Do Essential Oils Work? A Sales-Free Look At The Research

Do essential oils work?

[Last updated 6th December, 2017]

Essential oils are hot right now.

From treating infections through to anxiety and poor sleep, they are said to be a natural cure for many health conditions.

But just how well do essential oils work?

Often times it’s unwise to take the word of those who actively promote and sell them… making an unbiased answer to this question hard to come by.

This article is an objective, sales-free look at the most common essential oil uses, from an evidence-based perspective.

What are essential oils and aromatherapy?

What are essential oils and aromatherapy?An essential oil (also known as a volatile oil or ethereal oil) is a concentrated liquid that contains a plant’s chemical properties.

The oil is termed “essential” in that it contains the “essence of” the plant’s fragrance and aroma; it’s chemical compounds. These compounds are typically extracted by crushing and distilling the plant, then combining them with a carrier oil so they can be preserved for use.

Each type of essential oil has a different chemical composition that affects how it smells, how it is absorbed, and how it effects us. Some of the more popular plant fragrant essences include peppermint, tea tree, wintergreen, lavender, oregano and bergamot.

Aromatherapy

The practice of using essential oils for the purpose of healing is called Aromatherapy.

The most common aromatherapeutic uses of essential oils are massaging into the skin or inhalation of vapours. Both methods allow the oil’s plant chemical compounds to cross into the bloodstream (1).

Summary: An essential oil is a mixture of a plant’s chemical compounds (its fragrance) with a carrier oil. Each variety has unique properties and effects depending on the plant from which it was extracted. Essential oils are most commonly applied by massaging into the skin or inhalation of vapours, known as aromatherapy.

Essential oils can help fight bacteria and viruses

Essential oils and bacteriaThe use of essential oils is rare in evidence-based medicine.

But a renewed interest in its therapeutic use has come about due to the apparent rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (2).

To my surprise, there has actually been quite a lot of bench top studies investigating the anti-microbial effects of essential oils. In petrie dishes, they appear to suppress or kill many common bacterial and fungal strains, such as E.Coli and Candida albicans (3).

It is thought that peppermint oil and tea tree oil make a useful antiseptic mouthwash, and could help relieve a sore throat too. On the other hand, lemongrass oil and lavender oil appear to have the strongest anti-fungal properties for treating yeast infections (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

Researchers also found that both allspice oil and lemongrass oil have strong anti-viral effects. Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics (9, 10).

This may all sound very promising, but there is only so much we can take away from test tube studies. A shot of tequila will kill bacteria in a petri dish too. Same if you were to swish it around your mouth.

This is why it’s a long stretch to suggest the use of essential oils will kill harmful bacteria in your body, improve immune function or “eliminate toxins”. Researchers acknowledge this fact and the need for actual human studies that can evaluate the relevance of these results.

Summary: Test tube studies show that essential oils have various anti-microbial properties, particularly against common bacterial and fungal strains. Whether these benefits would carry over in the human body has not been investigated.

Essential oils for anxiety and other mental health conditions

essential oils for anxietyRodent studies have found that essential oil inhalation under stressful or painful conditions led to noticeable neurological and behavioural responses (11, 12, 13).

This suggests the fragrance compounds may have a direct affect on the brain, at least in mice. The potential psychological effects of essential oils in humans has also been researched to some extent. Studies tend to involve cancer or heart surgery patients in hospital.

In the year 2000, a large review concluded aromatherapy is ineffective for treating anxiety (14)… and it seems opinion has not changed since.

Apart from one study which was not blinded (and therefore likely to be biased), the latest trials using oxygen masks come to the same conclusion. Inhalation of essential oils has no clinical effects on anxiety levels in patients, at least after heart surgery or stem cell transplantation (15, 16, 17, 18).

Other studies focused on different mental health conditions or topical treatments have highly conflicting results. It seems that for every study that found a positive effect, there is one that didn’t (19, 20, 21, 22).

If you still aren’t convinced, a recent review of 201 relevant studies concluded that out of the 10 that were actually good quality, aromatherapy does not improve high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, pain relief, or dementia (23).

Given this weight of evidence, to suggest essential oils may help prevent or treat neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease is far-fetched.

