The Chemistry of Essential Oils and Their Uses for Stress Relief and More: Part One
In our recent series of blog posts, we’ve explored various methods of self-care to promote relaxation, stress relief, and overall wellness. One method that we find to be incredibly powerful, especially as a complement to acupuncture treatment, is the use of essential oils in everyday life. As we’ve discussed, your sense of smell can dramatically affect your emotional states—but that’s not the only way that essential oils stimulate responses in the body.
In his talk at the 2017 dōTERRA Convention in September, Dr. David K. Hill, dōTERRA’s Chief Medical Officer, discussed the chemistry behind essential oils and their effectiveness for managing stress and improving health and wellbeing. According to Dr. Hill, essential oils can stimulate responses from the body’s endocannabinoid system, which affects many aspects of a person’s health.
Let’s explore the endocannabinoid system in more depth, before looking at the ways in which essential oils may be used to stimulate healing and mood-enhancing responses.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system is a bodily system that’s involved in regulating a variety of processes (both physiological and cognitive) related to the central and peripheral nervous systems. This includes things like your mood, appetite, energy levels, and even your memory.
Currently, two cannabinoid receptors have been identified in the body, but there may well be more that have yet to be discovered. The two known receptors are called CB1 and CB2.
The CB1 receptor primarily impacts the brain and central nervous system. CB2 receptors, meanwhile, also affect the the body’s immune system and the endocrine system (which maintains hormone levels). For this reason, activating the CB2 receptors can have potent direct outcomes, as we’ll see.
“Runner’s High” and the Power of the CB2 Receptor
If you’re a runner or know someone who is, you’re probably familiar with the term “runner’s high.” This is the great feeling that comes after vigorous exercise, and it’s caused by responses in the endocannabinoid system.
Exercise releases a chemical called Anandamide, which affects both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. When it activates CB1 receptors, this creates the the feeling of euphoria often associated with exercise. But it’s the response it elicits from the CB2 receptor which is the most interesting and useful.
When the CB2 receptor system is activated, it can help protect the body from harm. While exercising, this makes you less likely to damage tissues, and speeds up tissue recovery. Studies have found that CB2 receptor activity has therapeutic potential for treating various conditions—and one way to stimulate these responses may be through using essential oils.
In part two, we’ll explore exocannabinoids (substances derived naturally from plants that are found in many essential oils). These are believed to stimulate CB2 receptor activity, resulting in many beneficial effects, including relaxation and stress relief. This holds great potential for both patients and caregivers. We’ll take a look at ways you can incorporate these essential oils easily into your daily self-care regime.
If you’d like more information about essential oils or guidance about which oils are right for you, speak to your acupuncturist at your next session.