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Words By Tara Wagner

Essential Oils and Emotions: How Essential Oils Work In the Brain To Change The Way You Think & Feel

Tara smelling oils on hands

Let’s talk about essential oils and emotions. Have you ever felt like your emotions were in control of you, instead of the other way around, like you couldn’t do the things you wanted to do because of the way you were feeling? Well, I’m going to show you how to change that using the chemistry of essential oils to impact the way you think, feel, and act.

In this post, I want to introduce you to my secret weapon.

This is something that I have used to help literally thousands of women and men change the way they think, the way they feel, even help them to create new habits.

Watch here or read below.

Essential Oils and Emotions: How Essential Oils Work In the Brain To Change The Way You Think & Feel Click To Tweet

Now, I’ve been working with and using essential oils for a very long time. I started back in 2000, actually. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to doTerra in 2012 that I really started to look into and research the effect of essential oils on our emotions and on our limbic system.

Since then, I have researched, I have studied, I have talked to experts, and I have used them for myself and on my coaching clients, to help us to do things like overcome overwhelm, manage stress, rewrite limiting beliefs, and change the way that we’re thinking, we’re feeling, we’re showing up in our business and in our lives.

This is literally one of my favorite tools for belief breakthrough and emotional well-being.

Today, you’re going to understand why, so let’s dive in.

brain activity


Within your brain is something called the limbic system.

This is referred to as the emotional center of your brain, because literally every thought, emotion, conscious and unconscious memory, knee-jerk reaction, personality trait, feeling of stress, or life lesson you’ve ever experienced, is thought to be held here, in your limbic system.

It’s like a storage unit, and one of its jobs is to help you to process current situations in the tiniest fraction of a second to help you to determine, based on past situations, what is the best or safest way for you to think, feel, or react now?

This is a self-preservation mechanism, basically to ensure that you are playing it safe, hanging out in your comfort zone and that no harm is going to come to you.

All this information is stored in a way that keeps it pretty inaccessible to you as well, which is why it’s so frustrating when we’re trying to change these things, and we feel like we can’t do it.

Think of your thoughts and emotions like wagon wheels, just traveling the same pathways over and over until they create these really deep ruts.

We literally get stuck in these thought or emotional patterns, these ruts in our mind, and it can feel really impossible to get out of.

2 oils next to white diffuser

Now, also within your limbic system is something called your olfactory bulb.

This is literally your sense of smell.

And this is really unique because it’s the only one of your senses that’s processed in this part of your brain, right alongside your thoughts and emotions.

Your olfactory bulb relays information directly into your limbic system. But it’s not just relaying smells. It’s actually relaying the things associated with smell.

This is because your olfactory neurons themselves are capable of learning and remembering information, and they’re constantly undergoing something called neurogenesis, meaning they’re constantly renewing.

Every six to 10 weeks, they are brand new neurons, ready to take in new information, and relay that to your limbic system as new messages.

By the way, researchers are actually finding these olfactory neurons all over our body. Did you know your liver can actually smell what’s going through it?

Now, remember all this, because we’re going to come back to it.

But let’s shift gears first, and talk about the oils for a minute.

Essential oils are made up of natural and aromatic compounds.

Most people these days understand how they work within the body. Lavender soothes and calms irritated skin, and peppermint stimulates digestion, and melaleuca, or tea tree oil, promotes healing.

Well, just as these oils work with different systems of the body, the aromatic compounds are also working within the systems of your brain.

Working through that olfactory bulb, some oils are going to calm certain areas of the limbic system. Others are going to stimulate.

It can bring up memories, they can help us process trauma, they can increase confidence and courage, all by interacting with the limbic system, either by themselves or, this is where it gets juicy when you’re using them with other practices.

Anyone can use oils and feel better in the moment.

You can diffuse florals and trees, and help you to calm down and go to sleep. You can use citrus and mints to kind of perk you up and give you some energy.

But if you want to actually use them to rewrite the way you think and feel, a casual approach is not going to do the trick, because all that’s happening when you’re using them casually is a simple chemical response.

It’s helpful in the moment, but it’s not actually changing the long-term habits or patterns that are going on in your brain.

When you want to permanently change the way you think, feel, or act, you want to rewrite limiting beliefs, or you want to overcome deeply ingrained fears, you need a much more disciplined approach to get the benefits of these oils.

Remember when I said the olfactory bulb relays messages associated with aroma? This is the key.