Summary: The weight of evidence has found that inhalation or topical application of essential oils does not improve symptoms of anxiety or related mental health conditions. There is no convincing research to indicate they help with neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Essential oils for sleep

Essential oils for sleepAlongside exercise and diet, quality sleep is crucial for good health.

The weight of evidence indicates that lavender oil may be beneficial for relaxation and sleep quality.

Rodent studies have shown several essential oils, particularly lavender oil, has strong sedative effects. It reduces mobility in mice by up to 22%, and the effects remained even if the mouse was over-agitated with caffeine (24).

Looking at human studies, lavender inhalation has been linked to improved sleep quality and duration in multiple studies (25).

Note that no benefits have been seen with topical lavender oil treatment.

Summary: Lavender oil has been shown to have powerful sedative effects on mice. Human studies have linked lavender oil odour, but not topical treatment, to improved sleep quality and duration.

Essential oils for acne

Acneessential oils for acne is a common inflammatory skin condition in Western countries.

It affects 80-90% of teenagers, half of whom will continue to have symptoms into adulthood (26).

Surprisingly there has been only two human trials on acne treatment with essential oils, namely tea tree oil. The most recent study included 60 patients with mild to moderate acne over a 45 day period. Half received a 5% tea tree oil gel while the other half (the control group) received a placebo gel without any active ingredients (27).

The 5% tea tree oil was effective in reducing both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions compared with the placebo gel. Researchers speculate this was due to the reported anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil.

The older study found that both 5% tea tree oil and 5% benzoyl peroxide (conventional acne treatment) significantly improved acne symptoms in 124 patients, though tea tree oil was slower to take effect (28).

While it is likely not a strong stand-alone acne treatment, tea tree oil may help as an addition to current acne medications. But it would be nice to see if the results can be repeated in another double-blinded clinical trial before solid recommendations are given.

Summary: There has only been two clinical trials on acne and essential oils so far. In both studies, 5% tea tree oil reduced both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions. The results are very promising, but repeat studies are needed to confirm this.

Essential oils for headaches

essential oils for headachesTwo human studies by the same research team have shown that topical application of peppermint oil may effectively reduce headache symptoms.

The first study on 32 patients found that a 10% peppermint oil preparation provided significant pain relief when sponged on the forehead and temples (29).

The second was more well-designed and studied four headache attacks per person, in a total of 41 patients. 10% peppermint oil was shown to be just as effective as 1000 mg acetaminophen (conventional headache drug), significantly reducing headache intensity after 15 minutes (30).

Results are promising, and it seems like a largely harmless alternative to aspirin or paracetamol.

Summary: Two studies have shown 10% peppermint oil can help relieve headache symptoms. It may be as effective as conventional drugs, and works in as little as 15 minutes.

Are essential oils safe?

Are essential oils safe?Natural does not automatically mean safe.

Essential oils are no exception to the rule.

Just like any other substance with pharmacological effects, in some individuals they can cause dermatitis, allergic reactions and other dangerous side effects (8, 31).

A 2012 review published in the International Journal of Risk & Safety In Medicine found that lavender, peppermint, tea tree and ylang-ylang oil were the most common essential oils responsible for adverse effects. There was even one documented fatality (32).

Most essential oil varieties can be toxic when ingested and therefore should definitely not be taken orally. For example a teaspoon of carvacrol, an active ingredient in oregano oil, can be fatal to humans (33, 34).

With so little published research on essential oils, there is no information to estimate what a safe dose might be, whether inhaled or applied on the skin. Can they be used safely in pregnant or breastfeeding women? When used as directed the risk is likely very low, but know that doses published by manufacturers are not based on any published evidence.

Additionally, the chemical composition of essential oil batches are never quite the same. Quality and concentration of the end product is influenced by the local geography and weather, season the plants were harvested, as well as processing, packaging and storing procedures.

Essential oils and aromatherapy are unregulated

While prescription drugs must undergo rigorous safety and effectiveness testing before being approved, essential oils are automatically classified as safe.

The International Organization for Standardization does have a set of standards for each type of essential oil, but these are not mandatory nor enforced by any law-makers.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers essential oils a cosmetic, so manufacturers are not required to prove their effectiveness, purity or potency. The same goes for aromatherapy, which you are permitted to practice without a license.

