Essential oils (EOs) have been tickling and delighting noses for centuries. The ability to create a spa-like atmosphere in one’s home or the scent of holiday cookies in the oven can instantly warm a heart. And now they are proving that these oils make for a healthier, more natural way of living. From house cleaners to medical treatments, EO’s are growing in popularity and proof and showing up in homes across the country.
Essential oils are highly condensed byproducts of plants and have been used therapeutically for centuries. But there is little published research on many of them. This is beginning to change as more scientific studies on essential oils are conducted around the world.
EOs are applied one of three ways: ingested, diffused aromatically, or taken topically. Oils are considered to have relatively low toxicity and safe with proper application. Oils such as oregano are “hot” and need diluting before application as they may burn or irritate the skin. Citrus-based oils like orange or grapefruit may cause sun sensitivities and it is advised to wait 20-40 minutes before going outside. Other oils like tea tree, or melaleuca, are safely used directly on the skin.
Oils are extracted from plants in a natural form. Different parts of the plants are used as well as different extraction methods. Plants from all over the world are sought after for quality and quantity. They are used in perfumes, food flavorings, and medicine as well as in aromatherapy where the oils alter one's mood, cognitive, psychological, and physical wellbeing.
Because oils come from plants their qualities change with location, geography and local weather conditions, the time of day they are harvested, how they are packaged, shipped and stored. EO’s are never exactly the same, a much different scenario than the synthetic-controlled substances of western medicine. Because of this they are not standardized making it difficult for the blind studies necessary in getting funding and research. It is also difficult to blind test an essential oil due to its aroma. Masking the scent can be difficult or impossible.
And because EOs come from plants that anyone could grow, big pharmaceutical companies do not tend to want them due to difficulties with patents, limiting potential profits. Despite this, more and more tests are being performed to look at the efficacy of these natural ingredients as a result of consumer demand and popularity, driven by the demand for a more organic way of life.
EOs have been found to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects. Several clinical trials involving patients with cancer have also been published. And eucalyptus has even proven to have antimicrobial effects against e. coli.
Popularity in natural remedies has also been driven by those looking to avoid side effects from many pharmaceuticals including those often prescribed for MS patients.
Reducing stress and anxiety is key in helping those with MS and improving quality of life. Clinical trials have investigated aromatherapy primarily in the treatment of stress and anxiety in patients with critical illnesses and have been found to be helpful.
MS Patients often complain about insomnia. Diffusing essential oils such as lavender is proving to be a safe alternative to pharmaceutical interventions for mild to moderate sleep disturbances as well as a natural pain reliever.
Dr. Axe promotes a specific essential oil protocol for MS patients on his website, touting the use of frankincense and helichrysum as an aid for multiple sclerosis. In addition he recommends oils for holistic treatments from the flu to reducing cellulite.
Essential oils are purchased at natural food stores or via one of the fast growing, multi-level marketing oil manufacturing companies such as doTerra and Young Living, found throughout the internet and social media.
In 2014, as the industry gained momentum, the FDA took notice and instigated higher standards for manufacturing companies who claim that their products are being marketed as unapproved drugs including doTerra and Young Living. No longer can an EO company or representative make medical claims toward their product. This is not slowing down the industry. The $7.5 billion essential oil industry is expected to reach $11.67 Billion by 2022.