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Essential Oils for Performance Optimization

By Jodi Cohen

Essential Oils are being used by professional athletes to optimize physical and mental performance during high pressure competition.

Research found that essential oils can play a role in preparing the body and mind for optimum performance and expediting physical recovery by enhancing mental function and reducing the effects of fatigue.

Oils possess powerful chemical constituents – including analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic constituents — that can be used to enhance athletic and cognitive performance by:

  • Priming the body and brain for peak performance
  • Increasing oxygen flow to the body and brain
  • Enhancing endurance
  • Relaxing and soothing sore muscles
  • Reducing preventable injuries
  • Accelerating recovery time and wound healing
  • Improving cellular repair and regeneration capacity
  • Relieving chronic joint and muscle pain
  • Assisting in detoxification of the body to improve cellular function and performance!

 

How Essential Oils Enhance Performance

Essential Oils – and their chemical constituents – may help optimize physical and mental performance by supporting the following functions:

 

Circulation

Healthy circulation is critical for delivery of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the body and the brain, while simultaneously carrying toxins and waste to the kidney and liver to be eliminated.

Essential oils can help improve circulation by relaxing the blood vessels and improving the health of the blood vessels.  This helps more blood circulate through them, improving circulation in the process. Essential oils can also be used to help the veins contract, stimulating blood flow.  Essential oils may also help alleviate some of the triglycerides that can form and restrict blood flow.

Circulation™ blend supports healthy circulation to deliver oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the body and the brain, while simultaneously carrying toxins and waste to the kidney and liver to be eliminated.

Apply 2- 3 drops of Circulation™ on the sides or back of the neck, over the left clavicle, on the wrists or ankles to support energy, brain endurance and warmth of the distal extremities, like the fingers and toes.

 

Boost Mental and Physical Energy and Stamina

Essential oils contain oxygenating compounds, including esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols and oxides which help boost energy.  Oils are able to cross the blood brain barrier which means they can help carry oxygen to your brain to enhance energy levels and focus.

Rosemary can relieve anxiety, reduce stress, and improve focus and concentration. It also aids sleeplessness and insomnia.

A 2012 study found that essential oils can boost your cognitive skills and mental prowess.

Essential oils are rich in sesquiterpenes, 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™ is formulated with several oils known to be high in sesquiterpenes, including Black Pepper, Ginger and Frankincense that deliver oxygen to the cells. Apply 2- 3 drops of Circulation™ on the sides or back of the neck to improve oxygen flow to the brain.

 

Lymph Flow

Essential oils can improve lymphatic system functionality which can help flush out toxins and reduce inflammation of the blood vessels, improving blood flow throughout the body.

Lymph fluid flows through the lymph nodes where toxins are filtered out.  Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system does not have a heart to pump the fluid through the body.

The more you can help the lymph fluid flow, the more quickly you can move toxins out of the body, alleviating obstacles to performance enhancement.

When you physically push yourself with exercise, muscle fibers tear and repair. Fluids – including blood and lymph – help clean up and flush away debris. In one study, manual lymph drainage massage resulted in an improvement in the regenerative capacity of muscle cells, and thus improved recovery rate.  Supporting lymphatic drainage improves post-exercise recovery and regeneration.

Applying Vibrant Blue Oils Lymph™ before exercise to the lymph nodes — sides of neck, under the arms and around bikini line (where your leg creases when you lift it) – helps increase circulation of the lymphatic system, leaving you feeling lighter, stronger and healthier.

 

Pain Relief

Essential oils contain antispasmodic, painkilling, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, decongestant, and antioxidant effects that can help reduce pain and inflammation.

For example, research found that external application of peppermint extract raised the pain threshold in human. Peppermint aroma was also found to be effective on perceived physical workload, temporal workload, effort, and anxiety.

 

Reduce Inflammation

Essential oils have been proven to reduce inflammation, which relieves joint pain and aids in flexibility and recovery.

Inflammation slows down the signal to your muscles so they can’t fire at their full potential. A muscle’s strength is only as strong as the signal from your brain.  Every muscle cell is connected to your brain through your nervous system. You may know the feeling of brain fog, when thinking becomes fuzzy.  The same thing happens to our muscles when our brain is not firing at full speed. The signal becomes fuzzy.