As essential oils are unregulated, any claims they can treat a health condition classifies it as an unproven drug. This is illegal. The company Young Living Essential Oils had salespeople doing this, until the FDA caught up with them.

These regulatory loopholes – alongside dishonest multi-level marketing – has led to increasingly more eccentric and unproven health claims surrounding essential oils. Therefore, it’s important that we have a conservative mindset and do some of our own research – much like we should with dietary supplements –before buying into any great promises.

Summary: Essential oils are likely safe in small doses, but are known to cause adverse side-effects in some individuals. They should definitely not be ingested, and can even be fatal in high doses. The chemical composition of products varies between batches, and the quality and effectiveness are not regulated by any governing bodies.

To sum it all up… Do essential oils work?

As is the case with many “health” foods and supplements, essential oils are not useless, but their effects are extremely overrated.

This is to be expected when you consider that almost everyone who recommends them gets a commission.

Many varieties will likely help clean wounds and treat skin infections, but once we venture into more serious health claims the proof starts to fall short.

The strongest evidence available indicates that essential oils can help with headaches, sleep quality, and probably facial acne to a noticeable extent. Effects on anxiety, depression and other psychological health aspects are very underwhelming at this stage.

Claims they can help treat or cure cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma or any other serious medical condition are seriously exaggerated and unproven. And dangerous too, quite frankly.

Inhaling or applying essential oils to the skin in small doses is likely safe, but neither the oils nor the aromatherapy industry is regulated by a governing body. Some people will suffer adverse reactions and many varieties can be highly toxic if ingested.

While this scientific perspective answers most questions, it cannot account for every single oil nor every single use… There is so much that has not yet been studied.

My best advice before you buy is to ask questions and think critically about how extreme the health claims are. If it sounds too good to be true, unfortunately it is.

Don’t like to read? Watch the video instead…

Do essential oils work? A sales-free look at the research

Comments

  1. Inhaling the scents of oils calms my mind and body and de-stresses me. I specifically love to sniff lavender oil. Coconut oil and olive oil are my top favorites in cooking too.

  2. Lane Simonian says:

    There is actually evidence that aromatherapy with certain essential does help improve cognition in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1479-8301.2009.00299.x/full

    Eugenol in several essential oils (rosemary, bay laurel, clove, lemon balm, etc.) helps partially reverse the oxidative and nitration damage that are key elements in brain damage in Alzheimer’s disease.

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/cbc/2006/00000002/00000001/art00005

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf050183e?journalCode=jafcau

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9147382

    Studies regarding the use of various essential oils to improve behavior in Alzheimer’s disease are quite mixed. Essential oils high in linalool (lavender, sweet orange, rose, etc.) can likely help with mild anxiety but not with more several behavioral problems. For the latter, ferulic acid seems to be quite effective.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21272180

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19298205

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22780999

    Too much negative information is put out about aromatherapy based on an incomplete review of the scientific evidence (or where the person has already a preset notion of what the truth is).

    • Hi Lane,

      The majority of studies you cite are test tube/petri dish studies (in-vitro).
      You cannot draw any recommendations from those findings. We can make hypotheses from them, but not clinical applications.

      The trials you’ve cited re Alzheimer’s are not blinded (researchers know which patients are receiving treatment), nor do they have a control group. Without blinding, we have bias from the care-givers who are doing the surveys/assessments because they know which patients received treatment, and at what dose. Without control groups, we have no placebo group to compare the treatment against. To draw strong recommendations from these studies would not be accurate.

      Anxiety and EO has been well-studied. You will always find studies that found effects if you dig enough, but the overwhelming amount of studies shows that it has no effect. So the positive studies are very out-numbered, and the well-designed studies (with control groups and blinded) show no benefits.

      Remember that we are trying to help people with serious health conditions, so want them to put their attention and money into what works.
      Currently the evidence that EO help with Alzheimer’s is very weak, and the overwhelming evidence shows it does not assist with anxiety.

      However, I can see the wording in my summary of Alzheimer’s is too stern so thankyou for pointing this out. I will re-write “There is no convincing research to indicate they help with neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.”

      I am definitely open to new evidence and changing my opinion. That’s what evidence-based medicine is all about. But that evidence has to be very good.

