Essential Oils to Boost Brain Function

by Jodi Cohen

Your brain functions best when messages get delivered quickly and easily between regions of your brain and your body.  These chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters, communicate with your body and brain to help you think, feel and move.  When the strength and speed of these signals are compromised, it impacts your ability to function, resulting in symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and physical pain.

One of your most important neurotransmitters to support brain function is acetylcholine.  It is released by your vagus nerve to help support your heart rate, breathing, digestion, detoxification, brain function and movement.    It plays an essential role in alertness, attention, learning, and memory.

Stimulating the vagus nerve with natural, non-invasive essential oils can support the optimal release of acetylcholine, and with it, optimal function of your brain, including clear focus, strong memory and enhanced decision making.

What is Acetylcholine?

Essential Oils to Boost Brain Function, wooden human profile with gears for the brainAcetylcholine is an important chemical messenger released by your vagus nerve that facilitates communication between your body and your brain.  For example, acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter used to signal the communication between your nerves and your muscle, causing your muscles to contract so you can move.

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 a memory. Acetylcholine is so essential to memory, in fact, that acetylcholine deficits are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

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.  Without optimal acetylcholine levels in your brain, your focus becomes sluggish causing brain fog and mental fatigue.

Acetylcholine helps your forebrain communicate with your limbic system. Degeneration of this communicate pathway is linked to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

What Enhances Acetylcholine Levels?

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.

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.

Choline, found in foods high in fat like eggs and meat, is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  Your nerves use choline to make acetylcholine, so it’s important to include choline in your diet. Chronic illness, systemic inflammation, some medications, and aging may also deplete acetylcholine levels.

5 Brain Function Benefits of Acetylcholine 

1. Enhance Memory and Support Learning

Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that allows the neurons in your brain to communicate with each other, maintaining and strengthening the neural connections responsible for a sharp memory. This ability to stimulate and suppress connections between the regions of the brain can greatly impact your ability to learn new information.  For example, the selective suppression of synaptic transmission can prevent recall of previously stored information from interfering with the learning of new information. Similarly, drugs that block acetylcholine receptors are used during surgeries, causing people to forget what happened while they were under the influence of the drug.   It’s therefore not surprising that low acetylcholine levels begin to weaken the neural pathways required to retrieve information, contributing to poor recall, brain fog and memory lapses, like forgetting where you left your keys or inability to recall a word..

2. Boost Physical and Mental Energy

Acetylcholine can be excitatory in the brain, providing mental energy and assisting with focus, attention, learning and memory.  Acetylcholine also provides physical energy as the interface between your nervous system and your muscles. Acetylcholine tells your muscles to work.  Low levels of acetylcholine may contribute to muscle weakness or fatigue that worsen with exercise or exertion. The muscles may work for a while, then exhaust their supply of acetylcholine, leading to extreme fatigue.

3. Enhance Mood

Acetylcholine has been linked with mood disorders, including depression and mania, and emotional instability.  Research has linked acetylcholine inhibitors with depressive symptoms.

Acetylcholine excites or inhibits the neurons in your brain which impacts your mood and how you respond to internal and external stimulation.  For example, acetylcholine coordinates how nerve messages are fired and can make your neurons fire more rapidly neurons in response to changing environmental conditions, provoking  emotions like anxiety, aggression, irritability and agitation.

4. Reduce Pain and Inflammation

Your vagus nerve is your body’s inflammatory pathway because it releases the anti-inflammatory neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  As you may know, pain is a signal from your brain to your body.  When your vagus nerve releases acetylcholine, you help calm the pain and inflammation in your body and brain.  Research on high anxiety subjects found that their pain perception dropped significantly when their vagus nerve released the calming neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

5. Improve Gut Brain Communication

Your vagus nerve releases acetylcholine to support every aspect of digestion.

It triggers the release of stomach acid, allows the gall bladder to release bile to help break down fat, the pancreas to release enzymes and intestines to assimilate nutrients. Poor digestion and poor absorption of critical nutrients are also a common symptom of low acetylcholine potentially leading to malnutrition.

Acetylcholine is the primary chemical messenger between your gut and your brain and helps with communication between the gut brain axis.  Acetylcholine also supports motility or movement of food through the digestive tract. When food does not move through the digestive channel and sits too long in the small intestine, it can contribute to dysbiosis and conditions like IBS and SIBO.  Poor motility also contributes to constipation.


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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.

2 responses to “Essential Oils to Boost Brain Function”

  1. Hello!! A fellow practitioner is looking for ideas to help her husband with TBI. Can you suggest one of your fabulous oils? Thx! T.

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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!