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Do Essential Oils Live up to the Hype?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Even if you've never used essential oils, you probably know someone who swears by them. Derived from plants, these highly concentrated oils can be applied topically on the skin or inhaled through aromatherapy—all with the goal of enhancing physical and mental wellness.
 
Aromatherapy has been promoted as a treatment for a wide range of ailments, from stress and anxiety to chronic pain, insomnia and dementia. Many massage therapists mix essential oils with lotions to help relax or energize. Many celebrities tout topical oils as beauty aids—Blake Lively applies coconut oil to protect the ends of her hair, Lupita Nyong’o applies avocado oil and Hawaiian kukui nut oil to improve the appearance of her skin and Cate Blanchett scrubs her face with a mixture of olive oil, macadamia oil, grapefruit juice and sea salt for a healthier complexion.
 
Although it may be tempting to turn to essential oils as a holistic, natural alternative to traditional medicine, not all oils are created equal. "With any herbal medicine, quality is of utmost importance," says Dr. JoAnn Yanez, executive director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. "You want to ensure that the substance is free of chemicals, additives and has quality control to ensure that what is in the supplement is what is on the label."

Do Essential Oils Really Work?


Do essential oils live up the hype, or are they just hocus-pocus?
 
Gayle Nicholas Scott, assistant professor at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, shared her expert insights with Medscape. According to Scott, essential oils appear to be safe for most people to use, with the exception of people who have poor circulation, cuts or wounds in the skin, asthma or epilepsy. However, she points out that the studies surrounding essential oils are limited.
 
"More large-scale, well-designed, randomized, controlled trials are needed to define the role of essential oils in medical care," Scott told Medscape. "Essential oils should not be used in place of established medical therapy to treat, cure or prevent disease."

10 Trending Essential Oils


With well over 100 different essential oils, it's easy to get overwhelmed when deciding which to try. We threw together this quick cheat sheet of some of the most popular oils and their purported benefits. Although research is still limited, many people have shared their positive experiences.
  1. Avocado: Extracted from the pulp of its namesake fruit, avocado oil was used as a skin moisturizer before gaining popularity in recipes. It’s high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which the American Heart Association recommends as a heart-healthy alternative to saturated fats.
  2. Bergamot: Derived from the fruit of the bitter orange tree, bergamot oil has a floral, citrus-like aroma. It's often used to relieve pain, reduce fever, heal the skin and alleviate chest congestion.
  3. Chamomile: Many believe that this sweet-smelling floral oil can help to reduce stress and aid in sleep.
  4. Coconut: Although there's nothing wrong with using coconut oil to flavor food in moderation, SparkPeople dietitian Becky Hand says there's not enough credible research to support the claims that it aids in weight loss, brain function or heart health.
  5. Eucalyptus: With a clean, fresh scent, eucalyptus works well in homemade cleansers. It's also thought to reduce congestion from colds and the flu, freshen breath and relieve joint pain.
  6. Frankincense: This oil is often applied topically to the skin to reduce acne and reduce signs of aging, and is also used in bath solutions as a stress reducer.
  7. Lavender: In addition to having a sweet floral fragrance, many believe that the oil from the lavender flower induces relaxation and sleep. It's also said to reduce inflammation and treat skin conditions.
  8. Lemongrass: Its light, fresh scent makes this oil an ideal additive to household cleaners. Many also claim that lemongrass oil helps to boost mood levels.
  9. Peppermint: In addition to flavoring foods and desserts, peppermint extract is often used to alleviate symptoms of the cold, flu, digestive problems and headaches.
  10. Sandalwood: Known for its pleasant woodsy fragrance, sandalwood oil has been used as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory and a stress reducer.
If you're considering incorporating an essential oil into your skincare, culinary or aromatherapy regimen, Dr. Yanez says it's best to talk to your doctor first. "As with any medicinal herbal use, you should consult a medical professional to ensure that the herbs are being used safely and appropriately, and are not interacting with other forms of treatment," she says.

