Thursday, 18 October 2012

Anatomy and Physiology - mental health in mind, body and spirit

How can our knowledge of anatomy and physiology help us in applying aromatherapy to mental health of mind, body and spirit?  Usually essential oils are applied in massage or self massage but some environments connected with mental health are no touch environments.  In any case our aim is to assist in particular with

Wound care
Skin care
Oral care
Pain management
Mood care - destructive emotion, fatigue, anxiety

Lets focus on mood care.  Our emotions.  learning to cope with our emotions is a key stage in our personal and professional developments.  And particularly if we want to be forward looking its no good wanting to be right all the time.  The only way to be right all the time is to be backward looking.  We have to learn to cope with being wrong some of the time.  This is particularly pronounced and problematic among those with mental health or developmental problems.

We know that essential oils have a profound effect on mood.  We know that whether it be caring for someone with mental health issues or devising protocols for artificially intelligent machines mood is profoundly important.  By 2045 artificial intelligence will be here so humanity needs to get this sorted out!

In previous periods huge effort went into emotional and spiritual care and in some cultures still does. In western culture day or 24 hour care receives considerable state resources to protect the vulnerable.  In other cultures the burden of care rests with the family.

As professionals we can use our knowledge of anatomy and physiology to improve our care.  Aromatherapy has been described as the controlled use of essential oils.  With our knowledge of essential oils and anatomy and physiology we can go one step further to describe aromatherapy as the systematic use of essential oils (Brealey 2012).  We have to dare to be wrong!

So let us consider the nervous system.

I shall assume knowledge of the autonomic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system and enteric nervous system our still mysterious primitive or 'gut brain'.  I shall borrow from inspired Catholic thought.  Before I do so let me define terms.  Emotion is the balance between vice and virtue and we can define 35 differant vices and virtues and show their relation to the organs of the body.  Whoa there!  There is a lot to digest there so take time to study that sentance and see how you feel about it.  Is it really possible to systemise emotion as a chemist systemises the physical properties of terpenes?  Maybe not but lets try.

Heedless of whether we are right are wrong let us charge on and see if we are exploring something useful.let me say in a short blogpost I am not going to achieve anything but pointers based on my experience of the way researchers may wish to follow and we are going to cover a lot of ground.  From the physical relation of the organs and the nervous system that controls and coordinates them to how we might affect those organs and restore balance to mind body and spirit through the use of thought yes but also the use of essential oils.

An illustration will help here from Dr Wighard Strethlows book on Hildegard of Bingens Spiritual Remedies.   Autonomic Nervous System Microsoft Encarta.

On page 40 of his book Dr Strethlow lists vices and virtues liber Vitae Meritorum (The book of vices and virtues)

1 Amor saeculi Material Love Amor caelestis Heavenly love
2 petulentia Petulance Disciplina Discipline
3 Joculatrix Love of entertainment Verecundia Love of Simplicity
4 obduratio Hard heartedness Misericordia Compassion
5 Ignavia Cowardice, resignation Divinia victoria Gods victory
6 Ira Anger, criminality Patientia Tranquility
7 Inepta laetitia Inappropriate Mirth Gemitus ad deum Yearning for God
8 Ingluvies ventri Gluttony Abstinentia Abstinence
9 Acerbitas Bitterness of heart Vera largitas Generosity
10 Impietas Wickedness. Infamy Pietas Devotion
11 Fallacitas Lying Veritas Truth
12 Contentio War, Contention Pax Peace
13 Infelicitas Unhappiness Beatitudo Blessedness
14 Immoderatio Immoderation, anarchy Discretio Discretion, moderation
15 Perditio Doom Salvatio animarum Salvation
16 Superbia Arrogance Humilitas Humility
17 Invidia Envy Charitas Charity
18 Inanis gloria Thirst for glory Timor domini Reverence for God
19 Inobedientia Disobedience Obedentia Obedience
20 Infidelitas Lack of faith Fides Faith
21 Desparatio Despair Spes Hope
22 Luxuria Obscenity Castitas Chastity
23 Injusticia Injustic Justitia Justice
24 Torpor Lethargy Fortitudo Fortitude
25 Oblivio Oblivion Sanctitas Holiness
26 Inconstantia Instability Constantia Stability
27 Cura terrenorum Concern for worldly goods Caeleste desiderum Heavenly desire
28 Obstantio Obstinacy Compunctio cordis remorse, compunction
29 Cupiditas Craving Contemptus mundi Letting go
30 Discordia Discord Concordia Concord
31 Scurrilitas Scurrility Reverentia Reverence 
32 Vagatio Vagabondage Stabilitas Stability
33 Maleficium Occultism Cultus dei Dedication to god
34 Avaritia Avarice Sufficientia Satisfaction
35 Tristia saeculi Melancholy Caeleste gaudium Heavenly joy

