Olfaction and cerebrospinal fluid

Gina Flores

Gina Flores

Hi, my name is Gina Flores! A couple of weeks ago I asked Robert if he knew of any research linking olfaction with the lymphatic system and cerebrospinal fluid, and he sent me links to a couple of recent and fascinating papers. This inspired me to write the article you will find here which goes into anatomical detail. Ever since I read Masaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages of Water, I have not stopped thinking about water, embryonic development, phylogenetics, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), essential oils, matter and molecular vibrations! In biodynamic craniosacral therapy, the core foundation evolves around the “tides” of CSF; describing this fluid as having three distinct expressions known as long, mid, and slow tides. These are the fluctuations and oscillations of the CSF and they are reflected in all the bodily tissues.

The brain and spinal cord floats in its own ocean (with all its inherent elements), with its own tides that respond to the waxing and waning of the moon cycles, just as any other water element responds. In the CranioSacral therapy model, developed by osteopath Dr. John Upledger, we speak to the “Inner Physician” of each individual (the inherent source of all healing and knowing) when we hold space and allow for that individual to have an expression of their “inner wisdom” to self-correct. The cerebrospinal “fluid intelligence” is the guiding mechanism for correction. The therapist therefore is required to be a neutral, unconditional, unbiased witness to the messages, if you will, of the CSF.

Upledger believes the “Inner Physician” and “inner wisdom” are our “non-conscious”, not unconscious, mind; and the meeting of the non-conscious minds of patient and therapist occurs in a place I will refer to as the “information matrix”; and we as therapists must blend and meld with the craniosacral fluid rhythm of our patient without any interference. For me, despite the tsunami of thoughts in my head, this feels authentic and truthful.

SomatoEmotional release (SER) is the therapeutic process designed to assist the body and mind release emotional imprints related to physical injury and trauma. The dialogue between olfaction and CSF then occurs, I believe, where the fragrant molecules and SER collide. I know that the blood-brain barrier exists to protect the CNS from toxic substances; that the lipophilic nature of essential oils allows for an ease of flow across this barrier because the brain substance itself is lipid rich. Robert mentioned to me that “fragrant molecules almost certainly travel directly from the nasal mucosa into the brain, and this should be seen as distinct from olfactory signaling, which is a nerve impulse, not molecular transport”. That the various openings in the skull that allow this (the cribiform plate of the ethmoid bone), include and influence all the various parts of the craniosacral system, and is what lead me to ask myself how exactly then could essential oils and craniosacral therapy converge.
water, sky, lilliesA fragrant molecule can bring up a memory, emotion, action or reaction…just as in SER. The CSF is constantly moving, until maybe the inner wisdom is ready to work on a buried memory, hurt, physical injury or trauma…when the inner wisdom is ready to address its needs, the CSF rhythm comes to a sudden halt (the significance detector – when our healing intelligence is showing us “pay attention this is important!”). Sometimes, during an SER, people actually smell the same thing they smelled at the exact moment of the trauma. I have had this happen to me! How is it possible to have actual fragrance recall? Not just as a memory, but THE actual fragrance, as if that particular fragrance was in my nasal passages right then and there! And of course that fragrance memory loops me right back to my somatic experience and the somatic – emotional expression of it.

Why does the CSF rhythm come to a stop? I think it is so we can float in our primordial soup, if you will, and rediscover and repair ourselves. I have often wondered if, as a therapist, I were to introduce a particular essential oil to my patient while they were in significance detector, would help or hinder the healing process. I hear the warnings of my mentors, “always remain neutral, unconditional, unbiased, non-interfering!” “Be a facilitator and witness!” This is where that information matrix comes in. Our non-conscious mind has no ego and therefore will joyfully and willingly share information…that universal information. The wisdom from the plant world expressed in the fluid essential oil intelligence can converge then with the CSF intelligence in the matrix, without the need for any “assistance-interference” from us and our conscious mind. So we can discover spontaneous ability for fragrance recall, and create a space for somatic/emotional healing, when our conscious mind gets out of the way!

