How Parasympathetic is Critical to Your Health

by Jodi Cohen

Parasympathetic state

The Parasympathetic State affects EVERY aspect of your well-being!

Digestion, detoxification, and immune functions are only turned on when your body is in a parasympathetic state.  Simply put: when stress is on, your ability to heal is turned off. You should optimally be in a parasympathetic state 80 percent of the time, but many people struggle to be in this state at any point during their day. This is because stress inhibits the parasympathetic response and the body’s essential healing processes shut down.  

What is the Parasympathetic State?

The parasympathetic state is the healing state that brings your nervous system into balance. Your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) runs all of the involuntary mechanisms in your body that are not under your conscious control, such as your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, respiration, cell activity, and even body temperature. The two branches of your ANS include the Parasympathetic branch, known as the “Rest, Digest and Heal” state, and the Sympathetic “Fight, Flight or Freeze” state.  These two branches operate with a push-pull dynamic and activate very different physical and mental states of being.   For example, your Sympathetic branch makes energy available for muscles to mobilize, fight or flee. It is your Sympathetic state that speeds up your heart while your Parasympathetic state slows it down.  Parasympathetic turns on your digestion, but when you feel anxiety, the Sympathetic branch kicks in and turns off digestion. There is a constant calibration between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems with One or the other playing a more active role at any given time.  This constant state of balance between our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is facilitated by your vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body which originates in the brain and wraps through almost every organ in the body. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are always operational, but there is a balance between them. One or the other is always more active. The yin and yang pull of these two systems keeps our body in homeostasis, or balance. Together they ensure that we have enough resources, in the right places, at the right time. All processes of your healing and health maintenance — including digestion, detoxification, immune activities, tissue regeneration, and being aroused — happen in the parasympathetic state.  Almost all disease and dysfunction result from you not being able to drop into the Parasympathetic state.

How Do Essential Oils Stimulate the Parasympathetic State?

While there are many methods of stimulating the parasympathetic state, ranging from a surgical implant that sends an electrical charge to your neck, to gagging yourself or enjoying your own personal ice bucket challenge by regularly splashing freezing cold water on your face, essential oils offer a non-invasive tool for naturally triggering the Parasympathetic state. Applying our stimulatory Parasympathetic™ blend behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone helps you immediately trigger the parasympathetic rest and digest response.   Parasympathetic™ is formulated from a proprietary synergistic combination of Clove oil, which is highly stimulatory, and Lime oil which has super small molecules.  The combination of these two oils creates a blend that is super stimulatory and very easily accessible through the skin and olfactory channels and serves as a far less invasive method for triggering the parasympathetic state. Clove and Lime oils also carry other healing properties. For example, clove oil a powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal agent that has long been used to dull pain, heal infections, purify blood and keep unwanted viral invaders at bay, and balance blood pressure.  Research has demonstrated that citrus oils, like Lime, help stimulate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant known to protect you against inflammation and reduce our chances of developing autoimmunity as well as normalize “neuroendocrine hormone levels and immune function.” Lime oil was found to be “more effective than antidepressants.” We recommend applying the Parasympathetic™ blend to vagus nerve three times daily (ideally before meals).


How the Parasympathetic State is Critical to Your Health

Your ability to drop into the Parasympathetic State  is critical to the following functions of your body:

1. Digestion

Digestion can only occur in a Parasympathetic state.  In other words, how you eat can be more important than what you eat.  To get the most nutrients from our food, you need to invest not only in a pristine diet, but also in taking the time to eat in a parasympathetic state to ensure that nutrients are properly delivered to the cells.  If we eat under stress, the nutrients in our food will not be properly digested, absorbed or assimilated.  Think of an ambulance that is stuck in traffic and can’t make it to the person in need – that is what is happening in our bodies when we eat under stress – our nutrients aren’t making it into our cells to help us heal. When you eat in the parasympathetic state, the brain activates all of your digestive functions, including the production of saliva, release of stomach acid, enzymes and bile.  The parasympathetic state supports nutrient assimilation and motility. Peristalsis, the muscle contractions required to move food and waste through your system, also relies on a Parasympathetic state. The inability to drop into the Parasympathetic state is a primary cause of constipation.  The Parasympathetic state also allows the gut to signal the brain about hunger and satiety, helping you better know when you are truly hungry and full. Applying Parasympathetic™ behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone before meals helps to drop you into the Parasympathetic state will help you heal faster because the nutrients are actually getting into your body in a way that the body can use them. Eating in the Parasympathetic state can help heal digestive disorders including:

