The Chemistry of Anxiety and 4 Recommended Essential Oils

It seems I wrote a piece on anxiety just last week, and that’s ok because the intention with this one is to get a bit more specific about

The Chemistry of Anxiety

  1. dopamine - responsible for movement, learning, behavior, regulation of fluid and more also appears to have a role in modulating anxiety

  2. GABA - an inhibitory neurotransmitter known for its role in calming and soothing the nervous system at the same time, it’s also been linked to mood disorders

  3. glutamate - the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter, used in every excitatory function in the brain in addition to well over 90% the synaptic connections and localized brain regions. It is also used in the production of glutathione and GABA. However, with adaptations to the NMDA gene, processes change, indicating glutamate in anxiety disorders as well.

  4. norepinephrine | epinephrine - are responsible for the flow of energy and regulating many systemic functions; however, when chronically stressed, these neurotransmitters / hormones become overactive and have been linked to anxiety

  5. serotonin - probably the most well-known neurotransmitter has a number of roles in the body including sleep as it is a precursor for melatonin, bone health, sex, appetite, bowel function, moods, emotions and behaviors. What’s more, an identified role of gut bacteria happens to be the production of serotonin; although, scientists have yet to determine the link between gut serotonin levels and brain activity.

  6. thyroid hormone - known for metabolism and energy; yet when overproduced, has been linked to anxiety and panic attacks

  7. endorphins - recognized for their role in pain relief, social interactions, bonding, mood stabilizers and relaxation are in some way the body’s natural solution for anxiety

Now, endorphins are not known to trigger anxiety; however, I included them in the above list in order to demonstrate two things 1) the way the chemistry fluctuates and 2) the body’s ability to regulate itself; in this case, with the endogenous opioid system. What’s more, thyroid hormone is not a brain chemical, per se. My intention for adding this chemical messenger is yet another illustration of 1) chemical changes due to stress and 2) the only difference between a hormone and neurotransmitter is the function it influences. In other words, a neurotransmitter affects brain activity while hormones are used for systemic processes. In fact, dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine are both neurotransmitters and hormones depending on the linked activity. No matter what, here’s the take away … it is next to impossible to determine which chemical is ‘at fault’, with the possible exception of the thyroid hormone and even that speaks of a system in chronic distress.

At this point what does a person do? Well, there is a decent selection of medications designed to target and control any number of the above mentioned chemicals which may or may not remedy the issue; and even when they do, it’s often temporary due to the body’s chemistry being in a constant state of flux. Therefore, we have options, either switch out and / or add to the meds or adopt a lifestyle that honors the message of anxiety.

What do I mean, ‘honor the message of anxiety’. Anxiety is essentially the body’s answer to never-ending stress albeit mental, emotional, physical and / or environmental. Truth be told, the environment has the biggest influence on our neurochemistry; consistently signaling the system to remain in a state of high alert. That said, to target a specific neurochemical disregards the needs of the entire system. We don’t know what’s causing what …. one day the anxiety might be due to glutamate / overthinking; another day a person might feel down and worried … being chronically down and worried tends to be more along the lines of depression, which involves different chemicals. So basically, we’re wasting our time, money and energy trying to pinpoint the culprit; hence, my insistence that we include essential oils into our daily life .. for well-rounded support and stabilization as they relieve symptoms, modify cell signaling (as they are signaling molecules) leading to clearer thinking and greater comfort. Essentially, the body is ‘mirroring’ the environment which, as we know, is rather unstable at the moment; however, to simply control the symptoms deprives the body from being able to overcome and thrive. At the same time, the dis-comfort we feel .. anxiety in this case … is an awakening … a call for help to restore order.

While there are oils that influence a number of the neurotransmitters and hormones mentioned above and using them for symptom relief is quite helpful; however,, tuning into our unique nature guarantees a better outcome as we follow the body’s ‘lead’ and adjust the use of the oils according to how we’re feeling on any particular day. Therefore:

4 Recommended Essential Oils

  • myrrh

  • roman chamomile

  • vetiver or benzoin

  • marjoram Spanish

Please keep in mind that while this formula takes everything into consideration, it may not be the answer for your particular situation. As mentioned, neurotransmitters and hormones have a number of roles throughout the brain and body, and depending on the ever-changing epigenome, oil selections do change. That said, combining these oils enhance endocannabinoid and endogenous opioid system interactions which minimally improves the body’s ability to soothe anxiety. Furthermore, it also supports the ANS, digestion, thyroid and hypothalamus as it quiets the mind and facilitates grounding.

To underscore the entire message: we are wired to both survive and thrive. What’s more, stress is not only an instinctual safety mechanism, it’s an alarm. The challenge is we’re consistently exposed to some type of stress that keeps us ‘stuck’ in overdrive due to our inadvertent lack of attention, ultimately altering our chemistry and leading to systemic breakdown and the reason we’re constantly struggling to internally self-soothe; hence, outside help i.e. drugs, alcohol, exercise, medications, hobbies and now ….. essential oils!!. You see, the beautiful thing here is with every breakdown, there is an opportunity for a breakthrough and even though many things do help adjust the chemistry they are either targeted in their actions i.e. medications and drugs or they temporarily redirect our thoughts. However, none of them generate life-enhancing adjustments to the autonomic and digestive systems except for the oils.

OH! Did I mention a really good supplement to take on a daily basis is magnesium glycinate because it is used in hormonal regulation, cell health, relaxes smooth muscles and stabilizes activity on the NMDA gene among many other things. In other words, it is a good addition for most people.

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