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.
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 sympathetic nervous system which serves as the “gas pedal” to mobilize your body and brain into your “fight or flight” response to danger and the parasympathetic nervous system, which serves as the “brake pedal” that initiates a relaxation response to restore reparative function after the threat has passed. For simplification purposes, I refer to the activation of the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system as the “parasympathetic 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.
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.
Essential oils are natural, non-invasive, easy tools to use to activate your vagus nerve. They possess both olfactory (smell) and transdermal (topical application) qualities, making them easy to inhale and apply on the skin to activate your vagus nerve.
Research backs this up as inhaling essential oils such as lavender (Study) and bergamot (Study) have been shown to activate your vagus nerve as measured by improved heart rate variability. Inhaled essential oils travel directly to your brain (specifically to the prefrontal cortex behind your forehead) where they can immediately help calm the fear response in your brain. In addition, topically applied essential oils can cross the blood-brain barrier to stimulate your vagus nerve within the brain. Your skin is relatively permeable to fat-soluble substances like essential oils, making topical, or transdermal, application extremely effective.
It is important to note that different application points yield different results. You can significantly amplify your results by intentionally applying essential oils on specific healing points known as acupuncture points or reflexology points that are correlated with specific organ systems or regions of the brain, like the vagus nerve. For example, acupuncture points behind the ear and around the neck are the most effective points for stimulating the auricular branch of your vagus nerve. A neural anatomy study showed the vagus nerve is most accessible for stimulation via the lower half of the back ear. Research on “acupuncture and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) found that acupuncture points produce clinical benefits through stimulation of the vagus nerve and/or its branches in the head and neck region that are anatomically proximate to vagus nerve pathways there, where the VNS electrode is surgically implanted.” (Study)
Applying Vibrant Blue Oils 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.” (Study) Lime oil was found to be “more effective than antidepressants.” (Study)
We recommend applying the Parasympathetic™ blend to vagus nerve three times daily (ideally before meals).
Your ability to drop into the Parasympathetic State is critical to the following functions of your body:
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:
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 (Study) 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.
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.
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. (Study) 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 has found that clove oil, and its key constituent eugenol possesses significant anti-inflammatory qualities and can help inhibit inflammatory responses. (Study)
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.
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 triggers the release of stress hormones that downregulates your immune system function to prioritize immediate survival. This reduces your ability to fight off pathogens, making you more susceptible 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.
What’s more, the production and circulation of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine signal opportunistic bacteria in your gut to quickly multiply and release toxins that further overwhelm your immune system. Opportunistic pathogens are bacteria that are normally present at low levels in your gut where they cause no harm. When your body is healthy and resilient, these opportunistic pathogens lay low so your immune system doesn’t detect them. But the moment they detect stress hormones, indicating that your resistance is low and you are more vulnerable, they sense “opportunity” and multiply quickly.
Consider Parasympathetic™ for chronic infections like:
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.
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.
Stimulating your vagus nerve with the Parasympathetic™ blend can help lessen symptoms of depression. Vagus nerve stimulation “can significantly reduce multiple symptoms of depression, including anxiety, sleep disturbance, and hopelessness,” according to a study on Treating Depression with Transcutaneous Auricular Vagus Nerve Stimulation. (Study)
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. (Study)
A significant reduction in inflammatory symptoms has been correlated with stimulation of your vagus nerve. This 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. What’s more, 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,” according to a study on “Effects of Citrus Fragrance on Immune Function and Depressive States”. (Study)
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 from Pain Practice, the official journal of World Institute of Pain, on high-anxiety subjects has found that their pain perception dropped significantly when they were in the parasympathetic state. (Study) Extreme athletes also recover more quickly from exercise, when they activate the parasympathetic state. (Study)
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.
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. Read more about Gut Health here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 sympathetic nervous system prepares you to fight or flee by reducing insulin release and increasing blood sugar to boost your energy. The parasympathetic nervous system operates in reverse, lowering blood sugar levels, when you are at rest. (Study) The sympathetic nervous system is also 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.
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.
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.
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 over-active, the body gets stuck in a chronic stress response. In this state, increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol are produced, which stimulates the mind and body to a highly alert and wakeful state. High cortisol levels also depress the sleep hormone melatonin, which interferes with your ability to fall sleep.
Activating the parasympathetic nervous system allows the body to relax and release the sleep hormone melatonin, which enhances your ability to relax and 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.
Your vagus nerve controls communication between your gut and your brain, including messages of hunger and satiety that are best communicated in the parasympathetic state. Poor communication leads to over- or under-eating and can contribute to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. When your vagus nerve stimulates the parasympathetic state and is able to clearly communicate signals of hunger or fullness to your brain, you feel appropriately hungry or satiated and are then able to achieve healthy body weight.
Research from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has found that individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa respond differently to hunger signals, noting that “brain circuitry differences in anorexics make them less sensitive to reward and the motivational drive of hunger.” (Study)
Supporting the parasympathetic state and optimal vagus nerve function helps improve brain mechanisms that support appetite regulation. Read more about essential oils for weight loss here.
Stimulating the vagus nerve can strengthen memory. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it triggers the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine into an area of the brain called the amygdala, which strengthens memory storage and improves your ability to process and retain information.
Emotionally arousing or meaningful events generate strong memories to foster sentimental pleasure and help avoid future danger. Here is the process: a high energy event triggers your vagus nerve to release chemical messengers into brain structures that process memory, such as your amygdala and hippocampus. Upon activation, these memory-related regions work harder to properly put the attributes of emotionally arousing experiences into long-term storage. Read more about how Parasympathetic™ supports memory.
Your vagus nerve tells your lungs when it is time to breathe and communicates with your diaphragm to produce deep breaths. Deep, calming diaphragm breathing plays a key role in healing practices like yoga and meditation, all of which activate the parasympathetic state. Read more about essential oils for breathing.
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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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!