Lesson 21: Anatomy
Foundational Aromatherapy pages 21-32
Mini Course in Anatomy – The Nose and Skin
How does a little drop of oil travel all through my body and make me feel so great?
Essential oils can enter our body three ways: through our noses, our skin, and internally. For the purpose of this section we will focus on the two most common and safest methods of “breathing in” oils—specifically through the nose and absorbing through the skin.
Aromatherapy was originally based on the act of smelling or olfaction, hence the name AROMA•therapy or ‘therapy from a scent.’ We see, taste, feel, hear, and smell. If we were to lose any one of those senses, it would be a real loss, yet the sense of smell might be the first to go if compelled to make a choice.
Do we really appreciate and understand the importance of smelling and how it effects our moods, actions and thoughts?
Please note here that we are talking about the “act of smelling” not inhalation—the function of breathing in air. When we smell something, it has a direct effect on the nervous system and the brain, more specifically the limbic and cerebral cortex parts of the brain. When we inhale, it affects the respiratory system, an important route of absorption into the body. Inhalation will be discussed later in this section.
So what can we do with the sense of smell and essential oils? When you and I are feeling well and don’t have stuffy noses, we have the ability to distinguish an average of 25,000 different scents or odors, some of which may be subliminal. When we smell something, it sends an immediate message to the brain, which in turn affects the body, mind, and emotions.
Did you know that your sense of smell can protect you?
We say dogs can smell danger—well, we can, too. The human body’s response to danger is quicker than its reaction to pain. Emotions (such as fear, anger, and love) cause our bodies to emit odors, and we can sense and smell it on a subliminal level even before we might consciously know something is going on. We say things like, “something about this stinks,” or “this doesn’t smell right to me.” Such expressions are really true!—not just common ways of talking.
Let’s talk about the act of smelling bread baking in an oven. You can’t smell the actual flour floating into your nose. What you CAN smell are chemicals or mists of aroma molecules from the baking bread floating through the air. It is just like one of those Saturday morning Bugs Bunny cartoons that “show” the enticing smells of breakfast cooking wafting through the air, and against his own will, Bugs floats through the air after it. Well this depiction was not too far from the truth. Odors, scents, smells—whether good or bad—do affect our subconscious minds almost unknowingly and “float” us to one reaction or another in our physical bodies and in our feelings or emotions.
This was proven in 2004 when two doctors, Dr. Linda Buck of the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson’s Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, and Dr. Richard Axel of Columbia University in New York, won the Nobel Peace Prize for their research on the odorant receptors in our sinuses and the function of the olfactory system.
Okay, let’s go back to the loaf of bread. The aroma floating through the air is made of molecules, invisible to us. These molecules come in a variety of shapes and sizes as different from each other like frozen crystals of water on a cold window pane. So how do we smell these molecules?
It all starts, of course, with the nose, but it really is merely a pathway to something more significant—the olfactory membrane or epithelium, which is about the size of a postage stamp and has about 10 to 20 million different receptors. These membranes, located at the top of the sinuses, are like a net ready to catch aroma molecules. Now, imagine this net like a child’s toy, having different shaped holes into which only one of the frozen-water molecules can fit. Each molecule must find its match (or fit)—each piece goes into only one particular hole. In the nose, the places to match are not holes but tiny hairs or cilia we call receptors. Just as letters of the alphabet in different combinations can form thousands of words, these receptors can combine the information of the molecules to “read” the odor and then send its message to two parts of the brain—the limbic system and cerebral cortex.
The limbic region is a group of structures inside the brain (including the amygdala, septum, hippocampus and cingulate gyrus) that is responsible for many reactions, such as emotion, motivation, feelings, drive, learning and memory, and instinct behavior. The cortex gives us discernment, conscious processing, recognition and memory.
What happens next from smelling that bread? First the limbic system elicits an emotional response and perhaps triggers a memory—maybe happiness, remembering from childhood when Grandma used to bake homemade bread, or sadness and longing because she has since passed, or anger because a memory surfaces of having to wake up at four in the morning to help make bread in a “mean” uncle’s bakery to earn money to help pay the bills. All that will happen—the memory, the emotions, and actual feeling—in an instant.
