by David Crow, L.Ac.
What exactly is this fragrant liquid that we have extracted from the aromatic plants? Analysis with gas chromatography would reveal that it is composed of a complex mixture of molecules - terpenes, phenols, aldehydes, alcohols, esters, oxides, ketones – each of which can produce a wide range of effects on the doshas and dhatus. If we look deeply into the origin and nature of these molecules with the universal macro-thinking of Ayurveda, we realize that an essential oil is not an inert liquid, a collection of compounds devoid of life, but the distilled essence of prana: the cosmic prana of Prakruti, projected into the earthly pancha mahabhutas, assimilated by the metabolic power of botanical prana and alchemically refined into molecular expressions of pranic immunological intelligence.
The journey of prana has reached the stage where we now hold it in our hands as an essential oil in a bottle. It is now ready to continue to its last phase: to be used in aromatherapy, where it will directly influence the prana of our respiratory, circulatory, neurological, and immunological functions.
Why Olfaction is the most effective way to use essential oils.
Although there are ways to use essential oils orally and topically, the safest and generally most effective way is through olfaction. Ayurveda states, with a valid logic of natural correspondences, that the sense of smell is connected to the earth element, and the element of air relates to the sense of touch; simple observation, on the other hand, would link the sense of smell more directly to air, as that is the primary elemental vehicle that carries diffusive aromatic molecules. Furthermore, aromatic molecules pass through space, not only that between the source of the aroma and the nose, but ultimately the space within the sinus cavities. Now, we can see the affinity between atmospheric air and space, aromatic diffusivity and inhalation into the sinus cavities as one unified field of prana.
As the aromatic molecules pass from the flower, root, spice, or bottle of essential oil into the sinus cavity, we can observe how prana links the inward conscious to the outer world, and how it brings about the inner perception of external phenomena.
Neurologically, meaning governed by prana, all perception of the outer world arises through a three-phase process. The first phase occurs as sensory stimulation to the peripheral nervous system caused by different types of energies: radiant energy of light, chemical energy of taste and smell, thermal energy of heat and cold, mechanical energy of pressure and movement, kinetic energy of sound vibration. All of these energies could be described variously as forms of prana, the forms that act as the expression of prana, the vehicles that carry prana, or a combination of all.
The Phases of Perception
As each of these forms of energy reach the body, they stimulate receptor sites on the nerve endings of the sense organs. In the sense of smell, aromatic molecules bind at the receptor sites of the olfactory nerves, located in the olfactory epithelium in the sinus cavity. In this first phase of perception, external energies are “decoded” as they stimulate the receptor sites and transformed into bioelectrical energy of neuronal stimulation. In other words, the various forms of environmental pranic energies are changed into nerve current, another form of prana. This pranic transformation can be thought of as taking place within the fires of agni, as the various metabolic pathways between receptor site stimulation and neuronal activation occur with corresponding enzymatic processes.
The second phase of perception occurs as the nerve current passes into the central nervous system and the brain. In the case of smell, this means the neurological impulse, prana, passing from the olfactory epithelium into increasingly large branches of the olfactory nerve, across the cribriform plate of the skull and finally into the limbic system at the olfactory bulb.
The third phase occurs as the prana of neurological current spreads across the neural networks in the brain and stimulates the endocrine glands. These synaptic networks could be said to be under the control of prana vata, the subdosha that governs the senses and consciousness, assimilates sensory information, feelings and knowledge, and in turn controls the other subdoshas of pitta and kapha that reside within the brain. As the electromagnetic holographs of prana arise and dissolve within the brain, corresponding sensations arise within the mind, internal recreations mirroring the three-times-removed realities of the outer world.
Completing the Aromatic Journey of Prana
Simultaneously, as each breath is inhaled, the aromatic molecules of our essential oil pass into the respiratory system, penetrate through the water element of the mucus membrane of the lungs, and begin their journey through the circulatory system, once again under the influence of the five pranas governing physiological activities.
Here the aromatic journey of prana is completed: from the cosmic prana of Prakruti to Her manifestations within the universal elements; assimilated into plants by their life force, metabolized into fragrant molecules by their immunological intelligence; released into the atmosphere as botanical “community immunity” and distilled as a living pranic vapor; inhaled into the space of the sinus cavities, transformed into holographic neural networks; carried into the lungs with each breath of life, circulated throughout the body by its pranic currents, until they are released once again into the atmosphere.
Please visit Anima Mundi Herbals to find the highest quality essential oils, carefully sourced by myself over the past 40 years.