When you use the right essential oils with the right tools, whether that’s therapy, journaling, affirmations, meditation, or any other personal development work, the oils you’re using not only interact on that chemical level, but the olfactory bulb actually carries those new positive messages that you’re creating or experiencing straight into the limbic system, to be written as new programming.

So, yes, oils themselves can make you feel good, but oils coupled with the right tools can make it permanent.

Now, there are a few rules to make sure that you’re doing this right, and actually getting results, so let’s go through those one at a time.


You must be consistent.

Every thought, every emotion, every action that you have is reinforcing the patterns that are already there. Click To Tweet

This means to see results in changing these things, you have to be consistent, both in the work that you’re doing, and in the oils that you’re using.

So, I recommend that you create a daily practice for personal development, and then you incorporate the same essential oils into it every single day.

Also, make sure that you’re carrying those oils with you, and that you’re diffusing them throughout the day as well. And since during your personal practice you’re going to be creating associations between the aroma and the work that you’re doing, just smelling that aroma later throughout the day is going to help bring up that work again.


Give yourself enough time to really see the results.

This won’t work if you’ve just done it for a week, and then you throw in the towel.

Remember what I was saying about those olfactory neurons, they’re regenerating every six to 10 weeks? I actually recommend that you stick with the same practice and same oils for at least that long.


Don’t use crap oils.

I personally use and recommend only doTerra essential oils, because after 18 plus years using these oils, I have never seen anything like doTerra’s.

Fake and adulterated essential oils are a huge issue in the industry right now there are so many companies that are trying to compete on price instead of quality. But you don’t want to be inhaling that into your limbic system.

So, if you need some help in figuring out the right oils for your budget and your needs, let me know, and I will walk you through the best options to get you started.

If you want to know more about why I use dĹŤTERRA, click here.

Wooden doTERRA box of oils with foliage in the foreground and background


Get specific, both in what you’re working on and in the oils that you’re using.

A lot of oils have very similar properties, but with slight distinctions or variations that could make a huge difference for you.

So, you really want to get specific in what you’re using.

However, I will say that I like to use blends because I find that I cover the most bases, and then I don’t have to worry about it.

That being said, you can make this a little bit easier by understanding the categories of oils, and how each category of oils impact you on an emotional level.

For instance, florals are going to be very calming and relaxing. Trees are going to be very grounding and stabilizing. Your mint oils are going to be very invigorating. Your citrus oils are going to be very energizing. And then things like herbs or spices, they tend to do more of the complex heavy lifting.


Do not pick an oil based on how it smells.

Our response to an oil’s aroma might give us some clues, but just because we don’t like the way it smells, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to do its job.

So, pick an oil based on its benefits, not its aroma.

I do, however, want you to pay attention to your reaction.

What I find is that there are three common reactions that people will have. They’re either going to be strongly drawn to an oil, strongly repulsed by the smell, or it’s just going to be kind of neutral.

In my experience, a strong attraction tends to correlate to our readiness or our consciousness around particular issues or emotions. Maybe we know we’re working on them, or we know we need to work on them, or we feel ready to work on them.

A strong repulsion tends to mean that we’re bringing up something that we might not be ready for, or that we might not be as conscious of, or we might be resisting the work. Then neutral, it’s just neutral.

Also, as you’re paying attention to that initial response, pay attention to how your response changes as you work with the oil.

Both the way that you feel about the oil, and the smell of the oil itself, is going to change based on your emotional state in that moment.

As you’re working through different issues, and your emotions start to shift, the aroma and your response to the aroma is going to shift with it. It’s really, really cool.


Okay. Now you know how essential oils and emotions work, and you know the five rules to make sure that you’re going to get the best out of them.

But at this point, you might feel a little bit overwhelmed with where to actually start, with so many different emotions, so many different oils, so many different things you might want to be addressing.

So, I created a free guide to walk you through my top 10 recommendations, specifically for boss ladies.

This is going to walk you through not only the oils, but the emotions that they address, and affirmations that you can start using with each and every one.

It’s called Sniff, Sniff, Affirm, and you can download it for free with this link or the image below!


Now, I’d love to hear from you. How do you use essential oils for emotions or personal development? Leave your tips and best practices or any questions that you have in the comments below.


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*This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclaimer here.


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Tara Wagner

Tara Wagner

I’m Tara Wagner, creator of the Breakthrough Boss®. I help small biz owners overcome burnout and create part-time schedules with full-time profits. Not with some new marketing strategy, but with a holistic approach to how you operate.
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