At the same time this is going on, simultaneously, the cerebral cortex is set into motion—generating thinking processes in order to make sense of, learn, remember, and create new ideas and make decisions from all of this. Maybe you decide to call Grandma, or you vow never to eat bread again and start an anti-gluten campaign on Facebook—all because you smelled a loaf of bread.
This part of the brain is responsible for automatic emotional responses such as anger, affection, docility, fear, pain, pleasure, sexual feelings, and sorrow. We cannot control these feelings consciously, but we can control how we respond. As stated earlier, the limbic system is made up of several different structures. We will discuss some of the main structures here.
The amygdala is where fear, fight, or flight activates the sympathetic nervous system. Along with the hippocampus, it also holds the power to give our experiences emotion and long-term memories. The amygdala sends its messages to the hypothalamus and the brain stem which, in turn, affect our autonomic nervous and endocrine systems. Market researchers now know that what we buy and when we buy is influenced by smell. Large corporations and advertising agencies are aware of this and gear their marketing campaigns accordingly. They inject scent in just about everything imaginable: stores, magazines, toys, cleaning products, and personal care items—from shampoo to toilet paper and trash bags—in order to elicit one exact response: for us to make purchases.
The hypothalamus is the control center for the autonomic nervous system. This system regulates heartbeat, body temperature and sweating, sexual stimulation, eye blinking, hunger, thirst, regulation of sleep patterns, and emotional responses to anger, pain, pleasure, and fear. Along with the pituitary gland, it controls the entire endocrine system, affecting our hormones, insulin production, caloric levels, digestion and stress levels. So when a smell affects the hypothalamus, it influences a whole lot more. You can start to see how impactful the aromas from essential oils can be on the entire body merely by smelling the lid of a bottle containing an essential oil.
The hippocampus is mainly responsible for connecting short-term and long-term memories. This is what happens when a memory from long ago is triggered, such as the smell of your teenage-years boyfriend’s cologne when smelled again years later. Memories and even emotions are rekindled, and your heart may start racing even though you are happily married to someone else now. For this reason, Rosemary essential oil has been a focus of much recent research to improve test scores for students and memory improvement of Alzheimer’s patients.
Aromatherapists, reflexologists, and massage therapists can trigger a hippocampus response of certain smells in order to aid their clients.
For example, a professional can choose a specific oil or blend for use during an appointment with a client. The trick is to select an oil with a scent not connected to a memory of the client, and one the client finds pleasant. For example, if the appointment is for a massage, and the client enjoys the massage along with the feelings the oil or blend evokes both physically and emotionally, then he or she will likely feel relaxed and unstressed. The massage therapist may then provide a sample of that oil or suggest purchasing it to use several times during the following week until the next appointment. Every time that particular oil is smelled, the client will relive the comfortable, enjoyable moments of the massage even on a physical level with muscles relaxing, thus forming a memory attachment to the scent and to the “wonderful” massage therapist—and probably happily recommend more clients.
However, certain aromas do not necessarily evoke specific responses when it comes to emotions. This is something that happens over time and several factors influence it.
Our emotional state at the time a smell is introduced makes a difference whether we personally judge the aroma as pleasant or foul. Of course, the power of suggestion, such as “this oil will do such and such” as well as the environment in which the aroma was introduced—pleasant, stressful, sad, etc.—will have an impact, too. I have a daughter who can hardly stand the smell of lavender now because once we sprayed lavender all over one of our dogs after bathing him when he’d been sprayed by a skunk. Now, every time my daughter smells lavender, she associates the scent with wet skunk dog odor. Smells, even pleasant ones, can attach negatively or positively with emotions and memories.
Do you have any previous experience with memories triggered from a particular aroma or scent that smells similar?
