Few mainstream medicine enthusiasts will want me to share this post with you. First, they’ll say it’s because they have an aversion to all things quackery. Then, they’ll have a change of heart and try to classify essential oils as “medicine,” for which nobody else can give advice on because these oils are used to “prevent or treat disease” — along with carrots, garlic, herbal tea, and wheat grass.
Then, they’ll make an exception for reading package inserts or make up one on the spot to warn you about the potential atrocity that could result from you using something natural that has little to no side effects and is responsible for about zero hospitalizations and deaths each year. While they’re busy scaring your socks off, they’ll forget to tell you they’ve had no training on essential oils and have no clue what they’re talking about.
No worries. I’m not going to diagnose you with a disease, nor am I going to treat you for one. That’s not my thing. I’m also not going to try to sell you essential oils either. I’m just going to sell you on them because your arsenal is incomplete without essential oils, and if you already use them — you should know why you do.
I know what you’re thinking … what are my qualifications for speaking on this “trend?” For starters, I am a naturopath with advanced training in aromatherapy and herbology, in addition to having used essential oils in various capacities for the past twelve years. Essential oils were an important part of my journey healing from Crohn’s disease, and if you haven’t noticed, I know my way around a good study. (I promise I did not just watch a YouTube video and steal a few lines that will convince you that essential oils are all things magical.)
Pleasantries aside. Let’s talk.
Essential Oils are Not a “Trend”
An essential oil is a volatile liquid carefully extracted from a plant that’s used medicinally for all sorts of health imbalances. Once carefully extracted these oils can be used for inhalation, ingestion, absorption, and are used for all sorts of household and personal products like laundry detergent, hand sanitizer, shampoo, toothpaste, and skincare. It’s the chemical properties in these oils that provide the benefit and once applied to the skin these benefits hit the blood stream within three seconds.
Despite what you may have been led to believe, essential oils are not a trend, voodoo, or woo. They’ve been around a long time, are mentioned over 188 times in the Bible, were referenced in Chinese manuscripts and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and were even used during the time of the ancient Egyptians as medicine. People survived the bubonic plague thanks to this stuff. No joke.
Essential oils are amazing, they’re powerful, and they’re safe when used properly. You shouldn’t take my word for it though. Let’s break out our “Google degrees” and take a stroll through the US National Library of Medicine where we will find a whole list of studies you probably never knew existed.
Studies on the Benefits of Essential Oils
- You’ll find over 425 studies on the anti-inflammatory, chemo-preventative, anti-arthritic, and pain-relieving properties of boswellic acids contained in frankincense essential oil (which is ironically used in both European and Middle Eastern hospitals). Boswellic acid is known for its anti-proliferative effect on tumors (i.e it inhibits cancer growth) and ability to fight chronic inflammatory diseases.
- Scientific studies show that myrrh inhibits the growth and function of cancer cells, is anti-inflammatory, relieves pain, heals and prevents infections, and kills dangerous microbes.
- In Berlin, lavender oil pills are a clinically proven herbal alternative to pharmaceutical antidepressant medications, without the side effects. A case series conducted by the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité – University Medicine Berlin, showed that Lavender oil used in conjunction with antidepressant medication significantly reduced agitation, anxiety, and depression.
- Numerous studies from the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology and International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice show the same, and if that’s not sufficient, here are 95 other studies you can sift through if you get bored. I’ll save you some time though: Lavender is superior to the placebo, is effective, always shows benefits, and doesn’t have adverse reactions.
- Studies on melaleuca (Tea tree) oil show that it inhibits the influenza virus effectively (without increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s). It also inhibits fungal growth and can knock out candida like your kid can knock back a bag of skittles. Seriously. That good. This should come as no surprise to anyone considering the aborigines have been using tea tree for centuries to heal cuts, wounds, and skin infections. (The rest of us have secretly been using it too). Did I mention that Melaleuca is one of those remedies that shows promising effects against antibiotic resistant bacteria, is anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-everything else?
- IBS or gastrointestinal disease? How about some peppermint oil? This peer-reviewed article in the American Academy of Family Physicians Journal was pretty impressive. A systematic review of five clinical trials showed that peppermint oil significantly relieved IBS symptoms like pain, stool frequency, and gas.
- Aflatoxins are among the most carcinogenic substances known to man. The United States Department of Agriculture describes aflatoxin as a “cancer-causing poison produced by certain fungi in or on foods, especially in field corn and peanuts. You should be concerned about aflatoxin…unless you’ve got some oregano. After sifting through the studies on oregano oil, you’ll want to bathe in it, wash your food in it, and add a little more to whatever it is you’re eating.
- Studies show that clove oil is effective at inhibiting the growth of Aspergillus, a mycotoxin that’s responsible for various diseases that kill about 600,000 people worldwide each year, Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, yeast, and strep.
- Lemon oil has been shown to prevent carcinogenic oral strep.
- The Korean government-funded a study on ylang ylang that showed it could reduce high blood pressure and high cortisol levels.
- Neroli has been shown to relieve menopausal symptoms and increase sex drive.
- Eucalyptus has been shown to be an effective natural antibiotic against several infectious diseases and is an effective preventative tool used against the diseases we vaccinate for.
- Turmeric oil is anti-carcinogenic.
- Research on melissa essential oil suggests it could be a great alternative remedy for diseases associated with inflammation and pain.
I could go on. There are literally thousands of studies on essential oils and their properties — but you get the picture. Do you know what you won’t find in these studies? Adverse reactions like death, brain damage, SIDS, meningitis, gastrointestinal disease, rheumatoid arthritis, bronchitis, or fevers. You won’t find a package insert that’s 8 pages long because you’d have to make up 8 pages of adverse reactions that don’t exist in order to create one.
I know … you feel a little misled that you were told pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, and anything else that contains a carcinogen, neurotoxin, or hazardous waste were your only options for whatever it is that ails you. I did too. Then I realized that essential oils have been used since the beginning of time, are without the long list of negative side effects that accompany literally every single medication, and are supported by clinical trials and studies from all over the world. We just don’t talk about it.
What an Essential Oil Isn’t
For the sake of full disclosure, you should know that an essential oil is
not a magic “pill” or a quick-fix. It is not a substitute for living a healthy lifestyle or for making smart decisions. If you think you can use an essential oil for acne but you continue to eat foods high in dairy, sugar, and bad fats, your acne probably isn’t going to go away. If you think you can down a box of donuts and take an essential oil to melt inches, you’ll be disappointed when your pants don’t fit. If you think you can take an oil for your crohn’s disease (like I did mine) but you continue to eat foods that contribute to gut disorders, your crohn’s probably isn’t going to go away.
Essential oils are just one of the many things we should have in our bag of tricks for prevention and for those unfortunate situations we will inevitably find ourselves in. So, while everyone else is waiting for the one-pill-cures-all that will never exist and is looking to “prevent” disease with hazardous wastes or antibiotics that can negatively impact gut flora and the immune system … I suggest you walk on the side of woo and pick up an oil.
I source my essential oils predominately here (and have used this brand in some capacity over the last 12 years). Brands vary in quality, so I always make sure that the oils I use are sustainably sourced and harvested, are therapeutic grade, and meet the highest quality standards.