  • SIBO– A key component to healing SIBO is the “Housekeeping Wave” (peristalsis), which is triggered by the parasympathetic state.
  • IBS – Poor communication between the gut and the brain may contribute to the abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea that are the symptoms of IBS. The parasympathetic state turns on optimal bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain.
  • Constipation– Peristalsis, the muscle contractions of the intestines that moves the stool, is triggered by the parasympathetic state.
  • Acid indigestion (GERD)– The parasympathetic state. signals the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus to close, preventing acid reflux from stomach to esophagus.
  • Bloating– Bloating is an indication of a stomach acid or enzyme deficiency, and the parasympathetic state is responsible for producing adequate acid and enzymes for digestion.
  • Bile stasis– The parasympathetic state triggers production of bile, and signals the gallbladder to release bile into the intestines to digest dietary fats.
  • Dry mouth– The parasympathetic state triggers the production of saliva, which is a crucial element of periodontal health and digestion.
  • Anorexia/Bulimia – The parasympathetic state allows the gut to signal the brain about hunger and satiety.


2. Detoxification

Detoxification, or your body’s mechanism of eliminating toxins, only occurs in the Parasympathetic state. The vagus nerve, which triggers the parasympathetic response, connects to all the organs of detoxification including the lungs, spleen, kidney, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, stomach and colon.   Parasympathetic™ blend also helps to support brain detoxification and supports the detoxification of the vagus nerve. Parasympathetic™ blend not only drops you into the parasympathetic state where detoxification occurs, but the blend’s key ingredients of Clove and Lime also support your detoxification. Research shows that the limonene found in Lime essential oil is known to stimulate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that serves as a natural chelator that can bind to environmental toxins like heavy metals, pesticides, mold toxins, and other pollutants, which may trigger autoimmunity. Glutathione also helps protect cell mitochondria, enhance tissue recovery, and modulate the immune system.  Unfortunately, most nutritional supplements of glutathione are not absorbed well and do not raise glutathione levels within the cells, so Lime oil’s ability to help stimulate the production of glutathione inside the cells contributes to the Parasympathetic™ blend’s ability to support detoxification.

3. Inflammation

The parasympathetic state reduces inflammation in your body.  It is the vagus nerve that serves as a detection system for inflammation. The vagus nerve’s vast network of fibers stationed around the organs identify inflammation (such as the presence of inflammatory proteins) and alert your brain to send out anti-inflammatory signals, in essence helping to prevent chronic inflammation in your body. Chronic or excessive inflammation can be linked to heart disease, autoimmunity, and loss of cognitive capacities and often results when we are unable to drop into the Parasympathetic state. The Parasympathetic state helps improve communication between your body and your brain to help modulate your inflammatory response.  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.

READ THIS NEXT: Parasympathetic for Inflammation

The ability of your vagus nerve to send signals to your body can be compromised from chronic stress and toxins like heavy metals.  To ensure optimal vagal signaling, apply the Parasympathetic™ oil on your vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone). Research has shown strong decrease in inflammatory symptoms from stimulating 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. Research also shows that the limonene found in citrus essential oils is known to stimulate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant known to protect you against inflammation and reduce our chances of developing autoimmunity. Unfortunately, most nutritional supplements of glutathione are not absorbed well and do not raise glutathione levels within the cells, so Lime oil’s ability to help stimulate the production of glutathione inside the cells contributes to the Parasympathetic™ blend’s ability to prevent or reduce systemic inflammation in the gut and the brain.