    • Agreed. There is a TON of evidence that essential oils work. And it’s growing. “Especially” as it relates to cancer. I write for a website called The Truth About Cancer, and have to cite reliable science. It’s there. It’s not exaggerated. It’s researched.

  3. I absolutely absolutely LOVE how this article and this site in general cites actual sources. It is so rare to find reputable evidence behind claims nowadays. I love it, please keep up the incredible work.

  4. Janet Nmi Switzer says:

    I agree we need to be careful of how we try different thing available. thank you Joe .I appreciate all your honesty and the time you spend doing the research !My mother had Alzheimer’s and I already wonder about what age is the on set of this but I no God has this for now.Thanks again??

  5. While as an engineer I appreciate that you looked into studies but it’s always nice to know who funded the studies (although this is often impossible to find). All I can say is from personal experience I find some of the essential oils work great for me – is it a placebo effect? Who cares? No side effects when used responsibly (a teaspoon of oregano oil would be like taking 3kg of a drug where a normal dose might be 200 mg.

    • I could be wrong, but I think the article is aimed more towards people with serious conditions like anxiety and that sort of thing. Personally I’ve found that a TINY (think less than half a drop) amount of peppermint essential oil under my nose helps with migraines and congestion for me personally, but I wouldn’t try using them for treating a bacterial infection or anything like that.. The thing about human bodies is that with how complex we are, it can get really difficult to determine what works for EVERYONE. For example: a lot of people get the flu shot every year to prevent getting the flu. In my family, though, we actually have a HIGHER chance of contracting the flu when we’ve had the shot than otherwise. Lots of people react differently to different things, and just because something works to fix your problem doesn’t mean it will fix others’. Another thing to consider is that sometimes when we feel bad it’s all in our head. By using a placebo that you believe works, you may very well simply be convincing yourself you’re not feeling bad anymore. I dunno this reply kinda got a bit ramble-ish. That’s my two cents anyway.

      • That’s the best reply! Well said, I speak ramble

      • Rosie Lee says:

        Great reply Dillon. I’m exactly the same with the flu shot as well so stopped getting them and voila I stopped getting sick straight after it.
        Will give the peppermint oil under the nose a go for sure.
        I speak ramble as well lol 🙂

  6. I’d be interested to know what brand of essential oils you used and where you got them from? I personally have had amazing results with essential oils, but I only use therapeutic grade.

    • please note that “therapeutic grade” is actually a Young Living term that they purchased the rights too and no one else may legally use it regardless of the quality of their oils. It is marketing, and not an indication of quality. A very clever one. And being un-monitored as he pointed out in the article, if it were a legit term, what would it even mean? It’s also good to note, that I own and use Young Living oils and like them so I am not just saying this to poo poo oils. However when I am talking about my use of oils and what things I like I am very careful not to use there “marketing terms” because I find them deceitful and do not wish to participate in that. I’m not a saleswoman, I just enjoy them. I use a blend for allergies, peppermint for headaches, lavender on skin for bug bites and stings, and lots of different things for cleaning and diffusing. But NONE of it replaces my doctor and I am wary of anything that requires pyramid type marketing and sales in order to succeed. Are they worthless? no, even his unbiased review pointed that out. But There is nothing wrong with encouraging wisdom and research, whether you love them or hate them.

      • *their…….oops

      • That would be Doterra- not Young Living. The phrase they use is “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade.”

        • Actually, just type in “therapeutic grade essential oils” on google and Young Living pops up

          • Angie is correct. Doterra has Registered “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” not Young Living. If you google “therapeutic grade essential oils” you will find a vast number of oils that use this descriptor.

      • I appreciate your very informative post!

      • Very well said! I’m with you, interested in buying quality, doing the research and seeing how I like it! So far I’m liking it for all different things…skin, cleaning, prevention?, etc. Not into Multi Level Marketing at all. Young Living can’t be the “be all and end all” in oils. They are pricey and shipping is not good.

