Heal Your Blood Brain Barrier with Essential Oils

by Jodi Cohen

Healing brain inflammation begins with healing your blood-brain barrier.

Your blood-brain barrier, the protective shield that surrounds your brain, can break down and become permeable compromising its ability to keep harmful substances out of your brain and contributing to brain inflammation, cognitive decline, mental illness and autoimmune disease.

Your blood-brain barrier is a highly selective, semipermeable border comprised of a finely woven mesh of endothelial cells wedged extremely close together and blood vessels that surrounds and protects your brain from potentially dangerous agents that could disturb brain function. The tight gap between the cells of your blood-brain barrier, known as tight junctions, allow only super small, nano-sized molecules, fat-soluble molecules, and some gases to pass freely through the capillary wall and into brain tissue.

Just like your gut barrier, your blood-brain barrier can become permeable, or leaky.  You might think of a breached blood-brain barrier as an open wound, allowing environmental compounds and antigens (molecules capable of causing an immune response) to access, and damage, your brain.

Once the barrier breaches, there is nothing to prevent the harmful molecules from crossing into your brain.  These inflammatory molecules trigger a constant immune response, resulting in chronic neuro inflammation and accelerated brain degeneration.  In fact, respected autoimmune researcher and clinician, Dr. Datis Kharrazian has noted that “the extent of blood-brain barrier permeability determines extent of brain inflammation.”

Just like a broken window must be seal and repaired to prevent the elements, like wind, rain and snow, from pouring into your home, a permeable blood-brain barrier must be repaired to prevent any further influx of inflammatory pathogens in the brain.  Healing your blood-brain barrier is a critical first step in healing your brain and preserving brain function.

Symptoms of Blood Brain Barrier Permeability

Blood Brain Barrier Permeability can unleash an inflammatory cascade that can contribute to a number of different brain and mental health problems and symptoms, including:

  • Brain fog, hazy thoughts or poor recall
  • Brain fatigue or reduced brain endurance after high concentration tasks like driving or reading or exposure to certain food proteins or chemicals
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive Decline or noticeable variations in mental speed
  • Lethargy or Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus
  • Dis-coordination
  • Change in Behaviors/Personality
  • Change in Speech
  • Change in Muscle Tone or Muscle Weakness
  • Trembling, tremors or involuntary twitching
  • Headaches or migraines
  • ADD/ADHD

These symptoms might initially be transient, meaning that they come and go, but as time wears on they become more permanent and once function is lost, it is nearly impossible to get it back because brain cells do not regenerate.  As Datis Kharrazian notes, “If lose a certain amount of neurons, potentials do go away.” That said, your best healing strategy is to stop the damage before it gets worse. The first step in stopping the damage is healing your blood-brain barrier.

How Essential Oils Help Heal Your Blood Brain Barrier 

Fortunately, your blood-brain barrier has the potential to regenerate itself relatively quickly when given the right nutrients from plants and essential oils derived from plants. Essential oils can play a powerful role in helping to repair the tight junctions to restore the integrity of your healthy blood-brain barrier.

As you may know, essential oils are actually the ideal chemical composition to pass through an intact blood-brain barrier, which prevents everything but super small particles from passing.  The molecular components that make up essential oils are so small that they’re known as volatile and aromatic. This is because essential oil molecules are so small – approximately 40 million-trillion molecules in one drop – that they literally circulate in the air where our noses detect them as smell.

Essential oils are lipophilic (fat-friendly), allowing them to access and bind to cell membranes, which are also comprised primarily of fat.  Your cellular membranes serve as a semi permeable, protective barrier, regulating what enters and leaves your cell.

Surface receptors that line the outside of your cell membranes allow your cells to receive chemical signals from your brain and your body.  When the appropriate chemical messenger binds with these receptors, it initiates a cascade of chemical changes inside your cellular membrane, triggering modifications in the function of the cell.

The selectively permeable nature of your cellular membrane relies on specialized transport mechanisms to help permeate your cell membrane and move into the cell without being limited by the cell’s transport machinery.   This process is known as passive diffusion and only a few substances – including gases like oxygen, nutrients, alcohol, some drugs (like anesthetics) and essential oils — are capable of moving in this way.   For example, the cells of your blood-brain barrier actively transport metabolic products such as glucose across the barrier in response to signals on their receptor sites.