The cerebral cortex is still a mystery in many ways. Science is just now learning about its many capabilities. What we do know is that all other senses—touch, sight, hearing, taste—travel first though the thalamus, another part of the brain, before going to the cerebral cortex. Smell or olfactory stimulation is the only message that goes directly to the cerebral cortex. It then uses that information to affect how we learn, remember, create, think, and react physically. It’s responsible for helping us to learn to speak not just our own language, but others, and for higher-ordered thinking and creativity, such as designing a new building or concocting a new recipe for your next dinner party. It is mind-boggling to me to know that our sense of smell can have such a profound effect on so many aspects of our lives.
THIS SMELLY BUSINESS
To sum up all this smelly business, we can conclude that smell or olfaction has a huge impact on our brains and our bodies during our entire lives. It can affect our sleep and relax us. It can increase our awareness and brain performance, relieve stress, anxiety, pain perception in the brain, be used for weight loss or nausea, ease physical ailments that are directly affected by stress, and improve our moods and our impressions of ourselves and others. The cortex gives us the ability to do things with our mind and body, and the limbic system creates feelings about what we decide and whether to take action or not.
How will relieving my stress through aromatherapy improve my health?
As discussed earlier, through olfaction, essential oils can help with one of the major challenges of life—stress. Stress reaction seems to come from everywhere these days— from minor things like nagging phone calls from bill collectors or a flat tire on the side of the road. It can be long-term stress, such as a single mother raising a child on her own or dealing with loneliness or a dead-end job. It can be short-term stress, lasting only minutes, like spilling milk or stubbing a toe.
Stress can also come from internal factors such as being sick, having pain, fever, or infections, or even worrying about something that may never happen. Some stress is good for us, like the excitement of a first date or meeting a new client; without it, life would be pretty boring. Stress alone is neither a friend nor an enemy- It is how we respond to the stressors that affect us, our health, and even our relationships.
Short-term or acute stress may cause our palms to sweat and our hearts to race, or we may get nauseous, have diarrhea, shortness of breath, headaches, or chest pains. Most everyone has experienced this. We sometimes say he or she took our breath away, or I was worried sick. Such reactions are short-lived and usually have no long-term effect on our health.
Stress that may seem short-term but is constantly recurring is another type. This form of stress is called episodic acute stress. We create it ourselves. We may be habitually late, have too many irons in the fire, or always feel rushed and rush others, feeling that we are somehow the victims of this on-going parade of mini-disasters when, in fact, we are probably addicted to stress. This form of stress, though short-term, can and does eventually affect us with migraines, tension headaches, high blood pressure, chest pain, or heart disease.
Long-term or chronic stress is also very dangerous. We can end up with long term fatigue, low energy, high blood pressure, increase in breathing and heart rates that lead to heart disease, chronic indigestion, ulcers, low sex drive, irregular ovulation for women or low sperm count for men, slow-healing wounds, loss of brain cells and memory, depression, increased chance of infectious diseases because of inhibited immunity, asthma, constipation, eating disorders, muscle tension or pain, PMS, hives, eczema, rosacea, insomnia, or substance abuse.
Use and Ractions
The use of essential oils can have a backdoor effect on eliminating all of these simply by reducing your stress levels- or at least enhancing your abilities to positively respond to stress. Think about it.
We have gone through the back door with the oils, so let’s now talk about actual application. The other function of the nose is inhalation. When we breathe in the molecules of an essential oil, they not only have a scent but are chemical constituents that create reactions throughout the body. After we inhale the aroma—whether using a diffuser, or inhaling it directly from a bottle or from a drop on a tissue—the essential oils are able to come in direct contact with the entire respiratory system, including the nasal cavity (up your nostrils), into your sinuses, down your trachea, and into your lungs. The oils also clear congestion in the sinus cavity as we inhale them, opening the pathways for more of these tiny germ-fighting molecules to do their jobs.
Sometimes we don’t really think about the vast amount of square footage that comes into contact with the oils just by inhaling them. Our lungs, if the tissue could be unfolded, would cover about the size of a tennis court. In the lungs, essential oils pass through the mucous membranes into the tiniest of all the blood vessels—the capillaries. These are so small that blood cells travel through them single file. The oil travels to the entire body through the circulatory system.
