As I prepared for a presentation I gave at a Nutrition Conference a family friend stopped by my parents house for what else but to pick up some kale.  This now retired school nurse and current yogi and I not only caught up on life, as I do not still live with or in the same town as my parents, but talked about nutrition and essential oils. The nutrition part was natural for me but the essential oils, that was a different story.  I have known about essential oils for awhile now but never looked much into them.  However, I was intrigued to learn  more.  For that, this post is for you, Kathleen!

Essential Oils are a concentrated liquid that contains aroma compounds from plans.  The term “essential” refers to the plants fragrance of which the oil is derived from.  “Essential,” in this manner, does not mean required to live but rather for medicinal purposes.  According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health from the National Institute of Health (NIH) essential oils are oils derived from a plant (flowers, herbs, or trees) to improve physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Essential oils are most often used with cancer treatment patients as part of standard medical treatment to improve patients stress and anxiety.

Essential oils such as chamomile, geranium, lavender or cedarwood, are also part of aromatherapy.  The idea behind using essential oils as part of aromatherapy is to apply it to the skin so that the fragrance can be inhaled.  By inhaling the fragrance it is suppose to send a chemical message to the brain that affects moods and emotions. In addition, essential oils have been said to help with pain, depression, stress, insomnia, dementia and to aid women in labor.


However, since these essential oils do not have medical claims they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So the question remains, are essential oils safe and do they actually do what they claim to do?

In a study by Kiecolt-Glaser on the affects of aromatherapy on health status it was shown that there were no improvements in immune status, wound healing, or pain control when essential oils were used.  However, other research has shown that the sent of lemon appears to enhance mood, based on the release of norepinephrine and cortisol as a measure for heart rate and blood pressure, while lavender had no effect.  Another essential oil that has been popular is Peppermint Oil.  Peppermint oil has claims that it may relieve symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, nausea and irritable bowl syndrome.  However, just like the other essential oils, there is no clear evidence indicating that peppermint oil lives up to its claims.

To recap, the research on essential oils is still questionable and should only be used for medicinal purposes.  They should not be used to treat any injury, immune problems or to heal wounds.  Rather, use essential oils to improve moods and emotions.