Healthy Lives and Minds: Using Essential Oils in the Health Classroom

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived." Helen Keller

My Students

Teaching primarily middle school students, my classroom does not always have the best aroma. Even so I want to provide my students with a pleasant and stimulating classroom that is not only easy on the nose, but also beneficial to their minds, spirits, and overall health. As a health teacher, I want to be a role model and expose them to alternative wellness methods.

My students range from 7th grade to 9th grade. Our school is a 7-12 secondary school with a student population of 241. We are located about 130 miles west of the Twin Cities. Due to our location, our school has to tackle many distinct challenges that are unique to being in a rural area. This being a health classroom I love teaching my students about new and alternative methods of health care that they might not otherwise experience. I think it is important for students to have as much knowledge about health prevention and care as possible so that they can make the best informed decisions for themselves throughout their lives. In our class we aim to address all of the six critical health behavior concerns of today’s youth, alcohol and drug use, injury and violence, tobacco use, nutrition, physical inactivity and risky sexual behaviors, according the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), all of which are preventable and are often established during childhood or adolescence. We use a comprehensive health education approach that equips my students with both the knowledge and skills needed to enhance their well-being and quality of health throughout their lives. In addition to that, comprehensive health education aims to motivate students to maintain and improve their health, prevent disease, and avoid or reduce health related risk behaviors. I believe adding essential oils to our classroom will accomplish many of these goals.

My Research on Essential Oils

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are the aromatic compound naturally found in plants. In nature plants distractive smells provide protection against predators and disease as well as assist with pollination. Throughout history, many different cultures have used EO’s for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

How do Essential Oils interact with the Limbic System?

“During inhalation, odor molecules travel through the nose and affect the brain through a variety of receptor sites, one of which is the limbic system, which is commonly referred to as the ‘emotional brain.’ The limbic system is directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance (Higley & Higley, 1998). This relationship helps explain why smells often trigger emotions. Knowing this, we can hypothesize how inhalation of essential oils can have some very profound physiological and psychological effects” (Halcón, 2013).

Knowing this, it is easy to understand how Essential oils can have such advantageous effects on both health and mood, in children and adults. Essential oils have been shown to “reduce anxiety, increase focus, and…have a positive impact in the classroom” (Ibanez, 2013).

“In his paper, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Terry S. Friedmann, M.D., M.D.(H), A.B.I.H.M., writes, “When essential oils are inhaled, they not only provide exquisite fragrances, but they have also proven to be able to produce physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being of people since the beginning of time” (Ibanez, 2013).

Essential Oils not only provide mood benefits. Diffusing them can also “purify [the] air of unwanted odors and some airborne pathogens” (Ibanez, 2013). Therefore, Essential Oils serve as a both a natural disinfectant and an air purifier as well as air freshener.

List of Essential Oils & Their Benefits

Below I have included a list of the Essential oils I would like to have for my classroom. I broke the list down into categories of the Essential Oils effects as well how they would benefit the students emotionally in my classroom.

  • Mood Elevators: Frankincense enhances mood and alleviates anxiety. Bergamot has a fresh, sweet, citrus scent that is uplifting and relaxing, good for building confidence and enhancing students’ mood. Joy helps regulate mood and keeps the classroom a drama free zone.
  • Brain Boosters: Peppermint helps students focus especially in the afternoon when lethargy sets in or during tests. Lemon helps with alertness in the morning when students are most sleepy. Valor enhances mental clarity and memory as well as promotes confidence.
  • Relaxers: Peace & Calming is a gentle and fragrant blend that helps create a calm environment that helps calm tensions and uplift the spirit, great for study halls. Lavender helps calm students when anxiety levels are high creating a relaxing environment. Stress Away has a vanilla scent that helps induce relaxation and reduce occasional nervous tension with a hint of lavender to reduce mental rigidity and restore equilibrium.
  • Cleansers: Citrus Fresh is a relaxing, calming blend that supports the immune system and overall health while bringing about a sense of well-being, creativity, and feelings of joy. Thieves is a blend created to help keep germs at bay during cold and flu season. It has been shown to be effective against airborne bacteria. Purification has a sweet refreshing scent that deodorizes air & neutralizes odors essentially purifying the air in the classroom, great for the end of the day. Cinnamon Bark is anti-bacterial which makes it great during cold and flu season as well as a room freshener as it has an invigorating and uplifting scent that is often associated with the winter holiday season.

How I Plan to Use Them in My Classroom

How I plan on using this diffuser and essential oils in my classroom is to create an environment that is as optimal for learning as it is healthy and clean. I plan on creating an environment for my students that engages all of their senses and using the various essential oils will allow me to better our classroom environment through their sense of smell. To do this, depending on the kind of emotional benefit I want to achieve, I can either use one Essential Oil at a time or blend several oils together. I have included some examples of how I plan to use these different essential oils in my classroom. In my morning classes, I will use one of the Brain Booster essential oils to help students focus, stay alert and enhance mental clarity. I may also defuse a Mood Elevators to put students in a positive and uplifted mood. After lunch, I plan on placing a Relaxer in the diffusers to help calm and relax my students when they are most energetic. During study halls, I will defuse Peace & Calming, to create a productive and positive work environment. At the end of the day, I will defuse Purification to refresh the air in my classroom and eliminate any remaining odors. During tests, I will diffuse some Stress Away, to relax students, together with Valor, to enhance mental clarity and boost both their memories and confidence, and Frankincense to enhance their mood and alleviate anxiety. During cold and flu season, I will defuse one of the Cleansers to combat sickness and boost their immune systems. During the winter holiday season, I will diffuse cinnamon bark oil to help keep germs away as well as create an uplifting and festive environment.

Sources:

Halcón, L. (2013, July 16). How do essential oils work? | Taking charge of your health & wellbeing. Retrieved from http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/how-do-essential-oils-work

Ibanez, Z. (2013, December 10). Essential Oils and Kids. Retrieved from http://educationaladvancement.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/essential-oils-and-kids/