This week, I’m focusing on the study and practice of essential oils. As you’ve no doubt noticed, I have utilized essential oils to enhance the effectiveness of our product formulations. And while I obviously can’t share the *exact* details of the KPS formulas, I can certainly help to explain why they feature so heavily in our products, and how the science backs them up. Without further ado...
Rigorous testing in the scientific community has demonstrated that essential oils offer a plethora of health-boosting properties: anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, stress reduction, antioxidant, antimicrobial, analgesic, etc. The effects of essential oils are not limited, however, to physiological effects. In fact, the aromatic nature of many essential oils has been used through the millennia to enhance psychological well-being, as well as to spark inspiration.
Due to the unique blend of physiological and psychological benefits, it is no wonder that civilizations have built their foundational medicines - and in some cases, spirituality - around essential oil extracts.
Essential Oils & Spirituality
Aromatherapy has played an intrinsic role in our spiritual rituals from the very beginning. In Egyptian antiquity, the burning of incense was central to the worship of the gods. At the same time, both the Chinese and Indian cultures were performing similar rituals with essential oils and incense. Later, the Greeks espouse that only the gods were gifted with the knowledge of perfume and fragrance. At the same time, Megallus, a Greek perfumer, and Hippocrates ( the “father of medicine”) were both noted as pioneers in the practice of aromatherapy.
Even the Christian Bible references the sacred use of incense: both frankincense and myrrh were offered to Christ, and both are well-known aromatic botanicals. Upwards of a dozen essential oil-producing botanicals are mentioned throughout the Old and New Testament. Many of these botanicals produce essential oils that are still in use today: aloeswood, calamus, cassia, cinnamon, cistus, cypress, fir, frankincense, galbanum, hyssop, juniper, myrrh, myrtle, onycha, pine, saffron, sandalwood, and spikenard.
Many religions still employ aromatic oils and essences to enhance their religious services or to purify and protect temples and household altars.
Irrespective of organized religion, many people believe the use of essential oils will help to open their minds to greater spiritual connections. Often, this is achieved by inhaling essential oils during meditation, or through the direct application of essential oils to spiritually-connected centers in the body, e.g., the 7 Chakras.
Essential Oils and the Mind/Body Connection
Essential oils are potent extracts derived from seeds, leaves, bark, resins, roots or other chemical-rich parts of naturally occurring flora. These extracts are used to promote wellness in both a physiological and psychological sense. The direct application of essential oils, such as peppermint oil, has demonstrated clinical validity in the reduction of headaches. Meanwhile, the use of aromatic oils has been linked to reductions in stress or anxiety. Additionally, the use of aromatic botanicals, such as myrrh, has long been used to enhance spiritual connectivity across almost all cultural canvasses.
Essential Oil Research
The scientific community is in the early stages of uncovering the many connections between aromatherapy and the effects it can have on our brains. As some of you may be aware, an increase of theta brain-wave activity is thought to enhance the practice of meditation as it may heighten receptiveness to knowledge beyond our conscious awareness.
This is backed by a study published in Volume 26, Issue 3 of the Flavor and Fragrance Journal from 2011. This journal surmises that the inhalation of essential oils produced by the Siberian fir needle, for a period of 40 minutes promoted a more relaxed state and increased theta brain wave activity. Other essential oils that may enhance brain-wave activity include frankincense, balsam fir, copaiba, and lavender.
It is thought that essential oils improve spirituality by removing or reducing mental blockages. How does that work in practice? Consider that negative emotion has a profound impact on our mindset, empathy, and spiritual connectivity. Through the introduction of essential oils, we can positively impact the nervous and endocrine systems. This causes a release of hormones and neurotransmitters which help the brain to establish a positive mood, clearer memory, a more stable emotional state, and enhanced cognition.
According to research, there is a bevy of essential oils with positive correlations as described above:
Lavender, lemon, and rosemary have been shown to increase serotonin.
This neurotransmitter is thought to increase happiness and feelings of contentment.
Lavender, ylang-ylang, and bergamot have been linked with cortisol regulation.
Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone”, influences blood sugar levels & metabolism, reduces inflammation, and assists with memory formulation. Keeping cortisol levels balanced is key to enjoying a healthier, happier life.
Lemongrass, citronella and white verbena promote GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
This inhibitory neurotransmitter contributes to motor control, vision, and many other cortical functions. It also regulates anxiety.
Clary, sage, clove, and lemon produce endorphins.
Endorphins are peptides that activate the body's opiate receptors, causing an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect, as well as being responsible for feelings of well-being and euphoria.
Essential Oils Commonly Used In Spiritual Practice
Cleansing and Purifying:
Angelica, anise, balsam fir, cedarwood, cypress, eucalyptus, juniper, lemon, lemon tea tree, myrrh, opoponax, peppermint, spearmint, and white sage.
Grounding & Inner Focus:
Balsam fir, cedarwood, cinnamon, cypress, gurjun balsam, mastic, palo santo, pine, sandalwood, spruce, and vetiver.
Enlightenment & Meditation:
Agarwood, balsam fir, cypress, elemi, frankincense, guaiac wood, guggul, myrrh, palo santo, sandalwood, spikenard, and Western red cedar.
Cassia, cinnamon, balsam fir, frankincense, ginger, lavender, myrtle, pine, sandalwood, and spruce.
I believe (and science suggests) that all aspects of our well-being are connected. Mental unrest can cause physical maladies, just as physiological distress can cause mental anguish. In the same way, spirituality should be treated as an intrinsically important aspect of our overall well-being.
Those seeking deeper meaning and purpose would do well to understand that their ties to spirituality are just as important as their dedication to physical and mental health. I simply ask that you consider the use of essential oils as a stepping-stone to achieving the holistic state of wellness we are all seeking.
Your mind, body, and soul - however you conceive of it - will thank you.
With love and gratitude,