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How Smell Stimulates Your Brain

By Jodi Cohen

A smiling woman holding a bunch of lavender flowers with a purple adirondack chair in the background.

Your sense of smell connects directly to the part of your brain that regulates the release of several major hormones.  These hormones directly impacting how you feel and how you function.

Smell travels through your olfactory system to your hypothalamus a region of your brain that acts as your hormonal control center, by way of your amygdala in your limbic system.  When you smell an essential oil for the hypothalamus, it stimulates your hypothalamus to release hormones that trigger a rapid emotional response. (More HERE).

Your hypothalamus also regulates temperature, metabolism, energy balance, your stress response, and circadian rhythms. Research shows that essential oils can significantly impact the brain, calming emotional states and decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicated a decrease of autonomic arousal.

How Smell Stimulates Your Brain

Your brain’s rapid response to smell based stimuli like essential oils is best explained by research which estimates your sense of smell to be 10,000 times more acute than your other senses. Once registered, scent stimuli travel more quickly to the brain than do either sight or sound.

Scent has direct access to your limbic system with only two synapses separating your amygdala from your olfactory nerve.  No other sensory system has this kind of direct and intense contact with the neural substrates of your brain’s emotional control center, also known as your limbic system.  Your other four senses, including sound, sight, taste and touch must travel to other regions of the brain first, before reaching your limbic system.

How Smell Triggers the Release of Hormones

How Smell Stimulates the Brain, Jodi smelling flowersYour brain’s response to scent stimulates the release of hormones and neurochemicals that alter your physiology and your emotional response.   It is your hypothalamus that produces both excitatory hormones that stimulate brain activity, and inhibitory hormones that exhibit a more calming effect.

These brain hormones, in collaboration with your pituitary gland, control all hormonal messages for your endocrine, stress and digestive systems which, in turn, affect and protect every aspect of your health, including your emotional state.  In fact, your sense of smell is so sensitive that virtually any odor will elicit brain response registering some clinically demonstrable physical or behavioral reaction.

It is this  direct channel between smell and your hypothalamus by which essential oils help to combat stress and emotional trauma as well as stimulate the production of hormones.

This is the mechanism at play when you have an emotional response to an odor-evoked memory.

Essential Oils for the Hypothalamus

This direct pathway from the olfactory system to the hypothalamus can also be used to help return your hypothalamus to balance.

A variety of underlying issues, including toxins, stress, inflammation or head trauma can impede the optimal function of your hypothalamus.   When thrown out of balance, your hypothalamus may fail to release the chemical signals that stimulate–or inhibit–hormones that impact other endocrine organs, including your adrenal glands and your thyroid.  Supporting your hypothalamus can often help fix downstream hormonal and endocrine issues.

When the hypothalamus is out of balance, it can negatively impact:

  • Adrenal Function

  • Thyroid Function

  • Hunger and Thirst Impulses

  • The ability to handle stress

  • All endocrine Function (including the sexual organs)

Balancing Your Hypothalamus with Essential Oils

Fortunately, essential oils can be used to support your hypothalamic and keep this important part of your brain healthy.

Hypothalamus™ blend contains a proprietary blend of organic essential oils, including  Patchouli and Frankincense, which are high in sesquiterpenes.

Research shows that sesquiterpenes are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and have been found to increase oxygen around receptor sites near the hypothalamus because they are so small they are capable of penetrating deeply into your brain and carrying oxygen molecules into your brain tissue to help your brain heal.

Sesquiterpenes also specifically have an effect on our emotional center in the hypothalamus, helping us remain calm and balanced.

To help return the hypothalamus to the balance, apply 1 drop of Hypothalamus™ to the forehead right above the third eye (right above the nose between eyebrows and hair line) up to 6 times daily.


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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.