Browse St Hildegards Spiritual Remedies

Thats all I am going to say in a blogpost on anatomy and physiology but if you follow the link above you can read something of the inspired spritual thinking involved.  Or you can dismiss the evidence of your own eyes and the processing power of the universe's greatest invention and computor, your brain and call it unscientific!

lets take the 35 vertebrae which shelter the autonomic nervous system

Seven cervical vertebrae (but eight cervical nerve roots) 1. C1, 2. C2, 3. C3, 4. C4, 5. C5, 6. C6, 7. C7, 8. C8, Twelve thoracic vertebrae 9. T1, 10. T2, 11. T3, 12. T4, 13. T5, 14. T6, 15. T7, 16. T8, 17. T9, 18. T10, 19. T11, 20. T12,21.  Five lumbar vertebrae L1, 22. L2, 23. L3, 24. L4, 25. L5, Five sacral vertebrae 26. S1, 27. S2, 28. S3, 29. S4, 30. S5, Five vertebrae of the Coccyx 31,32,33,34,35 Coccygeal.  There is also the skull.

Lets take the 35 most commonly used essential oils for their relaxing and stimulating effects.  Can we relate these to the anatomy, their effects on the CNS, to their effect on mood, to the balance between virtue and vice that we call emotion.

St Hildegard didnt have much in the way of essential oils available to her but she points the way. She had available to her the resinoids frankincense, myrhh, rose oil and macerations of lavender, rose, sage etc by simply placing flowers or leaves in a jar of olive or almond oil and leaving on a sunny kitchen shelf.  Dr Strethlow's book takes in our knowledge of anatomy and physiology, the human condition, diet and remedies. Inspired spirituality of this sort does have great authenticity and is easy to understand. Dr Strethlow sets out St Hildegards visions and thinking very well. 

You might like to think of emotion as a balance the body strikes between vice and virtue according to the internal and external circumstances perceived. Today computor science is giving us remakable insights in human emotion and its role in the brain.  

So after our study of St Hildegards values framework we can say that human values lie (irrespective of race, religion, culture and circumstances) on a continuum - does honesty lie between lying and truth? Where you are on the continuum of human values across 35 vices and virtues constitutes what we call character. We must treat ourselves and others with forbearance and forgiveness. No one is perfect. I have always found books on the emotional aspects rather unsystematic and so hard to follow perhaps because we start with the oils and then relate them to emotion and mood via the physical/mental body rather than the other way round. (I know maybe the oils defy systemisation not least because they share components and Gabriel Mojays work is solidly grounded in understanding the mind/body ). 

All essential oils are in some measure stimulating or relaxing.  Because of their component mixtures some have features of both for example lavenders that contain both camphor and esters will be both stimulating and relaxing.  Tisserand describes the essential oils of use for anxiety and depression.  He also describes a number of mood states from his own practice and the oils supportive of each.

Starting from the spiritual aspects of received spirituality and the anatomy of the nervous system as it relates to the organs maybe helps point the way to the linking of the oils, emotions and spirituality. With this structure we can then perhaps come back to the mood states described in the aromatherapy textbooks with a fresh eye.

Coming back to the present day.  We talk about the Social Determinents of Health.  The quality of our interaction with others affect our health directly. 

If we seem a long way from aromatherapy then I apologise but practicioners need to work not only with their own self care and beliefs, doctors and nurses but an individuals own beliefs and their priests as well when it comes to the mental aspects particularly in end of life care.

Ian Brealey

1 comment:

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