READ THIS NEXT: Essential Oils for Vagal Tone

4. Immunity

The Parasympathetic state turns on your immune processes, allowing your body to fight pathogens, bacteria, fungus, parasites, viruses and infections.  The sympathetic “fight or flight” state depresses immune function, opening the door to pathogens and chronic infections.  This can create a viscous cycle as chronic infections put you into an inflamed state which further triggers the sympathetic nervous system.  More specifically, dysbiotic conditions, like yeast, fungus, bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, or parasitic infestations, all profoundly affect your capacity to absorb nutrients. Subsequent inflammation and toxicity disrupt all of your homeostatic systems of digestion. Research shows that the limonene found in Lime essential oil (an ingredient in the Parasympathetic™ blend) is known to stimulate the production of glutathione, which helps regulate your immune system. Unfortunately, most nutritional supplements of glutathione are not absorbed well and do not raise glutathione levels within the cells, so Lime oil’s ability to help stimulate the production of glutathione inside your cells contributes to the Parasympathetic™ blend’s ability to support immune function. Consider Parasympathetic State for chronic infections like:

  • H Pylori
  • Candida
  • Fungal Infections
  • Periodontal Infections (Parasympathetic state triggers saliva in mouth)
  • Chronic Sinus, Respiratory, Gut, or Urinary infections

READ THIS NEXT: Essential Oils for Candida Overgrowth


5. Brain Health

Parasympathetic™ is a powerful blend to help support brain health, by helping to reduce brain inflammation and detoxify the vagus nerve. Your brain detoxifies and drains toxins down your neck while you sleep.

READ THIS NEXT : Essential Oils for Brain Detoxification

If your vagal nerve channel is infected or compromised, it can impede the hydraulics system of your brain draining toxins, along with the vagus nerve’s ability to send and receive signals to your body.  If these toxins are recirculated, they trigger increased brain inflammation and can result in symptoms like memory issues, poor focus, vision problems, pain, fatigue and mood issues. An inflamed brain results not only in slow thinking, but also in diminished strength and coordination.  This is because every muscle contraction starts with a signal from your brain.  Nerve cells connected to your brain signal your muscles to relax or contract.  If the nerve signals from the brain are impeded by any kind of inflammation, the downstream muscles and organ systems are impacted.  As a result, the strength of your muscle is only as good as its nerve connection.  The same holds true for inflammation’s role in obstructing vagus-nerve activation. This is one of the reasons the Parasympathetic™ blend is such a powerful healing tool.  The Parasympathetic™ blend helps to manually activate the vagus nerve to stimulate your body’s parasympathetic response.

READ THIS NEXT: Parasympathetic for Brain Health

 6. Depression

Stimulating your vagus nerve with the Parasympathetic™ blend can help lessen symptoms of depression. In fact, recent studies demonstrate that vagus nerve stimulation “can significantly reduce multiple symptoms of depression, including anxiety, sleep disturbance, and hopelessness.” A growing body of evidence has shown that depression is associated with structural and functional abnormalities in multiple brain regions involved in emotional processing, self-representation, reward, and external stimulus like stress.  In fact, research suggests that stress and inflammation initiate cognitive, affective, and possibly biological processes that increase risk for depression. Research has shown strong decrease in inflammatory symptoms from stimulation of your vagus nerve, which also helps to modulate the activity and connectivity of key brain regions involved in depression and mood regulation.  Vagus nerve stimulation also helps support conditions that are co-morbid with depression, including chronic pain disorders, cardiovascular disorder, and autism.  Finally, research has demonstrated that citrus oils, like Lime which is a key ingredient in Parasympathetic™ blend, have been clinically proven to normalize “neuroendocrine hormone levels and immune function,” and were found to be “more effective than antidepressants.”  We recommend applying the Parasympathetic™ blend to your vagus nerve three times daily (ideally before meals). Learn more about essential oils for depression HERE.  

7. Pain Relief

The Parasympathetic state can help reduce pain perception.  Pain is a signal from your brain to your body.  When you calm your brain by helping it drop into the parasympathetic state, you help calm your pain.  Research on high anxiety subjects found that their pain perception dropped significantly when they were in the parasympathetic state.  Extreme athletes also recover more quickly from exercise when the activate the Parasympathetic state. The Clove oil contained in the Parasympathetic™ blend has been used throughout history to relieve pain. For example, dentists long used clove oil  to help treat and relieve pain.  Clove oil makes an ideal natural pain-killer due to its anti-inflammation, antispasmodic and analgesic properties. It is thought to work by blocking nerve signals from sending the message of pain from the body to the brain, thus giving the user a break from pain. Parasympathetic™ oil can be used to reduce the body’s inflammatory response (Read More HERE).  The warming characteristic of clove oil is thought to provide numbing relief from pain and the antioxidants found in this oil assist in the protection of body cells.  Further, a rat study conducted by the Journal of Planta Medica discovered that a chemical compound present in clove essential oil was successful at recovering nerve functions of rats with diabetic neuropathy.  

