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?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


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
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
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
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 be careful. Report
I found the comments as interesting as the article. Enjoyed reading how members use EO's. Report
I use them for anxiety, aches, trouble sleeping, and now even to help focus. I am so thankful for my oil diffuser. Report
I suffer from panic attacks and anxiety and had post pardom after my daughter was born. After much research on how to deal with all this i was lead to essential oils by accident. I actually found a huge book about oils at a local thrift store. I could not stand lavender but chamomile and frankensence get me out of my moods instantly. They are wonders at blocking my anxiety. I am always recommending them to people. Report
I've used lavender in my childbirth classes and in a laboring mom's room as she labors. It does promote relaxation. Because of its antiseptic properties, I've also used in diluted in water to use on the mom's perinium as she stretches to give birth. Softens it, allowing stretching to occur. Report
I swear by lavender when it comes your sleep. A fee drops of test and I get drowsy fairly quickly. I am also using myrrh and frankincense to help with cancer treatments. Report
My son has severe autism. I have used EOs with him (in diffusers) and they calm his anxiety. Make sure you do some reading before using EOs and use therapeutic grade. Report
I started essentials a very long time ago when they were young and inexpensive. It's difficult to purchase some for the cost went sky high!!! Overall, I still use mine day to day and I do have benefits from some things. Sometimes it only takes a little to have a good success. I still enjoy them today. Most burn them, but I like to put a few drops lavender on a tissue and put it between my pillow and pillowcase. It calming effects are good and help me to sleep better.

Also, make sure you don't buy just anything, there are good theraputic grades out there. Do your homework before you buy! I have found a couple of good companies on the web. "Certifications"! I want the paper to prove it! lol Report
I have heard a lot about oils, maybe I will give them a try. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Will try this Report
I love my EOs, but I am very careful about the sources where I get them. They have really helped my insomnia problem, BUT with that said, I do think one should be very careful using them, especially if using other medicines, prescription or not. Report
If you choose to use essential oils, be sure that they are 100% pure therapeutic grade. There are far too many synthetic brands on the market. Know what you are paying for. Report
Thanks for an informative article! Report
Good article Report
Good article Report
great!! Report
I use peppermint oil to relieve headaches...especially sinus headaches. A drop rubbed on forehead and temples is very effective and works quickly! Report
Love lavendar and coconut oil Report
great ideas to try Report
Love tof use essential oils to calm myself Report
Why consult with a doctor..they know very little about aroma therapy or essential oils. Report
good. Report
I love essential oils Report
I love my oils! Report
I love them all. Report
thank you I do use some of these Report

Food for thought Report
I use these and they do help with other problems. Report
I'd never heard of essential oils before. Report
I keep a small bottle of lavender and eucalyptus in my purse. Report
For special occasions there is always a place for essential oils. Report
Thanks sparks people for this article on essential oils! Report
I don't believe oils do much for me. Report
I love my oils. That said I agree with so many others you must take the time to learn about them, know your using high grade oils, be mindful how you use them. I personally do not ingest but I love using them in different ways to make my home and clothing smell pleasant. A few drops of any scent I choose in my bucket of cleaning water is amazing. Report
I'll reiterate what many have said, Quality is the key! Essential oils can be found in grades A, B, C, D with A being the most pure and therapeutic grade. D, on the other hand, is for scent only as it's only floral water and has very little, hardly any, actual oil in it. In the USA an oil only has to have 5% of actual oil in it to be called "pure" or "natural" and the rest of the bottle would be chemicals, water, etc. that do not even have to be listed as ingredients. Do your research into the company that you buy your oils from to be sure you are getting a quality product. Report
I absolutely love using my essential oils. I only use 100% therapeutic grade oils in my household and have noticed a big difference in our overall wellness. My diffusers are always going while I'm at home. Sometimes I leave them on when not at home for my pets. Report
love essential oils Report