As we enter the summer term students of all ages are burning the midnight oil working towards their exams. Anything that can help during this busy time is always appreciated and believe it or not aromatherapy can help in its own way. Carefully selected essential oils can boost your productivity and your health. Inhalation of an agreeable aroma can cause many changes to the body, helping to relax, stimulate and regulate many of our bodily systems.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years, by many cultures, for improving mental activity and strengthening the memory. Our sense of smell is the strongest of the senses and is able to influence brain activity. Via our olfactory bulbs our sense of smell is linked to the limbic area of the brain, the part of the brain that is responsible for, amongst other things, our memories and emotions. An odour (such as an essential oil) can be used to stimulate this part of the brain helping our brain to function more efficiently. The connection between new ideas and scent is developed during learning, so that same scent can trigger the memory when the information is required, such as during an exam. To use this information recall technique you need to introduce new odours not used before, a different essential oils for each subject to be learnt.
Whilst studying vaporise your chosen oil close to your work station, then when it is time to sit the exam take a tissue infused with the same essential oil with you into the exam room. This will help to recall the information previously studied. Choosing an essential oil for each subject is the fun bit as there are so many oils that could be utilised:
· Rosemary is the most cephalic essential oil; its sharp camphorous odour stimulates mental activity, aids concentration and boosts a fatigued brain as well as enhancing proscriptive memory. A study in 2003 found that participants who inhaled rosemary oil during an exam displayed significantly higher cognitive function. It is also a great stress reliever and balancer. (Not to be used if you suffer with epilepsy or high blood pressure and avoid during pregnancy).
· Basil with its sweet, refreshing smell has similar properties to rosemary. It clears and strengthens the mind, improving poor memory and fatigue-induced distraction and also helps to relieve headaches associated with stress and tension. (Avoid during pregnancy).
· Peppermint is spicy, fragrant oil and a natural ‘pick-me-up’. This oil wakes the mind, focuses the senses and improves the memory. It is able to provide relief from stress and mental exhaustion due to its refreshing, stimulating odour. It clears the mind and increases focus on cognitive tasks. ( Do not use with homeopathic remedies).
· Frankincense has a softer odour than some of the other essential oils mentioned but I had to include it for its ability to quieten the mind and support focused attention. This is a lovely oil to use at the end of a hard revision session as it actively lowers the blood pressure and calms the mind, helping to clear your head ready for a sound nights sleep.
· Lemon has calming and clarifying properties, helping to promote concentration. It also helps to calm anger and frustration, emotions often experienced whilst studying.
· Ginger for its ability to energise and uplift, helping to alleviate nervous and mental exhaustion. Also good for calming nausea so a good oil to use to calm pre-exam nerves.
· Lavender is usually thought of as a relaxant that you would use before bed but its calming properties can help keep emotional stress in check. Lavender has a soothing effect on the nervous system so as well as calming nervous tension it can help relieve headaches and migraines.
· Jasmine is a great oil for its uplifting capabilities, this oil energizes and helps produce a feeling of confidence. Use in small amounts as it can be quite a heady oil, leading to headaches if use for long periods of time.
· Eucalyptus has a cooling and refreshing effect that uplifts and clears the head. This stimulating oil helps alleviate exhaustion and mental sluggishness. It stimulates mental activity and as it is considered a vasodilator it increases blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body. More blood to the brain=more brain power!
· Geranium heightens the imagination so is a great oil for all anyone involved all in artistic study. Research has shown geranium oil has a synergistic relationship with the chemistry of the brain as it has been found to activate microglial cells which are integral components in the fight against neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy, treating the body, mind and soul. Keep this in mind when studying and ensure that you get the rest, exercise and nourishment your body needs as well as giving your head chance to clear and re-focus. Whichever oils you choose I wish you the best of luck with your studies. Paula x