When we inhale oils, we can address several potential problems right where they start. Colds and flu are transported through the air, and we breathe them in. Getting oils into the respiratory system where many problems start is a good way to prevent something from taking hold of us and making us ill.
There is a thin mucous membrane throughout the respiratory system, including the inside of our mouth, and we inhale through it as well. Feel the inside of your mouth, how soft and tender it is compared to the back of your hand. This is one reason we need to dilute oils considerably if we are to apply them anywhere we might have mucous
membranes, including our stomach and intestines. For this reason internal consumption of essential oils is discouraged, except in a much-diluted form such as in a full cup of tea or as a flavoring in a recipe. The mucous membrane is so thin in the respiratory system that the oils can easily pass through right into the vast capillary bed waiting beneath the surface.
There are some oils that are not wise to inhale directly, such as oils high in phenols or aldehydes. Remember from our chemistry section, both “aunts” and “phones” can be irritating at times—even worse is having your aunt get a little too nosy or getting a phone shoved up your nose. The dosage, or how much we inhale, can make a difference, too—don’t overdo it. With essential oils less is more. We don’t want anyone getting a headache, dizzy, or burning off the hairs inside their nose. For anyone with asthma or serious allergies, be careful. It is always wise to start out with just a small whiff from the lid, see how it goes, and move on from there. Everyone is different, so take it slow and don’t go snorting an oil straight from the bottle today.
What new essential oils will you smell today?
Skin wraps us up in nice, neat packages; we are covered in it. Chances are you will be getting oils on your skin at one time or another. The fancy words for skin are dermis, dermal tissue, or cutaneous tissue. An easy way to remember cutaneous tissue is that babies look so cute in their birthday suits, “cute-neous” tissue. When we put oils on skin, we are doing two things: first, we are potentially helping the skin itself, such as for a rash or to improve the looks of our worn out birthday suit; and second, the oil goes through the skin into the bloodstream, traveling through the pores, or down a hair follicle. A few minutes later that oil is coursing through your body going to wherever it is needed.
When I first started using essential oils some 19 years ago, we thought the only way to get an oil into the bloodstream was to swallow it or breathe it in. We thought putting oils on your skin was only a way to deal with skin issues or for a warming effect on muscles when used for a massage. Now, however, it has been proven that pretty much everything you put on your body ends up in your body (that is why there are medical patches for practically everything). Knowing that, why would we want to risk irritating or injuring the delicate mucous membranes of the throat and stomach by pouring oils down our throats? It is simply not necessary. Yes, I make cough syrups and teas with a drop or two of essential oil; however, there was a time when I practiced and taught what I now consider unsafe internal use. Please don’t fall for that.
The skin is made up of layers, like lasagna with hair on it. It has three main layers, like one layer of lasagna. The bottom layer is mostly made up of fat, so picture the cheese: cottage cheese, mozzarella, and some eggs to hold it all together. This bottom layer is called the subcutaneous layer. I remember it by saying it’s under, like a submarine. It has some blood vessels, fat, and connective tissues; basically, it connects the skin to what’s under it. Some of us have thicker layers than others and need to go on a diet. It becomes thinner and thicker on different areas of our body. Like a shock absorber, its job is to protect what’s underneath from bumps and bruises. Notice on the shins, where bumps really hurt, there’s not much of a layer there; but on our bums—now that’s another story. The subcutaneous layer also serves as an insulator to protect our body from fluctuations in outside temperatures.
The middle layer of skin is the one with the most diversity. Like lasagna, there can be a variety: tomato sauce with meat, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and maybe some
mushrooms and olives. This layer is called the dermis. I remember that it is detailed, and detailed begins with de and so does dermis. This layer is practically an underground city. We have an “electric company”—all the nerves that let us feel rough, smooth, hot, cold, soothing, or irritating. The skin, has hundreds of nerve endings per square centimeter and is the largest organ in the body, with 18 square feet on average and weighing over seven pounds for an adult.
