Study | The Effects of Zen on Meditative and Relaxed States

Meditative and Relaxed States

Terpene deficiency has been proposed as an evolutionary reason for the stress that many of us feel on a regular basis, especially those of us who live in urban environments.

MONQ® Personal Aromatherapy Diffusers were designed as a solution to this problem. The essential oils contained in our diffusers were carefully selected because of their known health benefits and combined such that the ingredients in each blend would play on and amplify each other for a more pronounced effect on emotions and mental state. So far, there have been very few formal studies on the efficacy of aromatherapy, and evidence for the benefits of MONQ® diffusers have been purely anecdotal. Until now.

Close to 3,000 5-star reviews on our Facebook page tout the positive effects that MONQ Therapeutic Air® has had for our customers, but we know there will always be skeptics. So we decided to run a study that would hopefully yield scientific proof. We started with the Zen Diffuser, our most popular blend and the one we recommend most highly for stress relief. We’ll break the study down for you here in the six steps of the scientific method (a throwback to middle school, anyone?!).

The Question:

Do MONQ diffusers actually have a measurable effect on your brain?

The Background Research:

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy have been used as stress remedies for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We have cited several references in our original paper here, and below are some additional blog posts that explain the history and science behind aromatherapy and MONQ:

To learn more about meditation as it was used by our participants, check out these posts on our blog:

The Hypothesis:

When used correctly (three moderate breaths are taken into the mouth and exhaled slowly through the nose), Zen Blend increases relaxation and enhances a meditative state more than a placebo diffuser.

The Experiment: 

You’ve probably heard of EEG brain measurement before, but what does it actually do? Brain waves are measurable electrical impulses, and electroencephalography records the patterns of this brain activity. There are four major types of brain waves:

  • Beta Waves (12 to 38 Hz) – These are the waves that represent our regular daily state – we are awake, alert, and paying attention to some task or to the world around us.
  • Alpha Waves (8 to 12 Hz) – These are also present when we are awake but are more of a baseline. They are present when we are calm, thinking quietly, and focusing on the current moment. They are the gateway to reaching a meditative state.
  • Theta Waves (3 to 8 Hz) – These occur in sleep and deep meditation and block out most of our surroundings.  There is, however, some awareness of internal processes. Theta waves represent dream states with clear imagery, and foster learning and memory.
  • Delta Waves (.5 to 3 Hz) – These accompany dreamless sleep or in deep meditative states, and block off all awareness to the internal and external worlds. They also stimulate healing and regeneration, which is what makes deep sleep and meditation so restorative for your body.

In this study, we looked at alpha and theta waves because they are the most active in common meditation. Delta waves require a meditative state so deep and difficult to achieve that it is not realistic to expect from a typical MONQ user. In terms of measurement, more alpha and theta waves indicate “a transition to or increased level of resting and meditative states” (see original paper for references).

We fitted our participants with wireless EEG headsets and asked them to meditate for 20 minutes in whichever way they usually would. While they meditated, we recorded their brain activity. Each participant completed two sessions, one with a Zen diffuser and one with a placebo, on two different days. Participants did not know when they used the real diffuser and when they used the placebo.

The Data and Some Conclusions:

Immediately after our participants used the Zen diffuser during meditation, their brain waves showed a significant increase in relaxation. You can see the effect in the following graphs:

Note: the “Control” was a 5-minute period of resting without meditation, during which we recorded regular brain waves as a baseline.

We also observed a 5% increase in alpha and theta waves after the use of Zen.

The EEG headsets we used allowed us to map the locations of brain activity throughout the experiment. As the black arrows indicate, you can see that there are more alpha and theta activity with the use of Zen:

It’s also interesting to note that the increase in alpha and theta waves occurred in the occipital and frontal areas of the brain. The occipital lobe is associated with visual interpretation. The frontal lobe is associated with high-level cognition, reasoning, and motor skills. One possible explanation for these localized increases is that Zen may help to increase clarity of mind during meditation. This would be consistent with the known uses of two of Zen’s primary ingredients, Frankincense and Sweet Orange.

Next Steps:

By no means are these results conclusive, but our preliminary findings are very promising. We look forward to continuing this research with a larger sample size. Make sure you check back in on our blog homepage regularly or sign up with your e-mail address to receive updates when new articles are posted!


By Stephanie Verheyen

Inbound Marketing Strategist, MONQ Blog Curator B.A. in Psychology, Masters in Marketing

Favorite MONQ blend: Ocean

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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