What’s the Hub-Bub on Essential Oils?

Essential oils are hot. With the growing demand for organic ingredients, alternative treatments, and aromatherapy applications, many of us have turned to essential oils as a safer and more natural alternative. According to a recent research report, the global market for essential oils is projected to be $11.19B by 2022, up from $6.77B in 2016.

While most consumers are happy with their essential oil experience, it’s important not to be misled by the notion that “natural” is synonymous with “risk free.” While not common, there can be negative results, including allergic reactions, respiratory issues, and even chemical burns. After all, essential oils are aromatic plant extracts, each with their own chemical composition and potential to be incompatible with our own chemical makeup (consider common seasonal allergies). Compounding the risk is that the world of essential oils, especially therapeutic applications, is a DIY proposition, rarely under the care of a medical professional.

Should you avoid essential oils altogether? Not at all. They have been used for thousands of years and recent studies have pointed to positive benefits for certain oils, including calming effects, reducing anxiety, and anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. However, some critics say that some aromatherapy companies overstate the benefits, encouraging consumers to wholeheartedly embrace their use for multiple applications. Here are some common-sense steps you can take to safely use essential oils:

Use trusted brands. The FDA doesn’t test essential oils for safety and effectiveness. Do your homework and consider the source.

Use caution in applying topically. The sun can combine with certain components of essential oils to cause chemical burns. Consider your activity and sun exposure and make sure you tolerate topical application of a specific essential oil by testing it first.

Proceed carefully. It is so tempting to commit wholeheartedly to the promise of an essential oil lifestyle and use multiple oils right off the bat. Try one oil at a time to accurately gauge your tolerance and its effectiveness for the intended purpose. Don’t exceed recommended doses, and watch for any negative reactions. If you have any doubts, discontinue use. *To note: you can always add a carrier oil (like cocnut oil) to any essential oil to dilute it until you find if you have a sensitivity to it. 

Children and pregnant women may want to stay away. Some essential oils have hormone-like properties that could harm developing children and pregnant women. For women carrying a child, even topically-applied oils can cross the placental barrier and be ingested by the developing fetus.

Bottom line: don’t be misled by the term “natural.” Treat essential oils with respect and care, emphasizing benefits while guarding against any adverse reactions. Do your homework, read the fine print, and think “less is more.” If you have any concerns or questions, please consult your medical provider.

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