Plants have neither arms, legs, nor voices with which to communicate with the world, but they do communicate with their environment. Their appearance communicates and they speak through essential oils to talk to other plants, insects, and animals. They respond to their world too. Essential oils are the plant’s primary method of communication. This is my most favorite characteristic of plants.
I cannot remember where I heard the following story to give due credit: Fir trees respond to dryness by releasing more monoterpene-rich essential oils. These are the tiniest of molecules which become a cloud rising up into the atmosphere “seeding” the clouds to encourage rainfall. In fact, the Appalachian Mountains have a very visible haze of monoterpenes, giving them their distinctive blue color. You smell it as you walk through the woods!
I love the idea of the essential oils being the voice of the plant. To encourage a visit, the plants says, “Come here!” with oils that attract pollinators. They can also call to predators to come and eat something that is eating it. There is a wasp that is attracted to a molecule that a plant gives off when it is being attacked by a caterpillar. The plant can even sense if there are caterpillar eggs sitting on it’s leaf. The wasp “bodyguard” comes and takes care of the caterpillar and/or eggs.
An example of saying, “Go away!” is allelopathy, which is the plant giving off chemicals (essential oils) to discourage other plants from growing near them. Black walnut is an example. It does not like other black walnuts nearby! The compounds in oils that keep the plant protected from unfavorable insects are very well known. This is why so many people burn citronella-infused candles outside on the patio.
As humans we can move away from danger or shout. Plants can do neither, but they defend themselves with essential oils. Sesquiterpenes are rock stars of plant protection. These are heavier molecules. Think of them as heavy hitters. Biological threats like fungus, bacteria, and other microbials must get past the plants’s essential oil defense.
Plants undergo a lot of stress. One of the purposes of some essential oils is to act on the stressors of a plant, whatever they may be, to reduce its stress. The essential oils may be the plant’s call for help, or an expression of need. At its core, an essential oil is a messenger molecule.
Amazingly, we have scent receptors both inside and outside our bodies – even on our internal organs. Your skin has scent receptors too! Now, why does my elbow need to “smell”? That it doesn’t need to, is the answer, but it can respond to what the oil is communicating. To learn what exactly the essential oils are telling your body takes a little bit of study into the types of compounds in the oils and the different oils themselves (there’s about 300!). I would love to show you great resources for you to support your body’s best health. I can walk with you on this fascinating journey. Contact me for more information and get a coaching session to find what is best for you!