    • You should only use 100% Theraputic Grade Essential Oils and only Young Living Oils guarantee their products are 100% pure theraputic grade. So pure, if their distillation doesn’t meet their high distilling standards, they will hold off distribution of an Essential Oil often causing it to be Out of Stock.. I am a Young Living Distributor and highly recommend Young Living. The proof is in their Seed to Seal process.
      https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/discover/seed-to-seal

      • Those are just meaningless sales terms. There is NO SUCH THING as “Theraputic Grade” in oils. Did you even read the posts above yours? They trademarked that term so that they could use it, that’s all it is, a marketing gimmick.
        the seed to seal thing is great, but you should consider that they are a MLM company, and there is no way that they are not carefully crafting their image. It’s not “proof” of anything other than good marketing. There are plenty of great brands of oils that are just as quality, half the price and don’t require you to sell anything to buy them. These MLM companies are practically cult like in how they indoctrinate people into thinking their oils are the “best” when in reality they are the same thing as the others, but at twice the price.

        • I totally agree with you on the cult like indoctrination with Young Living. Can you suggest another over the counter brand? So expensive. I recently purchased lavender and peppermint oil from Sprouts for less than 1/2 the price of Young Living. Works for me. I do love YL’s Thieves throat spray for when my throat starts to hurt. Immediately makes it go away. Not sure if I can buy this combination elsewhere.

  7. I’m a doctor and I see way too much rubbish being passed off as having health benefits or being able to cure diseases.

    I really really like the topics you’re addressing. It’s nice to see you tackling a lot of the false claims and actually citing real + credible evidence to back up what you say.

    I love it, please keep it up!

    Moritz

  8. Thank you for the informative video. Appreciate your research as myself and others are looking into the healing properties if you will of essential oils. Can you provide the research articles you quoted in your video please?

    • Hey so anything referred to in the video will be studies that are referenced in this article. So you can find them here on this page

  9. So informative from someone thinking about buying them…thank you so much for putting my thoughts and money at ease.

  10. I personally have been to a psychiatrist and fherapist, diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, depression and an ED. While what you state is true, and the oils are not a cure for more complex issues like metal disorders, Alzheimer’s, or anxiety, I have found they do help me. It may not be as much about the curing aspect, as I personally know and accept I will deal with these issues the rest of my life, but the oils for me Do the same thing yoga does- it helps me get out of my head and thoughts, certain scents are very soothing when an anxiety attack comes on, or when I’m having a rough time with depression. I love your article and the proof you state, and you are correct- oils aren’t a cure-all. I think they should be looked at as more of a therapy resource, personally.

  11. Thanks so much for evidence-based information!

  12. Pat Enger, PhD says:

    I have tried using pharmaceutical grade for my insomnia and anxiety problems. All they relieved were my pocket of cash. I think if you psych yourself into believing they work, they will. It’s all between the ears anyway.

    • You might have better luck with looking into SAMe, 5HTP etc…if you are looking to go the more natural route. Trial and error there too as you need to figure out which neuro chemical is a bit off (serotonin or dopamine). Oh, and of course checking your hormones and thyroid as I have had a bad go with your issues due to a bum thyroid.

  13. Hi!
    I have recently spent over $100 on essential oils for skin care ( yes, I am gullible, as my brothers have laughingly pointed this out to me for years lol) and after reading lots of articles debunking them for medicinal purposes, are any oils helpful in skin care? I really don’t believe by using them I’m going to look 20 years younger but are the claims that the help with elasticity or cell rejuvenation bogus too? Feel free to lie to me so I don’t feel like an idiot for buying them lol

    • Hey Peggy at least you are honest and self-aware lol, a lot better than most of us!
      There’s definitely uses for essential oils, mainly cosmetically. So I do expect they can be useful for skin care, although I’m no expert on which type.
      It’s the big health claims that I wanted to debunk.

  14. Great article! I’ll just throw my 2 cents in. I purchased some quality essential oils, based on a good friend’s positive results. I was skeptical, but considering I try my best to go au naturelle when possible, I figured the worst case would be that I have a nice smelling home. From my own test runs of various anti-viral blends, sleep aids, hormone balancing, cold eradicating, nasal clearing oils, NONE produced significant enough results for me to throw my hard earned cash out the window. In fact, when using the hormone balancing blend (with Doterra oils), I had MORE hot flashes. Now, that was likely my own body going wonky and nothing to do with the oil doing anything positive or negative. It just didn’t work! The thieves blend that is touted as kicking colds in the butt? Nope! Tried it several times and zip, zero, nada. My kid is still sick (she just tried it again as I have a whole bottle of the worthless stuff). At least my house smells like baked cinnamon spice cookies :). There’s a positive for essential oils! For those that claim that they work, great! If the placebo effect works for you, hey, all the more power to you. I wish I had the placebo effect. Like hypnosis and the power of suggestion, I guess my mind isn’t easily tricked!

