The simple answer is, “No. Research does not back up the effectiveness of essential oils”.
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Essential oils get that name because the concentrated essence of a plant is either steamed out or extracted via pressure. The only research or evidence that proves essential oils are effective may either have to do with changes in mood, perception, learning, or comprehension. But the studies that were done showed that the power of suggestion may have had a bigger effect than the essential oil itself.
Scientific evidence on the effectiveness of essential oils was explored by “Researchers at Marywood University who exposed people to three ambient scent conditions using essential oils:
- neroli (traditionally classified as stimulating),
- lavender (traditionally classified as relaxing)
- or no scent.
No matter which condition they were in, people who were told they were smelling a stimulating scent showed changes in heart rate and skin conductance that indicated physiological arousal. When told they were smelling a relaxing scent, they exhibited decreased physiological arousal.” LA Times
Just open up Facebook. You’ll probably find at least 2-3 friends who are selling a multi-level marketing brand of essential oils. Many of them are having “workshops”, teaching participants about the benefits of essential oils. But scientific reviews of 10 different studies came to the conclusion that “the evidence is not sufficiently convincing that aromatherapy is an effective therapy for any condition.” So I’m your party pooper here to tell you that research does not back up the effectiveness of essential oils.
BUT THEY SMELL GOOD!
Well, no one can argue that if it smells good, it may make you feel good, emotionally. But if you use essential oils and they have an effect on you, it is purely anecdotal. You can swear by it but research, so far, won’t back you up. Go ahead. Use them. Experiment. Just don’t expect a miracle. Essential oils are not going to cure cancer, take away depression, remove your menopausal symptoms, or make your ADD child calm and focused. But…
IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD, GO FOR IT!
Many midwives and doulas swear by the effectiveness of essential oils for women in labor. So I have created a list of things for your hospital bag, which also includes essential oils. Click here to go to the blog post on Hospital Bag and Comfort Tools for Labor and Birth. If they work for you, I”d love to hear about it. Go for it. The worst thing that can happen is they don’t work but you smell wonderful.