Scientific research has revealed that essential oils possesses myriad beneficial phytochemical properties such as anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, anti-stress, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and analgesic, but their ability to influence human potential is far from limited to psychophysiological effects. Aromatic essences have also been used for centuries to create a more meaningful connection with something bigger than ourselves, and, indeed, may place us in a state more receptive to inspiration.
The use of aromatic essences and the burning of incense — aromatic resins and gums, such as frankincense and balsam used to create scented fragrances for specific applications — was a fundamental part of ancient Egyptian life. Incense was burned as an offering to Egyptian gods and large quantities were burned every day in temples throughout Egypt.
The Bible contains many references to the burning of incense as an integral part of sacred ceremonies, and the precious aromatic botanicals frankincense and myrrh were offered to the Christ child by wise men. More than a dozen aromatic botanicals are referenced in the Old and New Testament books of the Bible, many of which are distilled into essential oils today: aloeswood, calamus, cassia, cinnamon, cistus, cypress, fir, frankincense, galbanum, hyssop, juniper, myrrh, myrtle, onycha, pine, saffron, sandalwood, and spikenard.
Similarly, the ancient Romans, Greeks, Persians, Indians, and Chinese all used aromatic essences for a variety of purposes, including religious rituals. Some religions continue this practice of using aromatic botanicals during religious services, at temples, before household alters, and to purify and protect.
Spirituality is a universal human experience that connects us to or brings us into greater harmony with the present moment, to self, to our fellow man, to nature, or to the divine. Many find that spirituality is intricately associated with religion, while others consider it a separate and broader concept associated with emotions, behavior, emotions, and philosophies that involves search for transcendent meaning. Beyond the religious aspects of spirituality, it involves the ability to discover meaning and purpose in life, moral and ethical principles to abide by, and a deep relationship with something bigger than one’s self.
Essential oils are volatile molecules obtained from the seeds, leaves, bark, resins, and other materials of nature’s most generous botanicals. They have been used to support optimum wellness and enhance human potential for hundreds of years. One of the most remarkable aspects of essential oils is their ability to simultaneously influence one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. In this way, essential oils are uniquely qualified to produce dramatic results that other remedies can only dream of.
Some choose to use essential oils to open the mind and enhance spiritual connections and inspiration. They do so by inhaling an essential oil while meditating or direct application of essential oils to the body (i.e. the crown of the head, base of the skull, or over the heart).
Pioneering researchers are beginning to unlock the powerful influence the aromas of essential oils have on brainwave activity. Increasing theta brainwave activity is a preferred state for meditation because it heightens receptiveness and provides access to knowledge and information that is normally beyond conscious awareness. According to a study published in the May 2011 edition of Flavour and Fragrance Journal, inhalation of Siberian fir needle essential oil for 40 minutes promoted a more relaxed state and increased theta brainwaves. Other essential oils that remarkably influence brainwave activity include frankincense, balsam fir, copaiba, and lavender essential oils.
In another way, essential oils may indirectly improve spirituality by removing obstructions that hinder its full potential. For example, negative emotions have the potential to harm spirituality. Essential oils release molecules into the air that interact with the nervous and endocrine systems in such a way to dramatically alter the release of hormones and neurotransmitters involved in mood, memory, emotions, and cognition. Some of the chemicals and hormones key to spirituality include (essential oils that influence their levels according to research are listed in parenthesis):
- Serotonin. A key neurotransmitter that can trigger a utopian environment, profoundly influences mood, and relays signals from one part of the brain to another. (Lavender, lemon, and rosemary)
- Cortisol. A hormone produced during periods of stress, cortisol accelerates cellular aging and significantly alters normal functions to bring down your overall health. (Lavender, ylang, ylang, and bergamot)
- GABA. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety and encourages centering. (Citronella, lemongrass, and white verbena)
- Endorphins. These neurochemicals are responsible for producing a wide-ranging sense of happiness. (Clary sage, clove, and lemon)
Another roadblock to heightening spirituality is chronic pain. Essential oils can reduce physical pain and discomfort that is intimately connected to the mind and can quickly lead to an overwhelming sensory and emotional experience that dulls the spirit. Indeed, spiritual pain — pain and distress caused by an inability to find sources of hope, meaning, love, and peace when during life circumstances that conflict with deeply held beliefs — can be an incredibly disruptive pain in and of itself.
Inhalation of calming essential oils (lavender, chamomile, and orange) can reduce one’s response to pain and topical application of analgesic essential oils (peppermint, wintergreen, and spruce) can provide much needed soothing relief.
Interestingly, scientific research suggests that persons who consider themselves religious are less likely to have chronic pain and fatigue when compared to persons who consider themselves spiritual but not affiliated with regular worship attendance. This research published in the Sept-Oct 2008 edition of Pain Resource Management concluded that people who regularly attend religious services are more likely to use positive coping strategies and experience less chronic pain.
The following is a list of essential oils that are frequently used for spiritual purposes:
- Cleansing & Purifying. Angelica, anise, balsam fir, cedarwood, cypress, eucalyptus, juniper, lemon, lemon tea tree, myrrh, opoponax, peppermint, spearmint, and white sage.
- Grounding (Promote a sense of calm and 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, guaiacwood, guggul, myrrh, palo santo, sandalwood, spikenard, and Western red cedar.
- General Spirituality. Cassia, cinnamon, balsam fir, frankincense, ginger, lavender, myrtle, pine, sandalwood, and spruce.
From a holistic perspective, it is impossible to affect one aspect of your health (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) without influencing the other areas. Spirituality is a vital aspect of overall well-being that cannot be neglected for those who seek peak vitality. Give essential oils a try and experience their dramatic effects for yourself today.
Scott A. Johnson is a naturopath, Certified Elite Essential Oil Specialist, Certified Clinical Master Aromatherapist, and Board Certified Alternative Medical Practitioner dedicated to raising healthier generations naturally. His evidence-based approach to natural medicine and enthusiasm for sharing wellness with the global masses makes him a world leader in natural medicine. Join his wellness community to get a free report on essential oils and MRSA.