Also in the dermis, we have our sweat glands, our own “air conditioning system,” which is like a swamp cooler. They listen to the nerves and turn on our sweat to cool us down so we don’t overheat in the hot sun. There are one hundred sweat glands in each square centimeter of skin.
This middle layer also contains the sebaceous glands that squirt out sebum, sort of like the final wax on your car at the car wash. Sebum protects the skin from bacteria, makes it softer, and as an added bonus, makes us smell nicer to the opposite sex, specifically in the neck, face, scalp, upper back, and chest. (Maybe that is the cause of teenage necking, too much sebum.)
Throughout this whole middle city, we have a system of pipes and tubes—the blood vessels and lymphatic system. We have pipes, just like a city water system, that bring good things to us, and a sewer system that carries the waste away. The blood system carries the nutrients to the cells, including molecules from essential oils, and also carries the waste away. There are twelve feet of blood vessels per centimeter of skin. The lymphatic system acts as a relief pressure valve to remove excess water to prevent swelling and also to remove waste.
In the dermis, or middle-skin layer, we have hair follicles; they are “deep basements” or “foundations” for the millions of “buildings” or hairs all over this city. The follicle holds the hairs in place; it also moves the hair to stand on end when you get goose bumps. Just like in homes, these foundations also house a network of pipes and tubes that go in and out; the hair follicles are a major pathway for oils to get into your bloodstream.
Holding everything together in the dermis is the connective tissue. Some of it is really stretchy, like elastic, so we can move around without our skin tearing, and the other is very tough and strong to protect us from the scary outside world getting in.
The top layer of your skin is called the epidermis. The epidermis is not the same thickness all over your body—usually having four or five layers. Some areas are very thin, like your genitals, and some very thick like the bottom of your feet. Each layer has a special name. The very outer layer is called the stratum corneum that is tough like lasagna noodles that get overcooked without tin foil over the pan. That layer also has dead skin cells and keratin, a waxy substance like the cheese you sprinkled over the top of that noodle. This is where you actually apply essential oils, on the stratum corneum.
Essential oil molecules are small and they soak through all the layers. They absorb quickest wherever the skin is the thinnest. We call that permeability, or how fast it permeates into the bloodstream. Remember, like the city with all its pipes, the oil molecules hop right in and take a ride through your lymph and blood vessels to your heart, liver, pancreas, muscles, tissues, joints, and other organs. Then, when they are done visiting those places, they—most of them anyway—leave your body through your kidneys and bladder. The rest you exhale through your lungs or sweat out through your skin.
Why should we apply oils to our skin and what safety precautions should we take when doing so?
As we said earlier, your skin is thinner in some places than others. The skin on your genitals is the thinnest, then mucous membranes, then scalp, then your chest and tummy, and then your arms and legs. The thickest skin is on the palms of your hands and bottom of your feet. We need to think about this when applying oils—the thinner the skin, the more sensitive it will possibly be when an oil is applied, and the more we should dilute it with some sort of carrier oil. This is why we teach that applying oils to the bottom of feet is the safest place. You are very unlikely to have any adverse reaction, unless of course you are allergic to a particular plant. It does take longer to get into your bloodstream from there, but it is still pretty fast compared to how long it takes for an aspirin to work.
If you decide to put oils on your skin somewhere else other than the bottom of your feet, what are the benefits? You could put them right where the problem: on a sprained ankle, wrinkles, acne, or mosquito bite. The oils are healing to the skin, and they can be pain-relieving and reduce the swelling.
Possible Skin Reactions
We do have to be cautious about three possible issues when applying oils on the skin. First, we could irritate the skin—resulting in red, itchy, overly dry, or even blistered skin. This, of course, is dependent on how much, how often, and how diluted the essential oil or oils are that you apply. We can avoid skin irritation by using less essential oil and more carrier oil, especially on infants, children, and the elderly. Second, keep your oils stored properly in dark cool places with the lids on tight so they don’t oxidize. Oxidized oils are more likely to irritate your skin. Be careful to dilute oils with phenols and aldehydes, and some monoterpenes, too. If you have any cause for concern, especially for babies or the elderly, do a patch test on the skin inside the elbow. After applying, wait at least ten minutes to make sure the skin is okay, without a reaction.