8. Gut Health

Impaired digestion can contribute to inflammation.  One of the most important elements of healing the gut is to eat in the optimal rest and digest Parasympathetic state.  The Parasympathetic state sends increased blood flow to the small intestine, allowing for healing of the intestinal wall and optimal enzymatic activity and nutrient assimilation. The parasympathetic state also activates the beneficial effects of the probiotic bacteria in the gut and triggers peristalsis, the muscle contractions that move food and waste through the digestive tract, known as the “Housekeeping Wave”. A lack of motility can lead to dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance), including small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).  To trigger the Parasympathetic state, apply a drop of Parasympathetic™ oil to your vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) before meals.   

9. Stress Management

The first line of defense against stress is known as the “fight or flight” response triggered by the sympathetic nervous system.  Stress activates your sympathetic survival response, which effectively turns off everything not relevant to immediate survival, including digestion, detoxification and immune function.  In the sympathetic state, blood flow is routed away from the organs of digestion toward muscles in the arms and legs in preparation for flight.  The sympathetic state also increases heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. We are designed to switch into this sympathetic state, flee from danger, then drop back into the balanced Parasympathetic “rest and digest” state where we can rest, repair and heal. To help stimulate the Parasympathetic response, apply Vibrant Blue Oils Parasympathetic™ blend to the vagal nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone).  Read more about Essential Oils for Stress HERE.

10. Adrenal Health

Although your autonomic nervous system does not directly control the adrenals, a chronic Sympathetic “fight or flight” response can trigger a stress response.  In a state of chronic stress, your stress response mechanism, known as the HPA Axis, triggers your adrenal glands to produce high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol which can push the body into adrenal fatigue.  The parasympathetic state normalizes an elevated HPA Axis, helping to put the brakes on excessive cortisol output, which can help heal the adrenals.  Applying Parasympathetic™ in combination of Adrenal™ can help balance the adrenals.  

11.  Energy

Your body needs energy and vitality to heal.  Energy fuels your body’s internal functions and repairs, building and maintaining cells and tissues, and facilitating the chemical reactions that allow us to heal. When you are stuck in the sympathetic “fight or flight” state, your ability to regenerate, digest, and detoxify and heal slow down dramatically, allowing toxins to accumulate which contribute to your sense of fatigue.  When you help your body drop into the healing parasympathetic state, your body can finally get rid of the accumulated toxins and start to regain energy and vitality. In addition, the Parasympathetic “rest and digest” state allows your mind and body relax which reduces the production of cortisol and allows for optimal energy flow.  

12. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

TBIs can impede nerve signaling, including the vagus nerve which travels down both sides of your neck and triggers the parasympathetic response.  The Parasympathetic™ blend is especially helpful in relieving headaches, dizziness and nausea.  Topically applying Parasympathetic™ blend on the vagal nerve behind the ear on the neck can help manually override any TBI damage and help reset the autonomic nervous system for optimal drainage from the brain.  

13.  Autism

The Parasympathetic™ blend stimulates the vagus nerve and helps drop children on the spectrum into a state of calm.  Parents of autistic children report, “After starting our son Vibrant Blue Parasympathetic™, we immediately noticed more calmness. His body’s hyperactivity improved a lot. He’s developed a wonderful resilience. He’s able to sit longer for work and not get frustrated or talk nonsense. He’s very motivated to do well in his work and even taking initiative to do things and stick with them, where he would have just given up before.”  Read more about Essential Oils for Autism HERE. Dr. Stephen Porges, author of The Polyvagal Theory,  identifies how the frequently observed rocking and swinging behaviors in autistic individuals “may reflect a naturally occurring bio-behavioral strategy to stimulate and regulate a vagal system that is not efficiently functioning” that could be attributed to the ability of the Parasympathetic™ blend to support vagus nerve toxicity. Read More about Vagus Nerve Toxicity HERE.

