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 1950s 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.
Therapies to do in Conjunction with Neurofeedback
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 information below includes how monoterpene-rich essential oils can assist in conditions such as anxiety, stress, and bipolar 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 a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and manic 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 .
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, serotonin, norepinephrine, 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, which tend to raise blood pressure and heart rate.
What Essential Oils Help with Anxiety and Stress
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 terpinene-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  without the side effects of the medications.
When it comes to their efficacy, monoterpenes cause a similar or higher drop of HAMA (Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale) than benzodiazepines or tricyclic antidepressant drugs , 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 provide soothing effects [3,6, 7].
New Study Shows Anxiety is Not in One Brain Region
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: https://www.brainfacts.org/diseases-and-disorders/mental-health/2018/what-part-of-the-brain-deals-with-anxiety-what-can-brains-affected-by-anxiety-tell-us-062918.
Imagine if you could inhale an essential oil to help quell anxiousness or stress. This may be more of 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 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
- Christina Hardtle; Brain Chemistry of Mania
- Jeremy Appleton; Lavender Oil for Anxiety and Depression
- Reza Bekhradi, Katayon Vakilian; The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Test Anxiety in Female Students
- Laura Rombolà, Laura Tridico, Damiana Scuteri, Tsukasa Sakurada, Shinobu Sakurada, Hirokazu Mizoguchi, Pinarosa Avato , Maria Tiziana Corasaniti, Giacinto Bagetta, Luigi Antonio Morrone; Bergamot Essential Oil Attenuates Anxiety-Like Behaviour in Rats
- Simone Perna, Daniele Spadaccini, Leonardo Botteri, Carolina Girometta, Antonella Riva, Pietro Allegrini, Giovanna Petrangolini, Vittoria Infantino, Mariangela Rondanell; Efficacy of bergamot: From anti-inflammatory and antioxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations
- Loh Teng Hern Tan, Learn Han Lee, Wai Fong Yin, Chim Kei Chan, Habsah Abdul Kadir, Kok Gan Chan, Bey Hing Goh; Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, and Bioactivities of Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang)
- Departamento de Bioquímica, Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F., México. firstname.lastname@example.org