Psychoneuroimmunology is a study that investigates the interactions between behavior and the immune system, mediated by the endocrine and nervous systems (Ziemssen & Kern 2007). Psychoneuroimmunology main interests are the interactions between the nervous and immune systems and the relationships between mental processes and health. Psychoneuroimmunology studies the connections or links between our "state" of mind and our "state" of health (Dohms 2016). Psychoneuroimmunology research demonstrates that emotions influence immunological functioning and that too much stress has a negative impact on the functioning of the body’s immune system. Recent research suggests that the immune system can be enhanced or suppressed by external stimuli and that the brain reacts to external stimuli at an
unconscious level (Malkin, 2003).
Essential oils have been shown to have significant effects on mood states and these effects are believed to arise from stimulation of the olfactory nerve which sends signals to the limbic system, an area of the brain involved in the regulation of mood and emotions (Power 2010). Because the olfactory connections to the limbic system are very direct, inhaled odors can affect brain function, mood, and mental state almost instantly (Power 2010). Essential oils may also exert more direct effects on the immune system via their actions on the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the brain stem and other neural centers (Power 2010).
Essential oils can play a significant role in supporting immune function and wellness by assisting with the creation of positive mood states and through the facilitation of the relaxation response. Michael Alexander states in his book," "There is no question that the mind can and does alter immunity. Psychological and emotional factors influence both cell-mediated and antibody-mediated immune function ... we can assume by the multitude of aroma experiments showing mood enhancement via olfactory input, that aromatherapy is a strong treatment modality which can be exploited to benefit mind-body immune control functions."
Some of the certain essentials oils that can affect the state of one's mind are:
Chamomile - promotes relaxation and calming, Lemon balm - reduces anxiety and depression, Orange blossom - reduces anxiety and depression, Mandarin - reduces stress, Rose- reduces stress, Sweet marjoram - reduces stress, Lavender - promotes peaceful mood, stimulates immune system and creates a sense of calm and Geranium- reduces stress and promotes healing (Rubert, Long & Hutchinson 2007)
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Alexander, M. (2000). Principal mechanisms in olfaction. How Aromatherapy Works: Synthetic and Efficacious Pathways of Essential Oils in the Human Physiology (Vol. 1) Odessa, Florida: Whole Spectrum
Dohms, E. (2016). Psychoneuroimmunology and the Implications for the Practice of Aromatherapy. All Things Healing. http://www.allthingshealing.com/Aromatherapy/Psychoneuroimmunology-and-the-Implications-for-the-Practice-of-Aromatherapy-/6252#.V5FcsfkrLIU
Malkin, J. (2003). The business case for creating a healing environment. Business Briefing: Hospital Engineering and Facilities Management, 1–5
Power , J. (2010). Traditional Psychoneuroimmunology and Aromatherapy: A Neuropsychologist's Perspective. The Aromatherapy School, http://www.aromatherapy-school.com/aromatherapy-schools/aromatherapy-articles/aromatherapy-pni-psychoneuroimmunology.html.
Rubert, R., Long, L. D., & Hutchinson, M. L. (2007). Creating a healing environment in the ICU. Critical Care Nursing: Synergy for Optimal Outcomes, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 27-39. http://www.jblearning.com/samples/0763738638/38638_ch03_027_040.pdf
Ziemssen, T. & Kern, S. (2007). Psychoneuroimmunology – Cross-talk between the immune and nervous systems. Journal Neurology, 254 [Suppl 2]: II/8–II/11. DOI 10.1007/s00415-007-2003-8