Are Essential Oils Helpful or a Placebo?

Special treatments with aromatic oils. Lilac aromatic oils.

Essential oils are today’s craze. You can’t miss essential oils in aisles of supermarkets extolling their benefits. If you’re into social media, you would likely observe the surge of multilevel marketing companies that reap profits from independent distributors and sellers of essential oils who get their exposure from social media.It can be quite a puzzle if the claims about the benefits of essential oils are helpful or mere placebo.


What are essential oils?

Essential Oil is the concentrated essence of a plant. The essence is extracted from the plants by steam distillation or mechanical expression which is then combined with a carrier oil to preserve the essence for use.

Essential oils have different chemical compositions, thus giving each their distinct smell and properties. Essential oil is used in most fragrances that contains a mixture of natural and synthetic chemicals. However, essential oils are more complex compared to ordinary fragrances.

It is the chemical complexity of an essential oil that gives it the unique aroma you smell. Take the case of the lavender essential oil. Lavender’s unique component is linalool which is synthesized in a laboratory. Adding linalool to a fragrance gives an impression of lavender that is sharp. However, if you use essential oil from all-natural sources, you’ll get a purer scent.

You will find a variety of essential oils in the market, and the most popular of these, aside from the lavender scent, are the peppermint, lemon, tea tree, Frankincense, oregano, and eucalyptus.


Uses of Essential Oils

The leading application of essential oils in 2016 is in food and beverages with a market share of 32.9%. Growth is expected to increase for the coming years with the rise of consumer income and the high demand for prime cuisine. Another factor in the projected growth of essential oil use is the demand for color and taste in local cuisines that are attractive to consumers. The demand is causing the shift from the use of herbs and spices by food manufacturers to essential oils.

Recently, there is a renewed interest on the therapeutic benefits of essential oil. There may be questionable claims about the benefits of essential oil. However, a large body of research is looking into the therapeutic uses of plant essences. One laboratory study claims that lavender and tea tree can stop the spread of bacteria and fungi. Menthol in peppermint oil can trigger cold-sensitive nerves to bring out a cooling sensation with no change in actual temperature, and make the nerve receptors in air passages inactive, resulting in the suppression of the cold reflex. Clove oil has a numbing agent which impedes neural response, much like what local anesthetics do.

You might find it intriguing to know of the increasing demand for a natural-based essential oil for personal care and hygiene. The use of essential oil is also an added attraction in spas and relaxation centers. Its use is likewise trending in bathing, hot tubs, floral waters, steam inhalations, and diffusion in residences.


Are essential oils safe to use?

Essential oils are safe if used correctly for topical use or Aromatherapy. Tests on the safety of essential oils show very few side effects if taken as directed. Essential oils are also considered safe for use in food and fragrances as indicated by the label GRAS or generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Care should be taken, however, when ingesting as there are varieties of essential oils that are toxic. You know if the essential oil is safe for ingestion if it comes in the form of capsules or soft gels.

Along with the increasing demand for essential oils is the interest in research on its therapeutic use. The use of essential oils following the directives has shown to produce healing effects.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as “mind-body connection.” It is possible for the mind power to suggest the healing effect of the oil. Studies, however, show minimal adverse effects arising from essential oil use. If such is the case, you might as well enjoy the scent of the essential oils. So are the effects of essential oils real or placebo? You may have to decide for yourself!

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