acetylcholine plays a key role in memory, attention, and learning.

Damage to the cholinergic (acetylcholine-producing) system in the brain and resulting acetylcholine deficits have been linked with the memory deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Research has found that essential oils are some of the most effective tools to regenerate and heal these acetylcholine-producing systems.

How Acetylcholine Promotes Memory

Acetylcholine is an important chemical messenger released by your vagus nerve that facilitates communication between your body and your brain.  In your brain, acetylcholine activates and inhibits communication between different brain regions to properly store information.  For example, it is acetylcholine that tells your hippocampus to store and consolidate memories.

Acetylcholine can both excite and inhibit brain function, by speeding up or slowing down nerve signals.  In your central nervous system (i.e. your brain), acetylcholine is mainly excitatory, allowing your neurons to communicate so you can think clearly, learn new information and form new memories.

Cognitive enhancing drugs, known as nootropics, actually work by stimulating the acetylcholine receptors found within the brain.   An increase in acetylcholine levels in your brain often correlates with improved cognitive function, including enhanced executive function (planning and decision making), memory, creativity, and motivation. Without optimal acetylcholine levels in your brain, your focus becomes sluggish causing brain fog and mental fatigue.

Acetylcholine works through receptors known as cholinergic receptors. Deficits or degeneration in the cholinergic system break down activity of cholinergic projections to the hippocampus that control activities that depend on selective attention and consolidate and store memories.

This contributes to the loss of memory common in degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease.  Research has found that deficits in the cholinergic system are associated a loss of memory.

What’s more, a deficit in Acetylcholine was found to increase the deposits of amyloid-beta – a plaque that contributes to Alzheimer’s.

How Essential Oils Promote Memory

Research has been shown that essential oils can delay development of cognitive decline, and improve cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s disease patients.  The study found that essential oils “contain biologically active compounds with acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities.”

The study further noted that “selected monoterpenoids from these essential oils are reported to inhibit acetylcholinesterase. Terpenes and terpenoids, the primary constituents of these essential oils are small, fat-soluble organic molecules that can transfer across nasal mucosa if inhaled, or penetrate through the skin after topical application, enter into the blood and cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, topical application or inhalation of essential oils will also produce a systemic effect.”

The study found that Sage was the most effective essential oil at blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine.  The “inhibitory activity produced by sage was significantly higher from the rest of the essential oils. Lemon myrtle and rosemary exhibited moderate benefit at blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine.

The benefit of sage is highly attributed to its constituent, Rosmarinic acid, which has been shown to have strong neuroprotective therapeutic effects against Alzheimer’s disease.

Essential oils from the mint family have also been demonstrated to improve cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Your vagus nerve releases acetylcholine and stimulating your vagus nerve helps to stimulate the release of acetylcholine.  You can naturally stimulate your vagus nerve by topically applying our stimulatory Parasympathetic™ behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone where the vagus nerve is closest to the surface of your body.

Stimulating your vagus nerve also triggers the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine into an area of the brain called the amygdala, which strengthens memory storage and improves your ability to process and retain information.

Emotionally arousing or meaningful events generate strong memories to foster sentimental pleasure and help avoid future danger. Here is the process: a high energy event triggers your vagus nerve to release chemical messengers into brain structures that process memory, such as your amygdala and hippocampus. Upon activation, these memory-related regions work harder to properly put the attributes of emotionally arousing experiences into long-term storage.

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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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Subscribe to Vibrant Blue Oils and receive weekly information on oils and how to use them. As a bonus, we’ll send out Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils to your inbox immediately!