Healing inhalations

Lynne McTaggart

Conventional psychiatry isn’t working. That’s the conclusion of no less an eminent figure than Dr Anne Harrington in her book Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness.

Summarizing Harrington’s book, psychiatrist Daniel Morehead recounted her view that:

“Psychiatry as a medical discipline is a failure. Even worse, psychiatry constitutes a series of failures over its two-century history. The 19th-century asylums movement failed. Kraepelin’s descriptive psychiatry failed at the turn of the century. The pluralistic psychiatry of Adolf Meyer failed, leading an ‘anything-goes’ mentality up to and including lobotomies. The Freudian revolution ended in a ‘slow train wreck,’ leaving psychiatry in embarrassing disrepute. And last of all, psychiatry’s so-called biological revolution fizzled out in failure, as drug companies abandoned a profession ‘in crisis.’”

Writing in the April 2022 issue of Psychiatric Times, Morehead goes on to mount an ardent defense of his profession, but Harrington’s summation—particularly of modern drug-based psychiatry—stacks up when you view the evidence.

Antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, have proven an extraordinary and potentially life-threatening failure at curbing clinical depression. No drug yet created has been able to reverse the epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Drugs for Parkinson’s offer, at best, a managed and inevitable decline. And the usual pharmaceutical solutions for anxiety are highly addictive, as anyone taking Valium over the long haul can attest. Far from preventing suicide, they’ve led to an 11 percent increase in people killing themselves, and this while receiving psychiatric care.

That’s one reason the drug industry hasn’t produced a single new drug for mental illness in a decade—a tacit admission that the chemical solution to a range of mental illnesses isn’t making a dent in the suicides or the spiraling incidence of depression.

But there is hope for patients with a number of mental conditions from a most unlikely place: aromatherapy. Although aromatherapists have known the value of these oils to treat a host of conditions, new scientific studies confirm that inhaling the essential oils of a vast array of plants can also help to heal the brain.

A great deal of evidence has now shown that these essential oils, when inhaled, bypass the blood-brain barrier via olfactory nerves in the nasal cavity and pass through the nasal-brain pathway to directly target brain tissue, particularly the amygdala, the primitive emotional center of the brain.

These oils directly affect the thalamus, the cerebral cortex and the limbic system (involved in emotion), which in turn have a central role in depression and anxiety.

Aromatherapy oils contain hundreds of active compounds that have direct effects on both the immune system and the central nervous system, and therefore on the brain.

Although the oils affect the same pathways that are targeted by pharmaceutical drugs, they do not come with the same litany of side effects—or, indeed, increase the risk of suicide, as many antidepressants and antipsychotics do.

Once they are inhaled into the nose or mouth, just a few drops of oil, which contain quintillions of molecules, enter the bloodstream via the lungs, where they activate the vagus nerve—the longest nerve in the body and a superhighway between the brain and every major organ.

This nerve, which controls both the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous systems, tends to be out of kilter in  in a variety of mental issues and generally on permanent high alert.

But new research has shown that many essential oils can calm and restore proper regulation of the vagus nerve, which in turn can switch off inflammation and overcome conditions like depression and anxiety.

Other evidence shows that good vagal “tone” can also heal conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia and even Parkinson’s disease.

Essential oils have been prized for their healing properties for thousands of years (remember, the gifts given by the Three Wise Men included frankincense and myrrh, both valued as highly as gold). But it wasn’t until the early 20th century that aromatherapy gained status as a medical treatment, and until 1975 that the chemical components of plants were finally recognized.

At that time, scientists began to discover that the aromatic molecules from herbs, flowers and plants contained chemical components such as limonene, citronellol and linalool, which have powerful antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. These and other similar types of compounds can be found in essential oils such as lemon, bergamot and sweet orange.

More recently, a raft of evidence is emerging to show that inhaled essential oils from common herbs like rosemary and peppermint act on the brain to restore memories. And while they affect the same pathways as the most popular Alzheimer’s drugs, they appear to be more effective and long-lasting, without side effects.

The forthcoming holidays are traditionally a time of the greatest joy but also the greatest sadness. Some two-thirds of people who have a mental challenge find their struggles are worse during the holidays, and nearly 40 percent of people find their stress levels vastly increase at this time of year.

When making your holiday preparations, instead of simply lighting candles, consider turning on an aromatherapy diffuser with a few oils known to lift the spirits.

It may be the most effective way of all to spread the Christmas cheer.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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221 comments on “Healing inhalations”

  1. I am a psychiatrist and have helped countless numbers of people with or without drugs. Anti-depressants have probably saved my own life. They have to be used selectively, but unfortunately they are not, so only 3 out of 10 with symptoms of depression respond. Drugs are very effective for bi-polar and to a lesser extent for Schizophrenia and other psychoses. I have tried essential oils and other substances but to no effect.

  2. Modern prescription drugs can alleviate symptoms of severe depression and anxiety, allowing patients 'space' to heal themselves. Healing involves going to the root of the problems, which can involve psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and regression therapy with enlightened therapists, and life coaching, where appropriate. There are often no quick fixes, and, yes, drugs — on their own — do not cure people. I am very interested in aromatherapy to help heal anxiety and depression and I suspect this will be suitable for people with milder symptoms, but for those who need clinical treatment, when the symptoms are so severe that the patients find it difficult to cope, there is a place for careful use of medication. However, we are slowly moving towards a more holistic approach to treatment of anxiety and depression and thank you, Lynne, for illuminating us.

  3. Liebe Lynne,
    Seit Jahren verwende ich ätherische Öle von Jung.Living. Sie sind wunderbar. Aber ich habe von der zeitenschrift.com
    erfahren, es gibt inzwischen bessere ... Seitdem beziehe ich meine Öle von der Fa. Damacena, Schweiz. Welche ich da nicht bekommen, beziehe ich diese von der zeitschrift. Durch diese Zeitschrift habe ich auch die Öle kennengelernt.
    Da gibt es wunderbare Artikel drüber.
    Interessant wäre, welche Öle Lynne bewi physischen Problemen verwendet, denn ich habe eine Tochter, die Psychopharmaka nimmt und mir immer noch nicht glaubt.
    Wir können ja immer nur noch dazulernen.
    Möge der Göttliche Segen immer mit Euch sein
    Herzlichst Janka Griebenow

  4. Thank you so much, Lynne for sharing this! My father had been diagnosed with Parkinson's some years ago and has been put on the usual medications since then. Are rosemary and peppermint the most promising essential oils to help this condition? Are these details discussed in the book or is there any other source where you can see which oil is best suited for which kind of mental issue? I'd certainly love to learn more about the how to apply what and when. Thanks again for your wonderful work!

  5. I have practised what is known as “Five element acupuncture” and I can assure that proper treatment can really help with psychosis. Because one mainly treats the spirit.
    When I retired, to keep my brain going is started studying Essential Oils. Which I now use non stop. The French being the great masters.

  6. Impressive, this is absolutely awe-inspiring! I appreciate the effort you invested in sharing this valuable information. I always fantastic to stumble upon well-written and enlightening articles like this. Keep up the fantastic effort!

  7. So excited to share my thoughts here! This content is refreshingly unique, merging creativity with insight in a way that's captivating and educational. Every detail seems carefully put together, demonstrating a deep grasp and passion for the subject. It's extraordinary to find such a perfect blend of information and entertainment! Big props to everyone involved in creating this masterpiece. Your hard work and dedication shine brightly, and it's an absolute joy to witness. Looking forward to seeing more of this amazing work in the future! Keep inspiring us all! #Inspired #CreativityAtItsBest

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