Geeking out on Essential Oils

March 03, 2019

“if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, did it make a noise?” Back during my years as an elementary school teacher, that was an actual question on a 3rd grade state standardized test. I never dreamed that question would pop back into my thoughts almost 20 years later as I dove into the world of essential oils. 

To squelch your curiosity, the answer to the question is “no”. A tree that falls creates a ripple of vibrations, but vibrations require the anatomical structure of our ears and a healthy connection to our brains in order to interpret the vibrations and distinguish them as sound. The frequency of those vibrations is measured in hertz (Hz), kilohertz (Kz, 103 Hz), megahertz (MHz, 106 Hz), and so on.

The idea that sound is vibration or frequency has always fascinated me. From the age of 5 to 20 I studied instrumental music including piano, flute, and guitar. During my years playing flute in high school and college, an important part of performance was learning to tune my flute to what is referred to as a 440-A4. The 440 indicates the vibrations per second or Hertz. The superscript 4, for those who play piano, is the A above middle C. Most musicians hear a 440-A4 so often that they learn to distinguish that pitch from others developing what is referred to as relative pitch. In other words, a practiced musician learns to interpret the frequency of certain pitches relative to the frequency of the A above middle C. 

The more I used essential oils and experienced the health benefits of using them, the more I wanted to understand how these oils work. My personal research led me back to my music background and that 3rd grade science question on vibration and frequency. 

Everyone agrees that the parts of the human body operate at certain frequencies. There is debate whether the human body has an average frequency or whether we can only measure the frequencies of individual organs and our circulating blood. Regardless, there is extensive research around the world related to electric frequency levels and healing.1 In short, when frequencies in the body are lowered, disease or illness is more likely. When frequencies increase, the result is healing.

Nikola Tesla, an electrical/mechanical engineer and inventor from the early 20th century said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”2 While most of Tesla’s breakthroughs dealt with electrical generation and transmission3, his famous quote hits on the essence of the effectiveness of essential oils. In short, it is the frequency and molecular weight of essential oils that factors so highly in their ability to positively impact our health.

All therapeutic grade essential oils carry a frequency measured in megahertz (106 Hz). These frequencies range from the 52 MHZ in basil to 320 MHz in rose essential oil (although some research has indicated that Idaho Blue Spruce can reach up to 580 MHz).4 Along with frequency, another important characteristic of essential oils is their small molecular structure which allows them to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB). 

According to The National Center for Biotechnology, “Small molecules that do cross the BBB (blood brain barrier) have the dual molecular characteristics of (a) molecular weight under a 400–500 Dalton threshold and (b) lipid solubility.”5 The blood brain barrier has the important function of preventing toxic substances from passing through the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) and affecting the brain. Along with being lipid soluble, the atomic mass unit of essential oils (measured as a Dalton threshold or AMU for atomic mass unit) is under 500, with most being under 300, allowing them to easily pass through the blood brain barrier. 

With the capability of crossing that all important blood brain barrier, these highly volatile oils are able to affect the parts of our body that regulate hormone production, adrenal support, memory storage, and emotional balance. Add to that their ability to be easily absorbed through the skin and their volatility, which explains why they are so aromatic and effective with diffusers, essential oils can easily get to where they most need to be.

1 M.B. Reilly, University of Cincinnati.

2 Goodreads.


4 Aroma Outfitters.

5 National Center for Biotechnology Information