Why Essential Oils Are Just Plain Nonsense
Plenty of facts or claims you hear and read about essential oils are just plain nonsense. You will come across claims by brands that all their essential oils are pure, of therapeutic grade, of clinical grade or pure grade. You will also find certifications and test results that cannot be substantiated by anyone. It is pointless to have a certificate or even a standard when there is no way of verifying if that means anything or stands for any comprehensively defined and described quality.
A lot of information about essential oils, especially available online, is basically misinformation. Not only are the claims based on pseudoscience but a lot of them are actually intentioned to sell their products without caring much about what the consumers actually know and how they benefit, if at all. Let us explore some of the myths, outlandish claims and outright lies of essential oils.
The Myths of Peppermint Oil
1. It is widely claimed that peppermint oil can reduce or cure fever if someone applies it to their feet. There is no published research or scientific evidence to prove this to be true.
2. There is no proof that peppermint oil can relieve or cure irritable bowel syndrome. Consuming peppermint oil, with or without enteric coating, may have harmful side effects.
Peppermint oil does have one use. It can repel mosquitoes that carry a virus that causes dengue fever. However, it does not cure dengue fever. It can perhaps keep the mosquitoes away and hence prevent dengue. Peppermint oil is also known for its ability to stimulate hair growth. This is in context of the effects of jojoba oil and other solutions that people rarely use for hair growth such as saline or what few people use such as minoxidil.
The Myths of Rosemary Oil
1. Rosemary oil can reverse male pattern baldness. This is not true, just as minoxidil cannot reverse or cure baldness. They can only prevent it to an extent.
2. Rosemary oil does not energize or counter fatigue. There is some evidence suggesting that inhaling rosemary oil essence can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, there is no substantial impact on energy levels. A calmer respiratory rate may avert fatigue but not to an extent to have any impact on available energy. There is no boost.
3. Rosemary oil does not have any impact on memory. Many companies market their rosemary oil to be used in diffusers to improve memory but no study has ever been conducted to prove this to be true.
Rosemary oil can at best calm one down and provide some relief from stress. It can also be a mood enhancer. The oil does stimulate a phenolic compound when used in a diffuser and inhaled that can elevate mood and alleviate anxiety to an extent.
The Myths of Lavender Oil
1. Lavender oil does not reduce migraine. All claims to this effect use a flawed study wherein a controlled group of people were observed for triggers of migraine. The substitute for lavender oil used was a candle of paraffin wax. For many people who have migraine, paraffin wax candle itself is a trigger so the study is ridiculous to begin with.
2. There is also no proof that lavender oil increases vasodilation. In some cases, aromatherapy involving lavender oil has limited the extent to which dilation occurs among hospital workers during the night shift. The findings are inconclusive.
Lavender oil has been found to be effective at reducing anxiety. However, the impact is as much as placebo control. There are two noteworthy studies in this context. One study observed patients who have undergone coronary bypass surgery. These people did not experience much relief from anxiety compared to placebo control. Dental patients in another study did report experiencing much less anxiety when exposed to lavender oil. In Germany, lavender oil in its oral form is one of the cures for anxiety disorders.
The Myths of Orange Oil
1. Orange oil does not reduce anxiety or alleviate stress. Aromatherapy using orange oil in pediatric dental treatments reduced pulse rate and patients also had reduced cortisol but there was no substantial impact on stress in adults. Very few parameters related to stress have any impacts whatsoever when one inhales or is treated with orange oil.
Orange oil may work against acne symptoms but not as a standalone remedy. It has to be used in combination with acetic acid, sweet basil oil and other ingredients. The remedy only works when used for two months or so. It calls for daily application.
The Myths of Tea Tree Oil
1. There is no proof that tea tree oil can actually strengthen the immune system. There is no scientific evidence substantiating any boost or enhancement. There is no impact on antibodies. There are no changes in the biochemistry to indicate there is an effect on immunity.
2. Tea tree oil has not prevented or cured skin cancer. A study had claimed that tea tree oil combined with dimethyl sulfoxide reduce the growth of cancer cells in animal skin. This was not a clinical study or research about the effects on humans. Dimethyl sulfoxide and such solvents that allow mixtures to penetrate into the skin can actually contribute to cytotoxicity of tumors.
3. There is no proof that tea tree oil reduces oral pathogens. A mouthwash of tea tree oil cannot remove plaque. Cetylpyridinium or chlorhexidine does a much better job.
Tea tree oil does have some antimicrobial effects but their true scope and impact are not fully known.
The Pros and Cons of Essential Oils
Not everything about essential oils is pseudoscience or plain nonsense. There are some utilities of essential oils. However, those utilities or benefits may also be hyped by some brands and people have quite diverse experiences with such products. Some essential oils work well in therapy. Aromatherapy may not be what it is today if not for essential oils. Using a diffuser at home can also extract the volatile aromatic compounds in essential oils and that can improve mood, reduce anxiety and even manage symptoms of depression to an extent.
Ingesting essential oils is a different ballgame, especially when someone is trying to cure a serious condition. Essential oils may not have any positive effect on gastrointestinal health. There could be side effects though. Essential oils are not known to be able or to have the components capable of breaking through the blood brain barrier. Hence, any effect on cognitive health is a nonstarter. There can be some sensations when such oils are diffused but they have more to do with respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure and hormonal balance than any component breaking through the blood brain barrier.
Some essential oils indeed have antimicrobial properties but they work only when applied topically. It is unfounded to infer that these same essential oils will work against pathogens inside the body. Essential oils also rely substantially on carrier oils to be effective as topical applications. However, carrier oils are not to be consumed so oral applications, capsules or tablets, containing essential oils are not the same as the combinations for topical use. Essential oils can be used for stress, anxiety, antibiotic activity, dental health restricted to gingivitis and bacterial infections, nausea and general mood enhancement. Essential oils are not placebos that have no active effect. They are not harmless.