How Essential Oils Work? The Science Behind It

How Essential Oils Work? The Science Behind It

The common question of people that never have used essential oils before are " Do They Work? How They Work? Is it scientifically  proven or is anecdotal? "

The answer is Yes! They do work and there's is a reason for that. In this article we are going to explain the science behind it.


How essential oils work?

They work in a synergistic communication between your nose (olfactory bulb) and you brain (the limbic system).

Any smell we feel, particularly in the natural frangrances such as essential oils, contains volatile particles that are chemically called esters. Esters give the flavouring and the aromatic smell of food for example. 

The sense of smell, just like the sense of taste, is a chemical sense. They are called chemical senses because they detect chemicals in the environment, with the difference being that smell works at dramatically larger distances than that of taste. The process of smelling goes more or less like this:

1. The odour (esters) floats in the air reaching the nostrils and dissolving in the mucus (which is on the roof of each nostril). Underneath the mucus, in the olfactory epithelium, specialized receptor cells called olfactory receptor neurons detect the odour. These neurons are capable of detecting thousands of different odours. 

2. The olfactory receptor neurons transmit the information to the olfactory bulbs, which are located at the back of the nose. The olfactory bulbs have sensory receptors that are actually part of the brain which send messages directly to the most primitive brain centres where they influence emotions and memories (limbic system structures) + higher centres where they modify conscious thoughts (neo-cortex). Thats how we differentiate a chocolate smell from a coffee smell.

Now, lets talk abut more about the brain of emotions. 

The Limbic System: The Brain of Emotions

The olfactory bulb is one of the structures of the limbic system, a very efficient  part of the brain. As mentioned in the previous description of the olfactory process, the information captured by the sense of smell goes from the olfactory bulb to other structures of the limbic system.

The limbic system is a network of connected structures near the middle of the brain linked within the central nervous system. These structures work together to affect a wide range of behaviours including emotions, motivation, and memory. This system deals with instinctive or automatic behaviours, and has little, if anything, to do with conscious thought or will.

The limbic system is also concerned with translating sensory data from the neo-cortex (the thinking brain) into motivational forces for behaviour. The limbic system is centrally involved in the mediation between a person’s recognition of an event, their perception of it as stressful, and the resulting physiological reaction to it, mediated via the endocrine system: Stimuli are processed conceptually in the cortex, and passed to the limbic system where they are evaluated and a motivational response is formulated.


The emotional connections and the memories attached to a smell seem to be very personal; it seems to be intrinsically enmeshed with the individual experience.