Essential Oils: True Healing or Glorified Myths?
Essential oils have been used for medicinal benefits since history was first recorded—and likely even longer than that. So how come there has been such a surge in the popularity of essential oils in recent years? Are the claims that essential oils can cure diseases and conditions true? Or are they carefully curated myths from players seeking to increase their profits in the essential oils market?
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated oil compounds from plants. They characteristically retain the essence of the plant when extracted and are combined with a carrier to create a product safe for human use. The essence of a plant refers to its unique and natural scent and flavor. Ideally, essential oils are extracted by either distillation or mechanical pressing only.
There are over 90 types of essential oils available, and each one of them has a unique combination of compounds that may have antibacterial, detoxifying, antidepressant, stimulating, calming and /or antiviral properties.
Most Popular Essential Oils: Benefits and Risks
Some of the most popular essential oils currently on the market include:
Benefits: When inhaled, bergamot is believed to reduce stress. When applied to the skin, it improves skin conditions such as eczema.
Risks: Bergamot is known to increase the sensitivity of the skin to the sun. Hence, it may result in burning if applied immediately before exposure to sunlight.
Benefits: Used to soothe and alleviate the effects of cold and cough when inhaled. When applied to the scalp, eucalyptus is believed to stimulate hair follicles and cause hair growth. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Risks: When swallowed, eucalyptus is poisonous. It can cause seizures and asthma attacks in just a few minutes after ingestion.
Benefits: Tea tree oil is believed to boost immunity as well as fight off infections in the body when consumed.
Risks: Can cause confusion as well as the loss of muscle coordination when ingested. On application to the skin, tea tree oil can result in a rash.
Benefits: Is used to boost brain function and improve blood circulation in the entire body.
Risks: When consumed without diluting, cinnamon oil can cause nausea, vomiting and double vision, among other symptoms.
Benefits: Is believed to enhance relaxation, sleep, and stress relief.
Risks: Application on males who have not reached puberty may have a negative effect on their hormone development.
Benefits: Is used as a mood enhancer and can diminish the effects of headaches and migraines while improving digestion.
Risks: Is known to cause photosensitivity and may result in burning of the skin when applied immediately before exposure to the sun.
Benefits: Peppermint oil may help improve digestion and boost energy.
Risks: Can result in rash and other allergic reactions when applied to the skin. When ingested in large amounts, peppermint can cause severe heartburn. Use of peppermint in infants and small children can lead to serious breathing complications.
Clary sage oil
Benefits: Clary sage oil is a natural anti-depressant used to relieve stress and can alleviate menstrual cramps as well as menopause symptoms.
Risks: Can cause vertigo, seizures, rapid heart rate, tremors, and kidney damage when ingested in high amounts. Clary sage oil can also induce contractions in pregnant women.
Anise seed oil
Benefits: Is believed to relieve symptoms of depression and menopause.
Risks: When used alongside conventional medication, this oil may reduce the effect of antidepressants and increase the effects of certain drugs, such as those that affect the central nervous system.
How They Work
The benefits of essential oils are mostly reaped through aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the practice of inhaling the scent of essential oils, preferably through the use of a diffuser or the diluting and rubbing of essential oils on the skin. The ingestion of essential oils is highly discouraged unless as guided and instructed by a certified health practitioner.
The use of essential oils allows for the compounds of these oils to interact with your body in various ways. This interaction is believed to harbor healing or medicinal effects attributed to essential oils. Proponents of essential oils believe that they contain the most powerful healing compounds available from plants in single coils.
When inhaled, the scents of essential oils are believed to interact with and stimulate certain areas of the human limbic system. The limbic system plays a vital role when it comes to long-term memory, behaviors, emotions, and sense of smell. It also contributes to functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.
Users of essential oils attest to their numerous benefits – both therapeutic and medicinal in nature. Some medical practitioners even affirm these claims. However, scientific research and medical studies are not conclusive on the curing effects of these oils.
In the recent past, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has increased efforts to silence companies in proclaiming that essential oils can cure diseases. This is because if essential oils are billed as curative, then they fall under the category of drugs and must be regulated and approved by the FDA for distribution and human consumption. Essential oils have not been approved by the FDA for these purposes.
Essential oils have been purported to cure ADHD, skin conditions, arthritis, and even cancer. However, there are no conclusive studies to substantiate these claims. Therefore, companies and individuals in the business of selling essential oils deliberately mislead their audience by promoting essential oils as proven alternatives to conventional medicine.
The essential oils market can be a deceptive and confusing one for those who enter it without conducting adequate research. It is rife with myths and misconceptions that can ensnare unwitting and uninformed customers. The myths and misconceptions have been very well crafted to make them sound believable to unsuspecting consumers. But at the end of the day, the research to prove that essential oils can cure various conditions and diseases simply does not exist.
The Bottom Line
No, essential oils do not cure health problems. However, are they beneficial to the human body? Absolutely!
Essential oils may improve the resilience and resistance of your body to disease and injury, balance your emotions, as well as improve your general well-being. They can be helpful supplements to the health regimen prescribed by your doctor. But essential oils should never be used as a replacement of conventional medicine as recommended by your physician for the cure of a disease or condition. And most of all, extensive research and great caution should be applied as you dive into experimenting with essential oils.
Anybody who tells you a certain essential oil, or a combination of them, will cure you could be preying on your desperation in order to access your pocketbook.
When you are young, especially among girls in their teens, you would bring perfume or cologne but as you grow older, what you bring is an essential oil. These oils are used to smoothen your feeling or rub it into your skin to avoid skin problems. This infographic provides a list of essential oils.