essential oils

Are Essential Oils Beneficial? Safe? A Medical Perspective

Diffuse, inhale, ingest, massage… essential oils are catching on like wildfire! In North America alone, the aromatherapy market is expected to grow from $1.6B in 2016 to $2.8B by 2024. As more manufacturers enter the market and more health-conscious consumers begin experimenting with blends of lavender, peppermint, bergamot, and other oils, many are asking, “Are essential oils safe? Do essential oils actually work?”

The truth is, there’s a lot we don’t know about essential oils. Unlike traditional drugs, which undergo rigorous clinical trials and have known side effects, essential oils are not subject to the same regulations imposed by the FDA. In fact, essential oils must clearly state that they are “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

Of course, simply lacking FDA regulation doesn’t mean essential oils can’t have any benefits. Rather, we just don’t know for sure what benefits they do offer. And, in many cases, the potential risk and harm may outweigh the benefits.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to think twice before using essential oils on yourself or your children…

Abnormally High Concentrations

Essential oils are frequently touted as “natural” therapies. However, the incredibly high concentrations are anything but natural. As one nurse blogger points out, a popular manufacturer of essential oils “boasts that it takes 75 lemons to make one 15 mL bottle of lemon oil, 27 square feet of lavender plants to make one 15 mL bottle of lavender, and an entire pound of raw peppermint to make one 15 mL bottle of peppermint oil.”

Consuming just one drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of drinking 26-28 cups of peppermint tea! Is that a “natural” way to get the potential benefits of peppermint? Not really. When it comes to abnormally high concentrations of anything, extreme caution is advised.

Lack of Standardization

Advil® is Advil®… and the drugstore brand version is pretty much the exact same thing. It doesn’t matter what store you buy it from or what area of the country you’re in. When it comes to essential oils, we’re living in the Wild West. The plants from which essential oils are derived can vary in concentration; weather and growing conditions, as well as processing techniques, can affect potency.

Unknown Causation

As always, correlation does not equal causation. If you massage thieves into blistered feet and notice an improvement the next day, is that a result of the oil alone? The massage? The massage combined with the oil? Moisture? It’s difficult to determine exactly what causes certain outcomes.

Questions About Essential Oils? See a Doctor in Nashville

At St. Thomas Medical Group, our physicians are advocates for your health. We are not opposed to the effective use of alternate therapies, and we encourage you to learn more about your wellness options. Looking for a doctor in Nashville who will listen to you and advocate for your health and well-being? Call +1 (615) 297-2700 or schedule online.