Why are essential oils so popular?

You’ve obviously heard about essential oils and their “healing powers” in recent years, unless you’re living under a rock.

You’ve obviously heard about essential oils and their “healing powers” in recent years, unless you’re living under a rock.

According to your favorite mommy blogger by day/essential oil seller by night, these little, expensive bottles of oil can change your life. We’ve seen and heard the myriad ways essential oils can be used. Supposedly, they help with stress, anxiety, acne, thyroid hormones, your immune system, house cleaning and much more.

But is there any truth to those claims? Are your multilevel marketing friends who are touting Young Living and doTERRA really selling something worth buying?

Call me a skeptic, but I don’t think some oil can fix all the issues I have. I’m worried about my social media friends who are ingesting these things. Are they safe to eat? Are people reading the fine print before rubbing these oils all over their bodies?

I decided it was time to learn more from credible sources and not from the companies selling these products. (Good marketing works, and maybe that’s what has been happening from essential oil giants such as Young Living.)

There’s not much information out there about essential oils. According to the University of Minnesota’s website (takingcharge.csh.umn.edu), here’s why:

• Essential oils are not standardized. The chemistry of essential oils is influenced by local geographical conditions and weather, as well as when they’re harvested, how they’re packaged and stored. Each plant is unique, so it is hard to make each oil standardized. And if they were standardized, then they wouldn’t be natural, genuine and authentic.

• It is difficult to conduct blinded studies with aromatic substances. Because people relate scents to past experiences, it is very hard to account for how essential oils actually effect people.

• It is difficult to get approval and funding for research on essential oils. Because they have been used on humans for thousands of years, they don’t fit into the conventional clinical science approach of testing in a lab first, then on animals and lastly on humans. Many review boards won’t approve research unless it follows this path. And because “many conventional drug studies are funded by the pharmaceutical industry, there is little motivation for these companies to fund research on natural plant substances because they cannot easily be patented, limiting the potential for profit.”

• It is difficult to tell what caused the outcome. In research studies, it’s important to be able to determine exactly what caused the outcome. With essential oil therapy, many times the oils are applied with massage. This makes it difficult to pinpoint whether the outcome was from massage or from the oils themselves or a combination of both. “Also, essential oils are composed of hundreds of chemical constituents, and it is hard to determine which ones may have produced the desired effect.”

So overall, there’s very little research, which means these claims seem biased. If someone is trying to sell you something, they’re doing just that: selling you something. It might be the placebo effect, or it might be the essential oils actually working. Use at your own risk, and talk to your doctor about your essential oil use, especially if you have side effects.

I’m still a skeptic. I’ll stick to using them strictly for the scent in the air, not for massage or digestion.