  15. I agree with the article and appreciate the content presented. Essential oils work well to a certain degree and certain degree only. I think any medical claim that suggests a single source therapy for things like cancer and chronic illnesses need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    After all, you don’t get cancer overnight. You get them from stress, lack of sleep, diet etc. To think that a person can eat some pill or apply some oils would reverse the damaging effects of a stressed lifestyle is nothing short of a miracle. Oil might help alleviate the symptoms but no they will not take away your illness.

  16. This atatement is not true…. “An essential oil is a mixture of a plant’s chemical compounds (its fragrance) with a carrier oil.”

    The carrier oil is not the essential oil. The carrier oil (for example Coconut oil) is just another oil that is mixed with the pure essential oil (for example Lavender) to dilute the essential oil to make it usable for using on the skin, etc.

    Thanks for this article.

    • Young Living Essential Oils use a gentle, proprietary technique for steam extracting essential oils and preserving the plants precious constituents. Young Living does not add any carrier oil or any other product to their single essential oils. They have some proprietary blends that do have coconut or other oil, but each blend lists the ingredients on the label. Young Living never accepts diluted, cut, or adulterated oils.encourages all members to tour any Young Living Farm at any time where you can witness their Seed to Seal steam distillation.

      • Every essential oil company distills things the same way! It’s chemistry! There is not some unique way that they do it. There are tons of other brands that have pure oils as well and aren’t pyramid schemes.

  17. I didn’t mean to sound harsh. In fact, I appreciate the warnings. It’s just too bad that no one seems to be too serious about researching these oils more. Probably because the Pharma’s are making enough money already? And I don’t trust the FDA either. I think everyone’s in it for the money instead of having any real altruistic intentions.

  18. Professional affiliates of reputable Essential Oil Companies will NOT claim that EOs “cure”. We realize that we are not doctors thus not qualified to “prescribe” nor make such claims. What we WILL make claim on is that EOs can HELP with things a person is experiencing; a few of which you’ve touched on here. As your article claims to “debunk”, it also appears you and a measure of your supporters are pro-pharmaceutical. If that’s the vortex of your choice, good for you. If I can find natural, non-addictive, non-chemical, non-side-effect-producing alternatives, that will be my choice.

    • I will speak for myself and say that I am NOT pro-pharmaceutical, but I am also a big researcher and don’t fall for snake oil sales. This is a territory that is hard to weed through. While I think there is a place for essential oils, I don’t think they work as well as many tout. I’ve tried many. They smell fantastic, and some help minutely (i.e. Peppermint blend for relieving hot flashes temporarily). However, the big claims by the sellers for DOterra and Young living really, REALLY turn me off. In the end, we have to recognize this IS a business. People will tell you anything to make a sale.

  19. I have allergies/asthma and have difficulty sleeping at night due to congested nasal passages. I was encouraged to try a combo oil sold as “Breathe” and applied it under my nose – VOILA! Instant open passageways! However, within 2 weeks of using it, I noticed I had sores inside my nose – painful. When I moved the oil application area further from my nose, I still find my sinuses opening within 10 deep breaths, and no sores in my nose. I don’t sell any oils, just trying some of them out on myself.

    • Hmmm, interesting. I have the exact same issues. I use breathe right strips and a nasal dilator just so that I can breathe. I have had a scope up my nose and only appear to have a very mild deviated septum and some turbinate swelling, in which they suggested surgery (expensive and not guaranteed). I also have been doing allergy shots (I gave in 11 months ago due to my misery). All of these issues seemed to arise after perimenopause had taken over my life the past 4.5 years. I have purchased and tried the breathe oil and although it helps a tiny teeny bit, it doesn’t last long. Back to using strips and dilators for me I guess.

  20. Thanks for putting this article together. I’ve had a few people try to sell me EOs but I don’t have any health conditions and am not interested. My bigger concern is when friends with health conditions turn to EOs for treatment instead of better researched medicine. I’m glad to have some sources to send them.

