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When we feel uncentred, we experience emotional stress.  This in and of itself causes further disturbances in the limbic system at the neurotransmitter level.  Thus, emotional stress disrupts the body's biochemical balance, accelerating the course of disease.  The good news is that these processes are treatable with natural substances.

What happens during stress?


Emotional stress may manifest itself on a physical or mental level.  It usually requires a trigger such as a life event where one has experienced some level of trauma.  This is when the body decides between fight or flight or between panic or immobilization, processes which may take place in a quarter of a second or less.   The response, initiated by the autonomic nervous system includes a release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, or cortisol.  


Following this stress response, recovery usually follows but if the stress continues, a chronic condition develops, leading to longer term disturbance and illness of the organism.  This stress coping system affects all bodily systems, such as the hormonal and immune systems where, during periods of acute stress, the number of immune cells temporarily increase and through chronic stress, immune functions are inhibited potentially leading to cortisol resistance. This leads to adrenal exhaustion longer term and may permanently impair one’s immune defense system as well as brain function. Autoimmune diseases may also result.


Image by Elisa Ventur

Chronic stress

Chronic stress occurs when stress hormones are released over an extended period of time.  Under normal conditions, stress activates bodily functions and hormones that improve memory, strengthen the immune defense, and restore homeostasis. However, when there is no actual physical challenge, such as waiting in a queue or being stuck in traffic, these systems continue to self-activate and can lead to further disturbance. Here are some examples of these: 

  • Memory deteriorates, the immune response is suppressed, and energy is stored as fat tissue. Stress also damages neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for converting current memories into long-term ones. Chronic stress leads to the regression of the hippocampus which impairs memory. Brain plasticity which also plays a role means that the younger a person, the more reversible the regression of the hippocampus.

  • Additionally, adrenaline increases the activity of bodily substances that contribute to inflammatory processes. These substances add to the burden of chronic stress and may eventually lead to arthritis and even accelerate brain aging.

  • Stress can also lead to sleep loss. Elevated glucocorticoid levels inhibit one’s ability to fall asleep which in turn increases glucocorticoid levels, setting a vicious cycle in motion.

What role does the individual's perception of events play? 

Individual stress responses depend on the personal perception of external events. By modulating and modifying our perception, we are able to prevent the harmful effects of mild or moderate stress. Intense levels of stress promote the memory of threatening situations, activating the immune system through the release of cortisol and adrenaline which protect the body from pathogens.

There are some essential oils that, due to their chemical makeup, can have a similar effect as neurotransmitters would. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that are responsible for communication between nerve cells and which regulate various functions in the body. An example of this is “Lavender”. It contains linalool, a component that carries powerful calming properties. Linalool can act on the same receptors in the brain as the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is also known for its calming effect. 


Another essential oil is Bergamot oil which contains the component limonene. Limonene can promote the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is important for mood regulation and relaxation. Neroli oil, obtained from the blossoms of bitter orange, contains linalool and geraniol. These components can act similarly to serotonin and have a calming effect. 


It's important to note that essential oils do not directly enter the brain and act in place of neurotransmitters. Their effect is based on their ability to stimulate specific receptors or influence biochemical processes in the body. 


In addition, essential oils can of course be used as a supportive measure for stress management but should not be considered a substitute for professional medical treatment.

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