14. Heart Health

The Parasympathetic state is critical for heart health as your heart rate is controlled through a delicate balance between the two states of your nervous system.  Your “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system raises our heart rate so we can pump more blood to our muscles and flee from danger, while the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system slows down our heart rate so you can rest repair and recover. The vagus nerve serves as temperate gauge to control your heart rate.  In the parasympathetic state, the vagus nerve releases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine prolonging the time between heartbeats, thus slowing your pulse.  Several clients have experienced the slowing of successive heartbeats, known as heart rate variability (HRV) and measured a dramatic improvement after using the Parasympathetic™ blend. Heart disease often occurs when you unable to drop into the Parasympathetic state.  According to a 2010 study in the European Heart Journal, “Heart failure (HF) is characterized by an autonomic imbalance with withdrawal of vagal activity and increased sympathetic activity.”  In addition, inflammation is a primary cause of heart disease and the Parasympathetic™ blend can help reduce inflammation.  Finally, heart health requires daily regeneration of the heart and we regenerate in the parasympathetic state.  To help improve your heart health, topically apply the Parasympathetic™ oil on the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) 3 times daily.  Read More about Parasympathetic™ oil for Heart Health HERE.

15. Sexual health

Sexual arousal is parasympathetic event.  The same way the vagal nerve connects to the digestive organs, it also connects to your genital organs to increase blood flow and sensation.  Erectile Dysfunction is often associated with insufficient blood flow to your genitals, so Parasympathetic™ blend (applied on the vagus nerve behind the mastoid bone, not directly on the genitals) can increase blood flow to the area.  

16. Blood Sugar Support

A sympathetic state (stress) increases blood sugar and insulin output. Research with mice in Sweden correlated a significant drop in blood sugar levels as a direct result of the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. The research found that the autonomic nervous system plays an important role in the release of insulin from beta cells in the endocrine part of the pancreas.   Not surprisingly, the sympathetic nervous system is activated in response to the falling blood sugar as the body perceives this as an emergency and the parasympathetic state can be triggered to lower blood sugar levels.

17. Anxiety

Anxiety is a repetitive experience of fear that occurs when your “Fight or Flight” survival mechanisms are activated.  When your fear response is fired up, everything else needs to shut down to devote your body’s metabolism and energy  to keep you on alert to potential or imminent danger.   This anxiety state is controlled by the Sympathetic “Fight or Flight” branch of your nervous system.  The Sympathetic state activates all your muscles for such actions, increases your heart and respiratory rate, increases your blood pressure, and activates you into doing something. This is why anxiety promotes twitches, shaking legs, twirling of hair, and pacing. It says move, act, fight, flee.  By way of contrast, the parasympathetic state promotes the feeling of safety. Dropping into the Parasympathetic state helps to shift you out of anxiety. Read more about Parasympathetic for Anxiety HERE.  

18. Trauma Release

Trauma often occurs when perceived danger tips your nervous system into the “fight, flight, or freeze” Survival Mode known as the Sympathetic state.  When that trauma is not processed, your nervous system can get stuck in that Survival Mode state and replay the experience of the initial trauma, even in safe surroundings. To heal trauma, you must shift the nervous system toward the healing and regenerative Parasympathetic state, and out of Survival Mode. Activating the Parasympathetic state, by applying Parasympathetic™ blend behind your earlobe on the mastoid bone, prevents you from having chronic Fight/Flight/Freeze responses and turns on healing.  

19.  Insomnia 

Access to a parasympathetic state allows for relaxation, quieting of brain chatter, and deeper levels of sleep.  During sleep the sympathetic nervous system—the fight-or-flight system— relaxes, and blood pressure falls, muscles relax and skin vessels dilate, warming the body.  If the Sympathetic nervous system is active, it can negatively impact your circadian rhythms, which interferes with sleep. That said, the Parasympathetic™ blend can be stimulatory and should be used during the daytime to help the body drop into the parasympathetic state.  Do not apply the Parasympathetic™ blend immediately prior to sleep.  Circadian Rhythm™ blend is the best choice for calming the mind before sleep.

20. Enhancing Other Oils

Parasympathetic™ increases the efficacy of all our other oil blends. The parasympathetic state allows clearer communication between brain and body, increasing your receptivity to the other oils.  Read about how the Parasympathetic™ blend enhances the benefit of other oils HERE.


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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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