Do Essential Oils Work?

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You may have noticed that essential oils are having a bit of a moment right now, with advocates of them promising a variety of health claims that may seem a little bit too good to be true. Essential oils are typically associated with alternative medicine, but their rise to popularity may have you scratching your head if they’re really worth it.

Essential oils are compounds that have been extracted from plants, with the oils capturing the plants overall scent and flavor, hence the “essence” part. Due to their unique aromatic characteristics, they are often used for aromatherapy. To achieve these proposed benefits, they are commonly inhaled, either from rubbing them on your skin then inhaling the vapors, or used in tandem with a humidifier.

Inhaling the aromas of essential oils can be effective in stimulating your limbic system, a part of your brain that plays a role in controlling your emotions, behaviors, sense of smell, and long-term memory. Many users have claimed that aromatherapy with essential oils can be a great way to boost your mood and overall sense of well-being. The limbic system is also known for deeper level functions of your body as well, including breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. One of the claims often cited for using essential oils is their efficacy in being able to regulate these functions. These claims, however, have yet to be confirmed in scientific studies.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Another, more controversial way of consuming essential oils, is through ingesting them. This is accomplished by encapsulating your preferred oil(s) or mixing them with some water. Due to some oils being strong enough to cause damage to your sinuses, it is important to practice caution when using this method to consume them.

While there hasn’t been a rigorous study of essential oils as an effective health treatment, there are some studies out there that have confirmed some of the benefits of using essential oils. Essential oils have been shown to be effective in reducing pain to a certain degree, especially when using wintergreen or lavender essential oil. Another study showed that inhaling lemon essential oil can be effective in reducing nausea, allowing the user to cut back on taking anti-nausea medication.

Essential oils may not have the scientific evidence to back them up as a serious treatment method for certain health conditions, but it goes without saying that they can have some hefty benefits. If you have been wanting to experiment with essential oils, remember to practice caution when ingesting them, and be sure to start off with small amounts. Nevertheless, they are a fairly safe and fun thing to get into and experiment with.

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