The hype about essential oils: are they worth it?

Autumn Hyatt

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  From yoga studios to your neighbor’s kitchen, essential oils seem to be showing up everywhere. Maybe you are intrigued, or maybe you are a bit skeptical of these plant juices. While essential oils may not be for you, they do seem to offer natural relief for some people struggling with various issues.  

     Made from leaves, herbs, barks and rinds, essential oils have been used for thousands of years, dating back to use by the ancient Egyptians. The oils from these parts of plants are concentrated, and many people use them in their everyday lives for their perceived benefits. This is known as aromatherapy. The oils may be diluted for use on the skin, smelled or dispersed into the air using a diffuser, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

     While there are some studies suggesting the effectiveness of certain essential oils, very few studies have been done, and many showed inconclusive results. According to Scientific American, the use of tea tree oil for acne has shown success, while thyme, rosemary, lavender and cedarwood have all shown improvements in hair growth for patients with hair loss.  

     Citrus oils have been proven to reduce and inhibit bacterial growth in mice and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Many people use lavender to help reduce stress and encourage relaxation, and studies suggest peppermint oil can aid in digestion and provide relief from headaches, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

     Studies have also shown a decrease in unwanted symptoms such as anxiety, depression, nausea, insomnia, low appetite and dry mouth when using specific essential oils. 

     To receive the most benefits from essential oils, check the label on the bottle to ensure that it is pure essential oil with no additives.  

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     I recently began using lavender by inhaling it before I go to bed to induce relaxation, and I have been putting rosemary oils in my hair to promote growth. Both these oils are diluted when I use them.  

     I feel that the lavender has helped me relax at night, but whether this is caused by the oil or a placebo effect, I am not sure. However, placebo effect or not, I will take it! I have not been using the rosemary oil long enough to see any improvements in hair growth yet. 

     While there is little support suggesting the effectiveness of essential oils, incorporating them into your routine is not likely to produce negative side effects. One side effect to be aware of, however, is how some essential oils, such as lavender and tea tree oils, have been linked to breast enlargement in pre-pubescent boys, according to Scientific American. Being exposed to these oils over long periods of time increases the risk, and further diluting the oils decreases the risk.  

     Those with furry creatures may also want to avoid the use of essential oils, or at least certain ones, as they have been linked to negative side effects in animals. Cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birth, tea tree, wintergreen and ylang-ylang are all toxic to dogs.  

     Furthermore, essential oils are not regulated in the U.S., and so the quality of essential oils on the market cannot be insured. Use these oils sparingly when starting out to see how your body reacts. Also, be cautious when using oils around friends and family members, as they may affect each person differently.  

     So, light some candles, run a bath and add a few drops of lavender oil to the water for a relaxing and calming evening! With the stress surrounding remote classes and the upheaval going on around the world, you deserve it.