Parasympathetic® blend reduces inflammation in your body, by triggering your vagus nerve to release anti-inflammatory neurotransmitters. Reducing brain inflammation means a faster brain.  An inflamed brain is also a slow brain, which sends delayed signals to muscles impacting your athletic performance.

In the parasympathetic state, your vagus nerve communicates with the rest of the body by releasing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which acts as a brake on inflammation in your body, inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory messengers.

Research has shown strong decrease in inflammatory symptoms from stimulating your vagus nerve to activate the parasympathetic state.  Research also shows that vagus nerve stimulation seems to restore the body’s natural balance. It reduces the over-production of the chemical messenger that causes chronic inflammation but does not affect healthy immune function, so the body can respond normally to infection.

Topically applying the Parasympathetic® oil on your vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) helps to calm inflammation and improve communication between your body and your brain to help improve exercise performance and modulate your inflammatory response.

 

Enhance Recovery

Your tissues and organs need to recover after intense usage. Poor recovery is often experienced as tightness or physical pain.  Essential oils can be used to help improve recovery, relieving pain and inflammation in the muscles and joints, which helps repair tissues and support enhanced performance.

More specifically, the muscles supporting much of your lower back are related to the adrenal glands and provide major support to the pelvis and lower back. When your adrenal glands are under more stress than they can handle, these muscles will directly be affected and the support to the lower back will be lost, leading to low back pain and even downstream issues, like knee pain.  A fun fact, when the adrenals are off, they can throw off leg length, with one leg presenting as longer than the order as a result of a twisted pelvis.  It is this disparity in leg length that often contributes to knee and hip problems, especially during long hikes or runs.  To help balance the adrenals and with them, the muscles supporting the low back, apply Adrenal® on the lower mid-back over the adrenal glands (one fist above the 12th rib on each side).

With oils such as Thyme, Rosemary, Manuka, Galbanum, and Frankincense comprised from bushes, herbs flowers and resins from trees, Adrenal® helps you ground and balance on your hike. The formulation also includes key oils for pain such as Rosemary which is good for relieving back, muscle and joint pain and Thyme which is also an antispasmodic, good for joint, muscle and back pain.

Finally, Adrenal® can help boost your energy levels during vigorous exercise.  Your adrenals help regulate your energy levels by secreting the hormones that regulate your energy production and storage. Your adrenal hormones are primarily designed to provide back-up energy in stressful situations.  All too often, pushing your body too hard or too fast during exercise can register as a stressful experience.  When your adrenals are taxed, either from mental, physical or emotional stress, it can trickle down to poor support of the muscles supporting your pelvis and lower back.

Applying Adrenal® blend over the adrenal glands (low back, one fist length up from the 12th rib) can help to balance and support energy and reduce or avoid low back pain during workouts.  Read More about oils to enhance your workout HERE.

 

Respiration

Essential oils have been shown to improve respiratory function for better stamina and performance.

They can be used to wake up your body and mind before engaging in a challenging mental or physical activity. They promote deep breathing via inhalation.  This increases oxygen intake which helps to increase energy.

Shallow breathing limits oxygen intake which limits the amount of oxygen that is able to nourish your cells and support your mental and physical performance. Deep breathing enhances oxygen which helps to catalyze a series of metabolic reactions and processes that convert oxygen into the chemical form of energy known as adenosine triphosphate or ATP, which then enhances performance.

A study on the effects of peppermint on exercise performance found that runners who supplemented with peppermint oil experienced improved respiratory efficiency, heart rate and blood pressure, and also reported lower levels of perceived workload.

Peppermint is known for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antioxidant, and vasoconstrictor effects.  It is known to relax bronchial smooth muscles and increase ventilation and brain oxygen concentration which can help you optimize your performance. A similar study found that inhaling spearmint and orange oils improved lung function and exercise performance of athletes.

Breathe™ blend contains three different types of Eucalyptus oil, a potent antiseptic, expectorant and decongestant that can help clean and strengthen the lungs.  Breathe also contains Peppermint essential oil whose expectorant qualities may help support upper respiratory congestion caused by asthma, bronchitis, allergies, cold or flu.

To use, apply 1- 2 drops topically on 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 eyes and bring face close to the bowl and gently inhale the steam) or used with a hot wet towel compress to the lungs and throat areas.

 

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References:

 

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.