    I especially appreciate your neutral and matter-of-fact tone. There are some sources that review the evidence but get very sarcastic, and I don’t find that approach helpful when trying to talk to people on the fence. Keep up the good work!

  21. I wish more people would do thorough research and read unbiased articles like yours before using essential oils. My father recently had an accident during which he broke a few bones. This provoked one of our family friends into giving us samples of essential oils to help with his pain, as if the oxycodone wasn’t enough. She also gave us some samples such as peppermint-lemon which do seem to help clear sinuses when a drop is placed below the nose. I am completely fine with such kinds that have effects similar to items like Vaporub or what have you, but the claims that these oils can help with healing things like broken bones is completely ridiculous!

  22. Lane Simonian says:

    The following is one of the more recent and more thorough reviews of the effects of the chemical constituents of essential oils on neurological diseases.

    “The use of essential oils (EOs) and their components is known since long in traditional medicine and aromatherapy for the management of various diseases, and is further increased in the recent times. The neuroprotective and anti-aging potentials of EOs and their possible mechanism of actions were evaluated by numerous researchers around the globe. Several clinically important EOs and their components from Nigella sativa, Acorus gramineus, Lavandula angustifolia, Eucalyptus globulus, Mentha piperita, Rosmarinus officinalis, Jasminum sambac, Piper nigrum and so many other plants are reported for neuroprotective effects. This review article was aimed to summarize the current finding on EOs tested against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer disease (AD) and dementia. The effects of EOs on pathological targets of AD and dementia including amyloid deposition (Aβ), neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), cholinergic hypofunction, oxidative stress and glutamatergic abnormalities were focused. Furthermore, effects of EOs on other neurological disorders including anxiety, depression, cognitive hypofunction epilepsy and convulsions were also evaluated in detail. In conclusion, EOs were effective on several pathological targets and have improved cognitive performance in animal models and human subjects. Thus, EOs can be developed as multi-potent agents against neurological disorders with better efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447774/

  23. Rachel Lindsay says:

    I only have one question: Have you tried essential oils? I have been using them for a year and they have truly brought me to my A-Game health-wise. I eat organic. I juice. I am proactive with my health. I have also found I need less herbal supplements and have avoided a few trips to the Dr. due to my oils. They are powerful and I find it offensive that you say people only recommend them based on getting commissions. I never recommend anything to anyone, friends or family, unless I try them myself first. They have greatly benefited everyone I have SHARED (not sold) my oils to. I realize this is your website, your opinion, but I am just curious what you are basing this on? I love my oils and will use them the rest of my life. While I only use THERAPEUTIC GRADE and mine are super powerful and go through stringent testing. I realize not all have the same affect. So maybe try reputable brand. I guarantee if you experimented and had a knowledgeable source guiding you through HOW to use them you’d change your mind because THEY WORK. I have many stories and testimonies to back that up. I would much rather be proactive with my health and use NATURAL remedies than OD on antibiotics that doctors overprescribe and then when you need them don’t work. The oils do work and they’ve been used for thousands of years. They are not a substitute for proper medical treatment but are they over-rated? Not even a little bit. Everyone that uses them in my circle only says one thing: Why did I not try them sooner…

  24. I’m sorry, but I stopped reading as soon as I read “[t]hese compounds are typically extracted by crushing and distilling the plant, then combining them with a carrier oil so they can be preserved for use” a pure essential oil has no carrier oil in it and any distiller or company that dilutes pure essential oils with a carrier is deceiving people and trying to get more bang for their buck. A carrier oil (a fatty acid, usually derived from a plant or vegetable, used to dilute essential oils; such as coconut oil, olive oil, jobaba, or almond) is used to cut down the concentration of an essential oil when being applied topically. “Essential oils (also known as volatile oils) are the basic materials of aromatherapy. They represent the fragrant essences found in many plants. These essences are made in special plant cells, often under the surface of leaves, bark, or peel, using energy from the sun and elements from the air, soil, and water. If the plant is crushed, the essence and its unique fragrance are released.
    When essences are extracted from plants, they become essential oils. They may be distilled with steam and/or water, or mechanically pressed. Essential oils that are made by processes that modify their chemistry are not considered true essential oils…Essential oils are very concentrated. For example, it takes about 220 lbs of lavender flowers to make about 1 pound of essential oil. Essential oils are volatile, evaporating quickly when they are exposed to open air”1. Essential oils are applied topically by”…[a]romatherapy massage (massaging of one or more essential oils, diluted in a carrier oil, into the skin). Applying essential oils to the skin by combining them with bath salts, lotions, or dressings”1.

