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Activating the Vagus Nerve with Essential Oils

April 7, 2021

Whether this is from stress, or an invasive procedure that we have undertaken, or even just the accumulation of intense concentration that we are often subjected to through our daily workload. The role of the nervous system, while often overlooked, is so important in enabling our body’s ability to repair.

Throughout our busy days, we rely on the “fight and flight” response of our sympathetic nervous system to give us the energy we need to cope with our daily stressors. To repair the body we need to activate and switch on the parasympathetic nervous system which allows our body to repair, gain healing and rejuvenate.

New studies have identified the role of the vagus nerve as the important “gearshift” that allows us to effectively make the switch between the fight or flight sympathetic state, to the rest state of the parasympathetic mode.

While there are breathing exercises that we can do to help regulate the vagus nerve we want to introduce you to another simpler way of achieving this using certain essential oils.  So, what exactly is the role of the vagus nerve and why do we need to activate it?

The vagus nerve is often referred to as the wanderer, as it goes from the brainstem and wanders down throughout the body affecting every organ in the body. It triggers your mouth to release saliva, which helps start to break down proteins and fats so that they can be better absorbed, it helps the stomach to release hydrochloric acid. This then helps the pancreas release digestive enzymes and the gallbladder to release bile – all important tasks for healthy digestion and for nutrient assimilation to our circulatory system.

The most important function of the vagus nerve is that it contributes to the gastric motility wave in the body, allowing for the release of waste and toxins for elimination. As we know, when we are stuck in fight and flight sympathetic dominance, this is when problems arise, for example, stagnation in the digestive system that can contribute to IBS or constipation through the accumulation of wastes. 

Anatomically, the vagus nerve starts at the back of the head. It then splits and whines around both sides of the neck as it moves across to branch out to both sides of the body.  However, it is the thickest right behind the earlobe, right at the junction of the masseter or chewing muscle.

While traditionally calming essential oils such as lavender and chamomile have been used to soothe the sympathetic nervous system, studies have identified a new approach. When we are stuck in sympathetic dominance the vagus nerve is stagnant, so, when addressing the vagus nerve rather than calming it, we need to stimulate it to perform its task. 

To achieve this a blend of Clove and Lime essential oils diluted in a carrier oil have been identified as being highly effective. By applying a couple of drops on each side of the vagus junction this formula can help encourage vagus nerve activation. The beauty of essential oils is that their molecular weight is so minute that they can quickly enter the bloodstream. A gentle blend of 3% within a carrier oil of these two oils has been reported to improve calmness, ease digestive discomfort, and improve the feeling of tiredness.

To learn more about this topic, look out for the Autumn issue of APJ Journal for the full article.

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