First, it’s helpful to start with exactly what an essential oil is. These oils are referred to as “essential” because they are extracted from the essence of the plant’s chemical compounds and turned into a concentrated oil. They are sometimes called ethereal oils or volatile oils. Plants are either distilled or crushed to release the essential oils. Once extracted, they are often combined with a carrier oil like coconut oil as a preservative.
There are many different types of essential oils—basil, peppermint, geranium and many more. Each type of course has a different chemical composition from the different plants.
Back to the question—do they work? There are many different companies that produce these oils, and although these companies do scientific research to prove or disprove the oils’ benefits, it is best to take an unbiased view of the research.
Aromatherapy and Neurology
If you’ve heard of essential oils, you’ve most likely heard about their use in aromatherapy. You might think you’ve never done aromatherapy, but think again. If you’ve ever smelled flowers or the fresh scent of a cut lemon, that’s aromatherapy. Massage therapists rub oils into the skin. Not only are the oils absorbed through the skin, the heat of the skin “activates” the oil’s aromatic properties and the person inhales the vapors. Either way, the plant compounds get into the bloodstream. The oil compounds directly interact with your “smell” sensors (the olfactory system) in your nose.
Many oils have been reported to be effective for mood disorders like depression and anxiety, but is that real or is it fabricated? You’ve heard of the calming effects of chamomile tea, right? In one recent Chinese study, Roman chamomile essential oil inhalation was studied for two weeks. Scientists looked at the effects that inhalation of the oil had on depression behavior in laboratory rats. Amazingly, the scientists actually observed that various chemicals to boost mood were actually being made in the mood regulation part of the brain called the hippocampus—all in response to inhalation of the oil.
Oils like dill and spearmint may smell very different, but they have striking similarities in chemical composition, both containing a chemical compound called carvone. A little over a year ago, Brazilian researchers published a study showing that carvone had a significant calming effect on people in a very heightened state of excitement.
Elderly dementia patients often have sleep disturbances. A Japanese study followed about 20 subjects for 20 days, then applied aromatherapy for a 20-day period. Basically, oils were poured into a towel left near the patients’ pillows. Researchers measured sleep duration and quality and found that patients who received the aromatherapy had significantly better and longer sleep.
Even more interesting are the claims that various essential oils are actually boosters for the immune system. For example, oregano has long been touted to help with respiratory issues. Several studies in the United States and other countries have studied chitin, a protein produced by insects and fungi, so it’s always in the air. Many people inhale chitin, which incites their respiratory cells to have the “intruder” response.
In these studies, scientists have looked at the effects of essential oil compounds in oregano and thyme on chitin. In effect, these oils reversed the effect; even though chitin is still present, the cell doesn’t elicit the natural response. The person can still be breathing in the chitin, but there’s no adverse reaction to it. The research is early, and more is certainly needed, but it is extremely promising.
There is also very promising early research on how essential oils might be useful in seasonal allergy symptoms. Like oregano, cardamom and rosemary oils are also known to be respiratory support oils. All oils good for respiratory support have one thing in common—they all have high levels of eucalyptol. A recent Chinese study showed that eucalyptol was very effective in the immune system changes that come with seasonal changes.
Oil blends, a mixture of several oils together, are very popular now. There are sleep formulas and immune formulas to name a few. In a recent study, compound mixtures were found to greatly reduced inflammation in mice airways, and is very promising research for asthmatics going forward.
Essential oils like olive oil and frankincense have long been used throughout history to prepare food and for beauty and health care. The research is still early, but early results do look promising and seem to indicate that essential oils are more science than scam.
~ Health Scams Exposed