Neurofeedback (NFB) is a technique done through a software program that helps train brain waves into healthy patterns. This is a drug-free, non-invasive technique that improves the health and function of the brain. NFB has been around since the 1950’s and has the support of many professionals such as Dr. Mercola, Dr. Oz and Dr. Amen. Over 1,000 studies have been published in relation to NFB.

In addition to NFB, there are many other avenues to explore when it comes to brain health. Some examples include techniques such as Eye Movement Desensitizing Reprocessing (EDMR) Therapy and Emotional Talk Therapy. Other avenues include nutrition, meditation, herbs and essential oils. These are all good adjuncts to doing neurofeedback. The below information includes how monoterpene-rich essential oils can assist in conditions such as anxiety, stress and bi-polar disorder. Monoterpene-rich essential oils have shown to be as effective or better than anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drugs and do not cause undesirable side effects.

Check out the following studies:

The underlying molecular causes of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and maniac episodes in bipolar disorder are nearly the same. In both cases, two things take place:

  • little GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) activity
  • increased sympathetic nervous system activity [1].

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain whose receptors are targeted by commonly used anxiolytic drugs like benzodiazepines or barbiturates. By stimulating those receptors, GABA has its inhibitory effect on neural hyperactivity, preventing the excessive stress response. If there are is a GABA deficiency, like in GAD and bipolar disorder, excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonine, norepipherine or glutamate can dominate causing episodes of anxiety, stress and mania. Such a state is amplified by the sympathetic branch of the nervous system which causes the release of stress-hormones: cortisol and catecholamines, that tend to raise blood pressure and heart rate.

It has been pointed out by numerous studies that essential oils like lavender, lemon, bergamot and ylang ylang effectively alleviate the above symptoms. They all contain high amounts of monoterpenes and their derivatives [2, 4, 5, 7]. Among this family, constituents such as linalool, linalyl acetate, limonene, alpha and beta-pinenes or terpinen-4-ol can be found.

It has been proven that monoterpenes act on the GABA-A receptors, similarly to benzodiazepines [2, 4, 7] by boosting insufficient GABA activity. They do so by binding to a different site of the GABA-A receptor than the anxiolytic drugs [5] without the side effects of the medications.

When it comes to their efficacy, monoterpenes cause similar or higher drop of HAMA (Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale) than benzodiazepines or trycyclic antidepressant drugs [2], proving their same or better potency:

  •  Monoterpenes inhibit the binding of excitatory glutamate to its receptors [2, 3].
  • Monoterpenes decrease the levels of cortisol and catecholamines and provides soothing effects [3 ,6, 7].

Until recently, scientists believed that a marble-sized brain area, called the amygdala, served as the hub of fear and anxiety. According to this theory, one would only feel anxiety when signals from the emotional brain overpower the cognitive brain, and into our consciousness. Recent studies have changed that theory. It’s believed now, that no one brain region drives anxiety on its own, but that it results from constant chatter between several brain regions termed “fear network”. For further information on what parts of the brain deal with anxiety, check out:  

Imagine if you could inhale an essential oil to help quell anxiousness or stress. This may be more a reality than not. From the above findings it is easy to speculate that essential oils high in monoterpene compounds can be an excellent choice to safely manage stress, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Essential oils (when diffused) are molecularly small enough to cross the blood brain barrier, or rather they have a unique ability to penetrate the cell membranes and spread throughout the blood and tissues quickly. This is because essential oils are lipid soluble and very light in molecular weight. This penetration happens through the olfactory system in which the molecules of an essential oil when inhaled are transported to the limbic system of the brain quite readily.

Other general therapeutic properties of monoterpenes include anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, decongestant, increase blood circulation, general tonic and stimulating