Do you use any essential oils? Have you noticed any benefits?

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Comments

LITTLEWIND53 6/14/2019
The most important essential oil of all is Tea Tree Oil. It helps control dandruff. Report
DRAGONFLY631 6/12/2019
Thanks for the article. It was very informative. Report
FANCYQTR 6/11/2019
I have used essential oils for several years. Every year I make sure I have eucalyptus on hand because my nose will plug up at night and the eucalyptus opens it so I can breathe. I have used peppermint for a bad headache and it always gets rid of it. I have to remember to dilute it with a carrier oil, though. I diffuse thieves when I have a cold (and my cat loves it when I do that -- he can leave the room when he wants). With anything, and when learning about them, what works for some won't work for others. You have to find which ones work for you. Report
JAMER123 6/8/2019
I use a lot of essential oils for various things. Also just for the fragrance as well. I have a friend that has bad asthma and makes up a group of essential oils and it relieves her breathing problems. I use it for my husband's colds. Works well. Report
JANTHEBLONDE 6/8/2019
Great article! Report
KHALIA2 5/17/2019
Thank you for this great info! Report
KEITATP 5/16/2019
My son got me a diffuser for Valentine Day's & I've used it daily since I received it.
I love the peppermint & orange oils the most. Report
2DAWN4 5/16/2019
I have often wondered it they work. I get headaches quite frequently and have wondered if oils would work for that. Report
XREPHA 5/16/2019
Be sure to use a high quality oil such as doTerra or Young Living. Report
ROSSYFLOSSY 5/16/2019
In my experience, some do work. Depends on the person. Report
CHERYLHURT 5/10/2019
Scam as far as my experience Report
FRAN0426 5/8/2019
Thanks for the article, interesting read Report
PIANOKEYS88 3/25/2019
I don't eat peppermint at all - but the smell of it relaxes me and opens up congestion from allergies. I love it. Report
KATHYJO56 1/11/2019
Very interesting Report
GINNABOOTS 12/22/2018
I have tried various essential oils for sleep and so far I haven't found any that work. Report
SPIFF37 11/8/2018
I've done extensive investigating to find high quality brands that don't use multi-level marketing (MLMs jack up the price due to the selling structure). I'm not sure I'm allowed to post brand names I recommend so I won't. I did find an online community that does independent testing on select oils to determine purity. Even several popular MLM oils were found to contain impurities. I love all citrus-y oils and blends to alleviate anxiety. I could care less if it's just a placebo effect as long as it helps me. My favorite carrier (used to dilute EOs when applying to your skin) is food-grade hemp oil - it has a ton of beneficial properties. It has a slightly nutty/seedy scent that is easily masked by whatever EOs you mix it with and absorbs pretty quickly. Hope this might help any newbies. Report
RAZZOOZLE 9/2/2018
thank you Report
SCRAMBLJONES 7/12/2018
I use Young Living and Dotera oils topically and in a diffuser for the aroma while sleeping. I have seen many more benefits in 10 years of use than was discussed here, and no side effects. Laughed at the part about consult physician, they wont have a clue or will dismiss it. For muscle soreness, bruises, inflammation, distraction while praying, or anxiety, certified essential oils are The Best. Report
TORGGA2018
I have a de-stress blend I keep in my backpack, along with some peppermint oil for when I get migraines (I put it on my temples). And lavender in Epsom salts is like a spa experience... Report
Sounds like a waste of money to me. Report
I use them for everything! I even diffuse them in ky classroom. My kids first instinct is to ask for an oil before an OTC. Young Living is my go to. They own their own farms and have a seed to seal guarantee! Report
XREPHA
Frankencense is great for your skin when added to your moisturizer. Love it! Report
XREPHA
Frankencense is great for your skin when added to your moisturizer. Love it! Report
XREPHA
Doterra's On Guard is my favorite to diffuse and use topically. I also massage lavender on my feet every night.. I sleep comfortably through the night. Amazing! Report
I use a Tisserand sleep blend at bedtime to help me go to sleep. I also find teatree oil good for skin reactions. Report
Nice replacement for scented candles in a diffuser. They are supportive. Report