Sometimes the oil will cause a sensitization reaction. That is a type of allergic reaction. Sometimes a sensitization reaction does not appear in the same place where you put the oil, so you may not connect the two. Some symptoms are headache, rash, swelling, hives, or itchy skin. Unfortunately, this is not always preventable with dilution of the essential oil. People can become sensitized even to an oil they had used before with no problem. Women are more prone to this. Some believe it is because of all the synthetic chemicals we put on our skin, and after a while we can become sensitive even to oils as gentle as lavender. That’s a good reason to smell your oils first, then see if you have a reaction.
Phototoxicity is a reaction of an oil on the skin that has been exposed to the sunlight. This can result in the skin getting a burn like a bad sunburn. It can even blister. I personally have experienced a phototoxic reaction; I did not get a burn, but instead my skin turned brown and red in a blotchy pattern. These discolorations can be permanent or fade over time.
The oils most commonly phototoxic are those that are cold-pressed in the extraction process: bergamot, bitter orange, grapefruit, and lemon. There are some cold-pressed oils that are not phototoxic: red mandarin, green mandarin, orange and tangerine. The key to avoiding any adverse reaction is to dilute the oils when you use them and avoid
direct sunlight or tanning beds for 12 hours, or cover the area with clothing when going outside for long periods of time.
Keeping our skin healthy is an important part of this whole equation. If we eat well—get plenty of water and fresh air (so our skin can breathe), avoid skin care products with toxic synthetic ingredients, wear natural-fibered clothing (again, so our skin can breathe), consume healthy foods and supplements, exercise, and our skin and whole bodies will be healthier and able to receive more benefit from the essential oils. Remember: your skin is your largest organ, and whatever affects it has a large impact on your other organs. Your skin is also a window to what is happening with other organs. When our liver, kidneys, or intestines are NOT kept clean and healthy, it shows up on our skin in the forms of liver spots, eczema, psoriasis, hair loss, brittle nails or acne.
How can you use essential oils to benefit your skin and body?
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system works together with the immune system. They are like two sisters who walk hand in hand, helping each other. They remind me of my own daughters. Each of them has unique qualities that balance each other when they are working on a project together. For the lymphatic and immune systems, their mutual “project” is your health.
The lymphatic system is considered part of the circulatory system, which is made up of a network of tubes somewhat like our veins and arteries. The big difference here is that the lymphatic system does not have a pump like the heart to move its amazing, nearly clear liquid around the body; but it has its own various organs, all of which play a vital role in the immune system for combating anything from cancer to colds.
One of the lymphatic system’s main jobs is to move water. This water is called blood plasma when it’s in our veins; but when it moves out of our veins, we call it interstitial fluid; and finally, when it moves into the lymphatic system we call it lymph. Think of it as a continuous H2O shower for your cells. This fluid runs through tubes like parts of a tree. It has trunks—the big tubes that dump all this wash water back into the bloodstream to be filtered by the liver, kidneys, and spleen. You have branches or lymphatic veins that move the fluid onward into the tiny stems or lymphatic capillaries.
Consider another analogy. Let’s think about the lymphatic system like a city’s water system. We turn on our water faucet to get clean water, we wash dishes or laundry, and then the used water goes down the drain and through a series of smaller pipes called capillaries, then through vessels, and finally to the main sewer pipes or lymphatic trunks to the city’s water treatment plant (liver, kidneys, and spleen) where it can be cleaned and then return to come out your faucet again (the heart).
Your lymphatic system has valves that keep everything flowing in one direction. To keep the liquids moving, it needs physical movement—muscles contracting from activity, exercise, massage, or skin brushing. Even simple breathing and gravity will move it. The important thing is to keep it from backing up like a clogged toilet or kitchen sink. That’s when things get ugly—swelling or edema, inflammation and illness. The tubes and pipes of the lymphatic system also move the fatty acids into the bloodstream and circulate the lymphocytes or “germ eaters” throughout the body—an important part of the immune system.