There is universal wisdom, and aromatherapy and craniosacral therapy are two of the many systems that tap into this wisdom. As a result of the proximity of the cribiform plate of the ethmoid bone, the nasal mucosa and the olfactory epithelium, bulb and tract, it is no surprise that these two systems are closely connected. The hypothalamus, a part of the limbic system, is located in the floor of the third ventricle (an important part of the CSF creation mechanism) and the corpus callosum, which is surrounded by the cingulate gyri, another part of the limbic system, makes up part of the lateral ventricles (again CSF creation). I believe that this must all occur on a molecular vibrational level, and include the hypothesis that every single cell has the information of the universe contained within it. There is a language particular to the vibrations of breath, CSF and essential oil that understand one another, and we must learn how to tap into the flow, and ride that matrix to ever understand it with our conscious minds.
alhambra gardenIn the gardens of Alhambra many of the walls contain poetic inscriptions. My favorite is: “So alike are solidity and liquidity that it is difficult to tell which of them is flowing”

Thank you Robert for asking me to be your guest! I am a NY State licensed, nationally certified massage therapist. I established my private practice in 1997, and specialize in craniosacral therapy, myofascial therapy, and neuromuscular therapy. I have had the good fortune to work with the performing arts population since the beginning of my career, and have been therapist to numerous national and international dance, opera and theater companies. I am currently working toward obtaining my techniques certification in craniosacral therapy. I am a teaching assistant for the Upledger Institute. I am a certified clinical aromatherapist, currently working toward finishing my 400 hour Scholar’s Program with Andrea Butje at the Aromahead Institute. This past spring, I was certified by the Canadian Association of Aromatherapy as a Certified Aromatherapy Health Provider. You can find out more about me here.

8 comments to Olfaction and cerebrospinal fluid

  • Absolutely wonderful information. This so closely relates to the effect of smell on the limbic system and the flight or fight response. Thank you for this.

  • Thanks, Gina, a terrific article which outlines what I have long believed about CSF, the limbic system and the lymphatic system. FYI, Bruno Chikly, MD, who developed the lymphatic drainage curriculum for Upledger, has authored at least one paper on the link between lymph and CSF.

    Robert, would you be willing to share links to the 2 papers mentioned in Gina’s post? If not publicly, could you perhaps e-mail me privately?

    Esoterically speaking, fluid travels on the emotions, so why shouldn’t essential oils be the ideal substances to meld with the fluid body? I have found they can dramatically and positively influence the client response during somato-emotional integration. I have also experienced what some might call “olfactory hallucinations” or fragrance recall during treatment sessions, both as a client and a therapist. Like you, I perceive these as very real and very profound. I’d love to see some research done in this area!

  • Joy: Thank you for your comment. Yes, indeed it does confirm the power of olfaction. But also the myriad of sources from which our innate intelligence can draw from.

  • Katharine: Thank you so much for your comment as well. Yes, I am familiar with Dr. Chikly’s 2004 papers. I believe he felt that it was “some type” of lymphatic like drainage that was necessary in order to remove the small amounts of protein from both the CSF and the cerebral interstitial fluid. And another study done in 1968(M. Foldi), demonstrated that 47-50% of CSF was absorbed through lymphatic pathways but only “under certain conditions.” Since there are no lymph vessels in the brain substance I feel most of this happens peripherally.

    AMAZING to find another person who has experienced olfactory recall! As for introducing E.O.’S during SER or completion of biological process, I continue to defer to the “inner physician/ inner wisdom” of the patient.

    Yes, I agree research on fragrance recall and somatoemotional release would be quite intriguing …… a new project for me perhaps!

  • Gina,
    I absolutely enjoyed your article! Thank you for that wonderful information. I myself am a Massage therapist, Craniosacral therapist and taking the Aromatherapy Scholar’s Program with Andrea Butje at the Aromahead Institute.
    The information in your article is so fascinating! I was so happy to have stumbled upon your article. Thank you for a very enjoyable read.
    Maria

  • Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and kind words! Thanks to Robert for “nudging” me to write the article!
    Best of luck in the Scholar’s program! And do stay in touch.
    Gina

  • That was a fascinating read! Thank you for sharing :)

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