essential oils cross blood brain barrier

For years, the medical community has perpetuated the dual myths that only doctors can prescribe medicines and that all medicines have side effects.  In doing so, they have deliberately ignored the potential health benefits of essential oils.  In general terms drugs toxify, that is, they can increase the presence of toxic substances; whilst essential oils do the opposite – they can detoxify.

So why has the medical community ignored the benefits of essential oils?  Apologists claim it is the result of indoctrination during medical training, mainly that the benefits of taking drugs outweigh the risks.  Conspiracy theorists claim it is because the medical community is in bed with drug companies in an attempt to keep the public from finding out the benefits of essential oils.  While doctors in the United States and other developed countries might not turn to essential oils out of the fear that they could be held accountable for not using more ‘modern’ treatments.

Regardless of what you might believe one simple fact is true – most drug molecules are too big to cross the blood-brain barrier and drug companies have been spending millions on research develop ever smaller nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles are defined as particles that are smaller than 100 nanometers.  According to a study published in the American Chemistry Society’s NanoLetters, the optimal size for nanoparticles to breach the blood-brain barrier is 50 nm[1] while another study published in the Journal of Radiation Research noted the optimal nanoparticle size was closer to 20 nm[2].

Most current drugs are much larger than these sizes and is the reason why very few chemotherapy drugs are effective in the treatment of brain cancers.  When they are able to pass through the blood-brain barrier, the drugs attack good cells as well as bad cells – as they are effectively programmed to carry out their role regardless of the impact on the surrounding cells.

Compare this with essential oils, such as Frankincense, which can also be used in the treatment of brain cancers.   According to Dr. Josh Axe, this essential oil has been proven to help brain cancer patients suffering from cerebral edema (swelling in the head) following irradiation.  It is claimed to work because Frankincense can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier and eliminate the harmful toxins that remain as a side effect of the irradiation process, thus returning the body to a state of balance.  An added benefit of essential oils in treatment is that the body is better able to fight off other diseases which might attack when our immune systems are at our weakest.

Most drugs are designed to block cell receptors, by sending mixed signals or misinformation.  As such, they are not really designed to fight the cause of the disease.  Whilst essential oils help to cleanse cell receptors, they can pass along information needed to return the cell to its natural function.

Another claimed advantage essential oils have over medicines is the way they are administered.  Essential oils are generally administered via aromatherapy.  This is effective because our sense of smell is the only sense that is directly connected to the limbic area of the brain.  As such, the inhalation of essential oils takes the express route straight to the part of our brains which control a number of bodily functions including breathing, blood pressure, stress levels, and hormone balance to name a few.  This may explain why aromatherapy generally has a calming effect on patients.

One study performed in the 1990’s found that the application of a natural compound containing the essential oils of Cedarwood, Frankincense, Patchouli, Sandalwood, and Vetiver had a 28% increase in brain oxygen levels.  All of this it is claimed, without any side effects.

One of the most effective essential oils in the treatment of brain injuries is Frankincense, which is extremely effective in stimulating permanent healing, making it a powerful treatment option for hard to heal injuries such as brain swelling or concussions.

And another essential oil with that maybe useful in treating brain injuries is Bergamot oil which has been used by some for the treatment of stroke as well as reducing the side effects of anxiety during radiation treatment.  Similar to Frankincense, Bergamot is delivered via aromatherapy and it is this olfactory form of treatment which is the specific reason for its efficacy.  Not only is your sense of smell directly connected to the limbic area of the brain, but these olfactory receptors act as a natural screening mechanism for nanoparticles that are too big to pass the blood-brain barrier.


In 2015, USA Today highlighted a Pentagon report which cited doctors use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) to treat traumatic brain injury.  According to the Mayo Clinic, HBOT relies on inhaling pure oxygen in a controlled environment.  Other studies are exploring the effects of Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (mild HBOT) in combination with the essential oils of Vetiver, Lavender, and even Frankincense in the treatment of numerous conditions including autism.

Lavender, in particular, makes the brain more resilient by helping the brain to protect itself from neurological damage – this could be useful in treating concussion risks in contact sports such as rugby.

For centuries, Lavender has been used to treat migraines, stress, and depression and according to a study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, this essential oil can be used as a less toxic alternative to Prozac and might even be effective than the current standard treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.

With the increasing concern about the costs and efficacy of drugs in treating brain injuries and other diseases, it is time for the medical community to reexamine the use of essential oils as an alternative to common ‘modern’ treatments.   Essential oils are well equipped to help stimulate recovery from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, as well as managing Alzheimer’s.  Essential oils also help the body to return to a state of balance quicker, thus leaving it well equipped to fight off secondary infections and diseases.  Furthermore, the use of essential oils means that they can pass through the blood-brain barrier.  As such, they should be considered as an additional treatment when dealing with brain injuries.

As a disclaimer it is always wise to consult your doctor and aromatherapist before considering the use of any essential oil. Their opinions should help you form an informative decision in regard to your medical treatment

[1] Chithrani BD, Ghazani AA, Chan WCW. Determining the size and shape dependence of gold nanoparticle uptake into mammalian cells. Nano Lett. 2006;6:662–8.  Retrieved 28 March 2016.

[2] Trono JD, Mizuno K, Yusa N, Matsukawa T, Yokoyama K, Uesaka M. Size, concentration and incubation time dependence of gold nanoparticle uptake into pancreas cancer cells and its future application to X-Ray Drug Delivery System. J Radiat Res. 2011;52:103–9.  Retrieved 28 March 2016.