Research is demonstrating that when essential oils can interact with the receptor sites on your cellular membranes, influencing the excitatory and inhibitory effects on your brains chemical messengers.  It is believed that the compatibility of chemical composition allows essential oils to bind to and modulate cell receptors and transporters. This is because, like your brain cells, your cellular membranes are composed of lipids. Essential oils are lipid soluble and small, allowing them to directly traverse your cellular membrane.

This is one reason that short chain fatty acids help heal inflammation – the fatty acids are composed of lipids so they can actually access the cell membrane.  Essential oils have the same chemical composition and work in the same way! They support the normal electrical functioning of your brain and nervous system.

This makes essential oils especially helpful when your cells are compromised in their ability to efficiently pass substances across its membrane. Your cells can’t repair without the proper exchange of nutrients, but they cannot get the proper nutrients to repair and heal because membrane transport mechanisms are suboptimal. Essential oils have the ability to influence cells even when there is physiologic compromise such as during times of poor nutrition or environmental threats.

What Compromises Your Blood-Brain Barrier?

Anything that triggers inflammation in the brain can then compromise the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. Remember that both the gut barrier and the blood-brain barrier are comprised of tight junctions that form a belt-like adhesive seal around the space between your cells.

Tight junctions really enforce the barriers into your gut and your brain by selectively limiting the movement of water and other particles through the space between your cells.  Inflammation can set off a chemical cascade that makes your tight junctions less tight and more permeable, contributing to BBB permeability. Research has correlated chronic inflammation with a defective epithelial barrier, specifically implicating the role of tight junction stability.

The following factors all contribute to brain inflammation:

Stress:  Stress triggers your body to release the stress hormone cortisol.  In healthy amounts, cortisol helps to keep inflammation in check.  Research found that acute and prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol in regulating your inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to cortisol. Specifically, your immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect which can trigger widespread inflammation that can make your blood-brain barrier more permeable.

The mechanism for how this works is a little complicated, but basically stress, and specifically the stress hormone cortisol, elevate the levels of  Zonulin, a small protein produced in the gut that regulates your tight junctions, making them more or less tight (Research HERE). Elevated levels of Zonulin make tight junctions less tight and more permeable, compromising the integrity of your blood-brain barrier. It’s not surprising that research correlates elevated levels of Zonulin with inflammatory autoimmune diseases.

Trauma:  Any direct physical injury to your brain, like a traumatic brain injury or stroke (vascular injury) can physically damage your blood-brain barrier.  When neurons (brain cells) are injured or damaged, they release inflammatory signals that both activate the immune cells of the brain (microglia) and open up the blood-brain barrier, allowing immune cells (T cells) into the brain to clean up debris released by injured brain cells.  If not cleaned up and removed, injured debris would trigger an additional immune response in your brain. Unfortunately, once the blood-brain barrier is opened, it is difficult to close . This helps explain why research often correlates blood-brain barrier dysfunction following traumatic brain injury and many clients experience the onset or increase in symptoms following even minor physical injuries like concussions and whiplash.

Infections: Any kind of viral, bacterial, parasitic or fungal infection can compromise the integrity of your blood-brain barrier.  Research details how the “protective effect of the blood-brain barrier is lost during bacterial and viral infections” triggering “an increase in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier and/or direct invasion of the brain by microorganisms.” This is one reason meningitis is so dangerous.  It “disrupts the tight packing” of the blood brain cells. “This permits the bacteria to slip between the cells and gain access to the space between the brain and its surrounding membranes. There, the bacteria induce an inflammatory response that leads to an accumulation of fluids that puts pressure on the brain.” (Research HERE)

Research found that fungal infections like mold, and its toxic byproduct known as mycotoxins, reduce the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

Toxins: Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and aluminum are extremely toxic to brain cells and are not supposed to cross the blood brain barrier.  Environmental exposure to metals through vaccines, mercury amalgams and nano particles of aluminum from chemtrails can either bypass the blood brain barrier or be sequestered in and therefore potentially deleterious to brain barriers, according to research.