Four Involved Structures or Organs
There are four organs or structures of the lymphatic system also involved with the immune system. They are the lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen, and thymus. Each plays a vital role in the immune system.
The lymph nodes are the glands under your jaw and along your neck that swell and hurt whenever you have a cold or flu. They are an extra filtering system that the lymph fluid passes through before reaching the main filtering or “water treatment” plants mentioned before, the liver, kidney, and spleen. The lymph nodes filter out damaged cells from our body: cancerous cells, cellular debris (floating garbage), and pathogens such as bacteria, fungus and viruses. They kill these bad bugs with lymphocytes that they produce right there on site. We have several areas on our body where these lymph nodes are found—the groin area, under our armpits, and in our abdomen are the main areas.
Our tonsils are very important tool for the immune system, too. It’s too bad that many near my age—in their 50s or older—had tonsils removed by doctors because they became swollen each time we got sick; or as in my husband’s case, his tonsils were removed when he was only age two just so they would never get swollen. Luckily for my children and grandchildren, so much more is now known about the immune system. Tonsils get swollen when they are doing their job, just like lymph nodes in the neck. It is a good thing lymph nodes are harder to remove, or a good many would have had their lymphatic systems seriously compromised, too!
Tonsils are the guardians of the mouth, the main doorway into the body, from everything that comes in, either from breathing or swallowing. They collect and kill the pathogens as they enter the body. Now you know another reason why inhaling an essential oil is such a great way to take in an oil. Essential oils assist the tonsils from not getting too bogged down with all the bad bacteria coming their way. And what about those of us without tonsils?—how much more do we need help from essential oils?
The spleen, located behind the stomach, is also an under-acknowledged organ with two very important functions, not just for the lymphatic and immune, but also for the circulatory system. It filters the blood, creates new blood, and stores it for an emergency. Having a spleen is like having your own blood transfusion center, ready for the next emergency. The spleen, like the lymph nodes, creates lymphocytes to kill the pathogens as they are filtered out of the blood. In cases of injury or disease, a spleen can be removed. A person can survive without a spleen but is left more prone to illness and hemorrhage. Such a person can benefit from essential oils even more than those of us who still have our spleens.
The thymus is located right above the heart in the center of the chest. It plays a very important role in the immune system when we are infants and children. The thymus creates special lymphocytes called T-cells. These special cells can attack and destroy foreign invaders in our bodies. Unfortunately, our thymus gets smaller and smaller as we get older. One of the things we can do to slow this process is to stimulate the thymus by thumping on our chest like Tarzan does. Maybe that’s why he is so healthy—all that thymus thumping he does.
The Immune System
The immune system is different than others in the body because it does not necessarily have its own separate organs. It borrows organs from all the other systems to do its work. We learned how the lymphatic system plays a large role in the immune system. The skin also plays a role—it provides an actual barrier or wall to prevent invaders from getting into the body. The tightly packed dead skin cells on the outer layer stop many of these pathogens from getting through, and the pH of our skin can kill some bacteria just on contact. Sweat also contains natural antibiotics to aid the body’s defenses. Adding essential oils to a skin care regimen is one way to assist the skin in strengthening the immune system.
The respiratory system also plays a role in the immune system with its mucous membranes. The mucus engulfs the germs as they enter the body either through the nose or mouth. Most of this mucus is swallowed where it goes down to the stomach and the acids there kill the pathogens.
The skin, respiratory, lymphatic, and immune systems are the main avenues to bring essential oils into the body. They really work together, one layering over the next. The skin and respiratory system are part of the immune system. The circulatory and lymphatic systems are symbiotic with the blood bringing the oxygen and inhaled essential oils from the lungs into the blood plasma. The plasma and oils then seep into the lymphatic system and around and around the oils go.
This is why I always say: take the lid off and take a sniff; put a little drop on the bottom of your big toe—then you’ll be covering all your bases.
For some challenges, remedying it can be as simple as that. Why not try an essential oil to see what it can do?