    In summary please be careful not to spread misinformation.

    -1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0032518/

  25. I was very skeptical of essential oils… I am actually still skeptical of many claims about essential oils.

    After our son started going to pre-school, it seemed we were almost always sick with something or other. It greatly affected of our lives and we were willing to spend some money to try and solve the problem. So we decided to give essential oils a try.

    After we started to use the oils, we were rarely sick! I found that taking the oils right when I feel that initial sore throat has proven very effective. If I’m able to take the oils at this point, I end up not getting sick about 80-90% of the time! If I wait until I start sneezing or start coughing… well, it’s late–the oils haven’t seemed to help “cure” the thing, but the symptoms do seem less. Maybe they are helping my immune system fight it off.

    Why would anyone doubt the effectiveness of essential oils? These substances are derived directly from plants, which are also the source for pharmaceuticals. It’s not logical to think they are only good for a few things like skin issues, helping you sleep etc. Especially when it’s so easy to see the affects of certain illicit drugs that are basically just smoking certain plants without alteration. I mean, come on, it’s obvious plants hold incredible properties and they don’t always need to be altered to make them effective. I’m not saying pharmaceuticals shoudn’t be used, but the time for essential oils being considered a legitimate possibility by the medical community is long overdue

  26. This really bothers me that some people who represent doTERRA and Young Living make outrageous health claims, which ruins our reputation and/or perpetuates the myth that we are snake oil salesmen. I used essential oils first in my cleaning products and then to support my immune system before becoming a Wellness Advocate for doTERRA. From the very beginning of my experience with doTERRA, I have heard nothing but and used nothing but complaint language. We are very careful to tell people that essential oils are not a replacement for doctor/clinic/hospital care, we are not doctors, and EOs are not a magic bullet or cure. We DO say that EOs can help support heath and wellness goals. I never thought I would become a member of an MLM company, but I believe in this company’s philosophy and focus on education and empowerment. I am not in it just for the money. However, I am not going to lie—if I can make some extra income sharing something I use and have seen benefits, why wouldn’t I? It’s better than selling something I am ethically opposed to just be rich, or advertising something I don’t use.

  27. Recently a coworker of mine introduced me to a “Young Living” oil product. It had a pleasant pine smell to it. After going to the website and reading about the different oils, I became very skeptical of any real medical values to these products. Most of the product descriptions eluded to breathing the fumes put you into a mental state. Some offer peace and tranquility, a positive attitude, or the ability to take charge at the board meeting with great confidence. Seems to me that if that works for you, go for it and enjoy. I was not so impressed and I will not be using these products. And yes, this came from someone who was a distributor for “Young Living”

    • Young Living’s website can be frustrating, certainly, if you are looking for an essential oil to support your body for a specific purpose. However, their vague wording is intentional. Due to FDA regulations, they cannot purport that any oil will cure a specific ailment. Again, I realize how frustrating that is. I would suggest doing your own research (I use the Essential Oils pocket reference from Life Science Publishing) if you are looking for a solution to a specific medical problem. Best of luck.

  28. I know for a FACT that essential oils have worked for me. I have MS and I had a relapse last year. My nurse practitioner told me I would have to wait 2 weeks for an MRI before they could prescribe anything. I didn’t just wait around. My feet felt like I had water blisters on the bottoms 2 inches thick. I also had spasms which made it impossible to stop my hands from shaking. I couldn’t always hold on to a pen or keep a drink from spilling (I wait tables). And my midsection was numb all the way around. I did some research and tried inhaling some spike lavender essential oil (from Eden’s Garden) and the numbness diminished by 2/3rd. Within 2 days, the numbness was completely gone. I started eating sweet potatoes and the numbness in my midsection disappeared almost immediately after ingesting. I take a medicine which turns off my immune system. And I take vitamins. So essential oils can work for some people. I’m proof of that. If I listened to my NP, I would be on pain pills and antidepressants, and on disability, unable to work.

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