Friday, 23 November 2012

The pleasure of essential oils, therapeutic applications and the 'escape from fear'

The research throws up some suprises. Orange oil being citrus one would imagine to be stimulating, 85% monoterpenes but this calms autonomic system activity (1) Hongratanaworakit T and Buchbauer, G. Autonomic and emotional responses after transdermal absorption of sweet orange oil in humans: placebo controlled trial. International Journal of Essential Oil Therapeutics (2007) 1,29-34. So the oil is of use both in the treatment of stress and depression. Not least because it makes us feel cheerful.

Often we eat it is because we are really dehydrated. Drinking palatable water can also curb wine consumption to a single healthy glass. Hydration is a big factor. It is a controversial area but EOs are used in food and drink to impart flavour as well as used as preservatives. The dropping of a single drop of an EO like lemon or grapefruit into water to make it more palatable can carry no obvious harm but I would suggest a drop of fruit juice instead. Citrus juices do have essential oils added to reconstitute their taste but it is in fractional amounts. Baking too utilises essential oils. Fennel EO can be inhaled to reduce appetite but using the plant in salad is recommended. Auto immune illness in later life can helped by the sheer pleasure of using EOs. This is often a time when the concept of self is coming under strain as hard won skills become obsolete, children leave home etc. This is a fascinating area I am working on with hospital staff this week. 
It is an important insight that the chemistry of EOs means they contain Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen rather than nitrogen, sulphur and chlorine which smells we find disturbing do. Researchers use ‘‘Disgusted – Irritated – Unpleasantly surprised” for the ‘‘Unpleasant feeling” dimension.
This is a useful classification of the emotions invoked by EOs like Jasmine, Mandarin, Pepper and Vanilla.
‘‘Happiness – Well-being – Pleasantly surprised” for the ‘‘Pleasant
feeling” dimension.
_ ‘‘Romantic – Desire – In love” for the ‘‘Sensuality” dimension.
_ ‘‘Relaxed – Serene – Reassured” for the ‘‘Relaxation” dimension.
_ ‘‘Nostalgic – Amusement – Mouthwatering” for the ‘‘Sensory
pleasure” dimension.
_ ‘‘Energetic – Invigorated – Clean” for the ‘‘Refreshment”

  How essential oils can help in fear and anxietyI should say at once that memories of the experience of trauma is a serious business.  Researchers investigate this and theorise and experiment to improve wellbeing.  Anyone who has experienced trauma of any kind knows how upsetting that is and disturbing the emotions experienced.  Triggers which can bring back memories of the trauma and associated helplessness, anger, anxiety and fear must be respected carefully.  Often a sensory trigger can be quite innocent such as the smell of a beefburger left at the scene of a traumatic crime scene.The positive nature of the mood states induced by fragrant oils may have a part to play in extinguishing or reducing learned fear responses similar to that found in guided imagery.  Psychotropic drugs may not always be appropriate for example in the military as a hangover into arousal state activities carries obvious risks and danger of triggering other fears - letting down colleagues etc. Psychotropic drugs also carry long term effects such as weight gain, raised blood glucose and metabolic syndrome. Specific therapeutic approaches an nursing protocols can be developed utilising oils which are of well evidenced therapeutic effect for example melissa oil and rosemary and positive mood oils such as jasmine, mandarin, pepper and vanilla.  The possibility of actively coping with fear opens up the possibility of therapeutic benefit and improved ward order and safety.  This process is referred to in the literature as 'escape from fear'.  In escape from fear learning an organism learns to perform active behaviours that eliminate a fearful stimulus and thus reduce fear. (1,2).  A circuit switch occurs in the circuitry of the amygdala.To survive in an environment an organism of any kind needs to learn about places and things which may threaten its survival.  The normal 'flight. fight. freeze' response are conserved processes that enhance survival.  It is an important insight that the 'freeze' response is just as important as the 'fight or flight' responses.  Predatory eyes are particularly sensitive to movement so a freeze response can enhance survival allowing the danger to pass.  Unfortunately among those who experience real trauma the fear response system can become hyperactive in identifying fearful stimuli and activating fear response circuitry.  The memory of the response and the memory of the trauma can be relived in an intrusive way.  Studies show the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are involved in emotional memory formation.  The amygdala is a key structure involved in fear and anxiety.  The prefrontal cortex exerts a top down control of the amygdala but this control can break down where cognition is impaired. This indicated a valuable role for Rosemary oil in improving general congnition and memory. Because this invoves our limbic brain studies in animals can be helpful in advancing science.  A mild electric shock is the adversive stimulus and this is linked to a neutral stimulus for example an auditory tone.  A learned adversion to the auditory tone resultsResearch 1.  Amorpanth. P., LeDoux, J.E., and Nader, K.  (2000) Pubmed 2. Cain C.K., LeDoux, J.E. (2007) Escape from fear  . A concious experience of smells is in epilepsy.  Epileptic sufferers report experiencing digusting smells, visions  and being spoken to by the observing mind which they experience as a voice speaking.  



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