I was skeptical at first, but when I tried using peppermint oil to relieve my migraines and nausea I was hooked. A tiny dab under your nose (as long as you're not chapped there) helps with car sickness, too. Report
MILENITA71
mydoterra.com/milenap is the way to go! doTerra are the purest essential oils. Report
I’ve never used them. Might try one day. Report
use oils for mood balance, sleep aid, acid reflux/hiateal hernia, breathing, cleaner air Report
Love essential oils, add them to chemical free diy cleaning products, have used them for various topical ailments, sunburn, rashes, contact dermatitis..be very, very careful of ingesting them, some are not meant to be ingested at all & can have quite dastardly effects. Report
I have a blend of amber + ylang ylang that smells sexy as all get out. I used to put drops on my hairbrush and run it through my hair before going out for the evening. Thanks for the reminder, however, to mix up some peppermint tick repellent for this summer! :D Report
PATRICIAANN46
I have used essential oils in room sprays, in soap mixtures, and even on leather bracelets for a great aroma. Report
My spark friend, Nillapepsi sells doterra, essential oils and I just bought an enrollment package. Oils go back to Bible times as the benefits were recognized long before our time.
I love my aromatic diffuser and am learning more each day!
Report
I like the smell if it does any good or not! Report
Why are you perpetuating the myth of homeopathy & pseudo-science! People trust this site and to tell them these things work with out any empirical data to support that claim, is not only patently untrue but dangerous. Report
1SUNBUMM1
I've been using essential oil for years. Clove oil for a toothache and oil of oregano for a cold, cough, and chest congestion. I, also, use a diffuser for relaxation and sleep at night. Citrus oils in a diffuser energize me and help me focus. Report
I've never used essential oils as I have no sense of smell due to a head injury. I wonder if they work if you can't smell them? Report
I used clary sage when PMS and it really helped.....slept like a baby. Eucalyptus clears my nose when I've got a cold and lavender really helps with sleep. Tea tree oil is great on cuts. Report
JRIECPNP
I use peppermint, lavender, and frankincense as needed for headaches and add cypress and grapefruit oils nightly to my forehead, back of my neck, and big toes as a preventive after concussion. We diffuse a respiratory blend at night, and it really helps congestion and breathing! Report
We have been using essential oils for the lst 3 years now!! We live them for wverything from cleaning to cooking to everything in between. So glad we found an AFFORDABLE way to get good quality oils. Report
I have been using EO's for years. My go to oil is Peppermint for everything. (keeps rodent out) I stopped using them because of the cost, but are slowing purchasing a few here and there. I make a salve that is useful from fever blisters to bites. I had a bite from something on my breast when I woke up one morning and went to the doctor. I was prescribed an ointment which worked slowly. After 24 hours, I started using my slave and it worked much faster in the healing process. Report
CGRUTT17
A friend gave me a small bottle of (a mild "carrier" oil), mixed with a LITTLE peppermint & lavendar. We use it at work to ease headaches, and reduce stress. It really works. I think I would like to try the chamomile and frankinsense next... Report
Love lavender Report
I use essential oils for EVERYTHING, and educate others on the safe and effective use of them as well!! I have completely gotten off of prescription medications for anxiety, depression, and migraines through using essential oils. I also use them on my son (4 years old) to help manage his moods, improve focus, and help him sleep. I'd love to talk with anyone who has questions about using EOs or would like more info! Report
I have been using essential oils for three years and absolutely love them! Do your research and make sure you choose a high quality therapeutic grade oil. You get what you pay for!! There are so many uses for these oils, in every room of your house and I also use them to make my own chemical free beauty products. Report
I found out I'm allergic to Lavender, love the plant, but can't touch it or have the scent anywhere near me.....peppermint is bothering me now, but doesn't make me throw up yet....so be careful. Report
I found the comments as interesting as the article. Enjoyed reading how members use EO's. Report
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