Monday, April 29, 2013

The Power of Scent

Lately there has been a lot of research into how smell affects our cognitive (thinking) abilities. Rather than spend an entire post on each article, I will give brief summaries here. 

First up is the scent of rosemary. Researchers have shown that inhaling rosemary (the essential oil that comes from the common cooking herb) improves your ability to give correct answers on mathematical tests involving subtraction. This is an enormous simplification of this research, but does show that what you smell can affect the speed and accuracy with which you think. This particular article goes on to talk about the possible role rosemary might play in eventually being used as a diagnostic tool for having suffered a concussion, and, how it might help diagnose the early stages of Alzheimer's. If interested, you can read the entire article here:

The May 2013 issue of Chatelaine magazine had a small sidebar article detailing that the smell of peppermint helps athletes achieve a "burst of energy" and second wind when engaged in on-going strenuous exercise (like long distance running.)

Topical application of peppermint alleviates tension headaches. Menthol, the primary ingredient of peppermint, is, in fact, the active ingredient in eScential Wellness' Headache Help. You can read the synopsis of the study, published on PubMed, here:

Smelling peppermint or cinnamon can increase alertness, reduce fatigue, enhance performance and increase alertness. What a great, easy cure for those long distance drives!! Every car should have a car diffuser. Read the full article here:

There's plenty of scientific studies to support the ability of citrus oils (lemon, orange, grapefruit) to uplift your mood.

Evidence is just growing that the sense of smell is underestimated in its usefulness for helping us to cope with external challenges!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Essential Oils 101 - Last Post

I encourage you to read the first two blog posts in this series, to better understand essential oils.

As mentioned last time, doing testing on an essential oil allows you to know what is in it. Gas chromatography is one common method, another is spectrometry. Both of these highly sophisticated techniques are able to tell you what, and how much, of a component is in an essential oil. For the most reliable results, it is always best if the oil has been sent to an independent, third party testing facility. One of the problems I have with many essential oil companies is that they do their own testing.  In theory this should work, but, it is like an agency policing itself. Not much incentiveto be honest if it affects the bottom line (that is, profit.) I don't like "taking their word for it." If the testing agency is independent, you should get true results.

Other companies insist that they do testing - lots of it - but will not share or disclose the results. This is just nonsense. Why should I believe them? Maybe the testing was, indeed, done. Maybe what the testing shows is that it is a true, pure oil, but, for some reason, is of poor quality. In every oil, there are "main" components, the ones that are responsible for the effects of the essential oil. For example, the sedative quality of lavender comes largely from its linalyl acetate component. Maybe this particular oil, though tested, has, for some reason (read blog post 1) very low linalyl acetate. It may not give you the results you are hoping for. If  a company has paid the money to have the testing done, whyever would they hide the results? They should be proud of the fact that they test their oils. After spending that money, it's just silly not to share the information.  

Another problem is that some companies will test just the occasional batch of oils. As you now know from my previous posts on this subject, an oil can vary widely in its makeup. Ideally, each batch of each oil should be tested, and the results should be available. Even if not a chemist, you can determine if one batch has "more" or "less" of a component.

In a nutshell, the best oils are batch tested for quality, by an independent facility, and the results are available. This alone, in my mind, makes a company more reliable than others.

So who does this? Well, not many. Of course, you can always ask an aromatherapist where they get their oils from, and purchase from them. And although I will apologize in advance for any companies that do this, and I don't know about them, I will  highly recommend the following 2 companies: and

Both of these companies visit the distilleries where they purchase their oils. They know the distillers and can personally guarantee their purity. The oils may not be certified organic, as this certification is costly, but, they are all either wildcrafted and/or unsprayed. Every batch of every oil is tested, and the results are readily available online.

If you know of any other companies who do this, email me and let me know!!

Always happy to answer questions, too. On the website, go to the contact page, and email me with any questions you may have.