Best Holistic Life Magazine Fall 2021

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THE POWER OF PSYCHOAROMATHERAPY D R . D A N I E L L E D A N I E L

I grew up with a hippie mom from the 1970s, so tree-hugging and natural remedies were pretty normal in our home. However, I was also highly inter- ested in science and what makes us tick! I ended up pursuing a mental health career in the field of psychology and became a teen and trauma therapist. It wasn’t until I struggled with my own gut health issues that I went back to my hippie momma roots and dove into plant therapy for some much-needed intervention that sparked my fascination and interest in the science of aroma- therapy. I found there was so much power in one drop of essential oil that I had to know why... What makes these little tiny molecules so effective and potent as they interact with our body chemistry? At the time I was in my doctoral program getting a degree in clinical psychology so I turned my research to study mental health and aromatherapy. I also started using aromatherapy in my clinical practice and watched my teens have incredible breakthroughs. Now I teach thousands globally on the benefits of mental health and aroma- therapy, or what I call “Psychoaromatherapy”. First, let's dive into aromatherapy or essential oils. Essential oils are lipophilic volatile aromatic molecules in plants consisting of various natural chemical constituents from flowers, seeds, bark, stems, roots, leaves, peel, and fruits. Their chemistry consists of blocks of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen molecules, and since the greater part of the human body is made up of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen atoms also, the unique and complex chemical structure of essential oils allows them to act directly and indirectly within cells. Essential oils are generally applied topically, aromatically, or internally. Aromatic inhalation directly influences the brain as they travel through the neural olfactory pathways, directly permeating into the limbic system. Essen- tial oils have the ability to surpass the blood-brain barrier due to their lipo- philic and unique chemical structure where they directly influence the brain’s higher cortex, processing conscious thought, the hippocampus, hypothala- mus and the limbic system, all of which handle emotions, memory, mood and manage stress responses. For those of you that may think this sounds like a foreign concept, that an aroma can affect the brain, you probably have smelled something before and it took you back to a specific memory in your life. Or how many of us have felt calm and peaceful by being in the mountains around the aromas of the trees and flowers? Think this is just a coincidence that you feel this way after inhaling an aroma? Well, I am here to tell you that it is not, it is all chemis- try communication between our body and plants, and I have compiled the science from nature to understand how these aromas support emotions and

our mental health. Because of how effective essential oils are at influencing brain function, every home, school, office and especially therapy clinic could diffuse natural plant aromas to aid in managing daily stress and emotions. Let me share a few stories to illustrate how aromatherapy can help in your daily life and therapy practices… One patient had been on the scene of a terrible car accident that left them struggling with feelings of trauma and horrible memories disrupt- ing their functioning. A psychologist I trained in psychoaromatherapy intro- duced the essential oils before the therapy session and had the patient iden- tify a scent that most resonated with them. They had chosen a blend with flowers and cinnamon in it. As they began to process the trauma, the patient suddenly found themself struggling with the memories and started experi- encing a high level of reactive stress again. The therapist then grabbed the essential oil previously chosen and handed it to the patient to inhale through the nose at that moment, and within 30 seconds, their body and mind relaxed and came back to the present allowing them to manage the traumatic feelings with more ease. The patient described that as soon as they smelled the scent, it interrupted their stressful thought pattern and the scent of the cinnamon brought back a memory of drinking hot chocolate with cinnamon at the holi- days with their family. Another patient I had been working with in therapy had been through abuse and trauma as a child. Now a teenager with anger and resentment, talk ther- apy alone was not getting to that part of the brain that needs help processing cognitions and emotions. One day in a rage, this big six-foot-tall teenage boy stormed into my office cursing, angry about something in school and as soon as he smelled the orange aromatherapy scent I had diffusing, he stopped in his tracks, looked directly at me and suddenly said “it smells really good in here”. Forgetting about his angry rage, he sat down and processed the inci- dent and how it was triggered by past trauma. This intervention allowed me to go further with his therapy than I had before because of the way the essen- tial oils change the effects of stress chemicals in the brain. I continue to be amazed when I see the results of psychoaromatherapy and as I review new research articles on their effects within our body and minds, reminding me that these little gifts of the Earth are here to help us cope and manage life's challenging emotions so that we do not have to do alone. Wher- ever you are in your journey, whatever season you are in your life, I hope you take a moment to think about what you truly need to feel good in your body. It’s the only one you have.

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