Research has found that nanoparticles are small sized (1-100 nm) particles derived from transition metals, silver, copper, aluminum, silicon, carbon and metal oxides that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and/or produce damage to the barrier integrity by altering endothelial cell membrane permeability.

Similarly, research found that acute lead poisoning results in brain swelling with micro vascular damage with Tight Junction opening, suggesting that blood-brain barrier is one of the main targets of lead-associated toxicity.

Lack of Sleep: Sleep is critical for healing your blood-brain barrier. Sleep restriction has been shown to impair the functioning of the blood-brain barrier and increase its permeability.  Melatonin research also shows that it can stabilize the blood-brain barrier and prevent damage caused by traumatic brain injury (more research HERE).

Heal Your Blood Brain Barrier with Essential Oils

You can repair and heal your blood-brain barrier with the right nutrients and essential oils. The tight junction proteins of the brain are very similar to the tight junctions in the gut.  The following essential oil blends can be used to help:

  1. Restore the integrity of the tight junctions and cells that line your blood-brain barrier
  2. Reduce brain inflammation
  3. Increase blood flow to the brain
  4. Enhance sleep

These strategies, along with dietary changes, help restore blood-brain barrier integrity by addressing the underlying issues that triggered your blood-brain barrier permeability.

1. Restore the integrity of the tight junctions and cells that line your blood-brain barrier 

Intestinal Mucosa™ is designed to gently permeate topically through the skin to regenerate and heal the tight junctions.  Originally designed for the gut lining, the realization that the tight junction proteins of the brain are very similar to the tight junctions in the gut prompted highly successful clinical trial on the brain.   When 2- 3 drops of Intestinal Mucosa™  are applied to the nape of the neck, those battling brain health challenges report an improvement in brain endurance and cognitive function.  For example, clients noted better word recall and sharpened memory.

2. Reduce brain inflammation

Anti-Inflammatory™ may be used to reduce inflammation and encourage regeneration in the inflamed tissue of the blood brain barrier. Formulated with a powerful combination of anti-inflammatory essential oils that help to heal the blood-brain barrier and anti inflame the brain.  For example, medieval knights would place dill seeds on open wounds to speed up healing. Similarly, Ginger Root has been shown to stimulate circulation and the immune system helps reducing and inflammation. Tarragon supports circulation and helps restore proper cellular function.  Finally, Frankincense is known to support brain health and reduce inflammation.  To apply, gently massage 2 – 3 drops  of Anti-Inflammatory™ to any around the back of the scalp and neck.

3. Increase blood flow to the brain

Improving blood flow and oxygen to the brain helps heal your blood-brain barrier.  This is one of the reasons that exercise is so helpful in healing brain inflammation – it helps increase oxygen flow to the brain. Essential oils, like Circulation™ blend, 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 and carrying oxygen and nutrients to the blood-brain barrier so that it might heal. Essential oils can also be used to help the veins contract, stimulating blood flow.

Circulation™ blend contains Black Pepper essential oil, which has been found to enhance circulation, increasing blood flow to your digestive system which helps boost nutrient absorption, so much so that it is often added supplement formulations to enhance the effectiveness of the supplement. Dr. Datis Kharrazian found that adding black pepper to his formulations increased the absorption rates by between 2 to 400 percent.

Apply 2- 3 drops of Circulation™ on the sides or back of the neck, over the left clavicle, to help support circulation. When blood circulation to the brain becomes sluggish, it can impact your physical and mental abilities, including your ability to focus and concentrate. Poor circulation in the brain can also contribute to fatigue, vertigo, dizziness, memory loss, and frequent and unexplained headaches.  Read more about Improving blood flow to your brain HERE.

4. Enhance sleep 

Sleep is critical for healing your blood-brain barrier. It’s impossible to resolve inflammation without adequate sleep because the lack of sleep activates your immune system and triggers a chronic inflammatory response. Melatonin is the key hormone to help us fall asleep.  It is typically released by the pineal gland in response to darkness, but modern toxins and artificial lighting can impede this release.  Circadian Rhythm™ blend can be applied around the base of the skull (apex of head, above ears and back of head) to help trigger the pineal gland to naturally release melatonin.

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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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