“Essential oils” are a huge buzzword today. From moms posting pretty pictures promoting health, balance, and vitality on social media to skeptics decrying these substances as scams and quackery, it’s ubiquitous. When everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else, it’s hard to know who to trust.
Research for this article involved combing through articles from professors and physicians to journalists and members of the public. Here were the conclusions:
“Essential” is not essential
The word “essential” in essential oils is misleading. It doesn’t mean “you must need this,” it means “essence of,” and refers to oils being extracted from plants. That’s it.
Natural doesn't mean good (necessarily)
Let’s get this out of the way: Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good. Tobacco and cocaine are naturally occurring substances, but we all know we shouldn’t be smoking several packs of cigarettes a day or snorting boatloads of cocaine. Conversely, synthetic things aren’t necessarily bad. Man-made vaccines, for example, have saved countless lives and have virtually wiped out most of history’s major epidemic killers. Of course, there are many examples of natural things being good and synthetic things being bad. We simply must not generalize.
At the end of the day, it's all about money
People who put their trust in essential oils often cite a general distrust for Big Pharma; yet, the companies that make essential oils are after the same thing: money. In fact, large, influential essential oil companies like Young Living and doTERRA are multilevel marketing schemes where the top fraction of a percent earns millions of dollars while the vast majority of distributors earn next to nothing.
Different bodies are different
Even sources written by obvious skeptics sometimes admit that essential oils have some positive effect on health issues, though the effect is modest. This is a good time to remember that different bodies are different. What works for me may not work for you. Some people claim revolutionary mental health improvements from smoking marijuana. Others say they collapse into an anxious wreck after just one puff.
Curing vs. treating
What many writers failed to address is the difference between curing and treating, and the difference is massive. Take the common cold, for instance. There is no recognized cure for the common cold, yet there are a hundred and ten different things people use to treat its symptoms. Treating, in this context, may just mean making yourself comfortable. Whether that’s drinking orange juice, sleeping a lot, or making your nose run by slurping spicy ramen, if it makes you feel better, it makes you feel better.
If using a certain treatment gives you comfort, perhaps it’s fair to go ahead and use it – barring any harmful effects, that is. Just don’t expect your treatment to magically heal your disease. After all, chemotherapy doesn’t make cancer go into remission for everyone, and antidepressants don’t make everyone happy, but they do work for someone. Otherwise they wouldn’t be around.
If you’re interested in alternative therapies, talk to your doctor. Barring any obvious harmful consequences, it may be helpful. Or it may not.
If you choose medication...
Medication remains a popular way to treat illnesses. If the only thing holding you back is steep drug prices in the USA, consider buying medication online from Rx Connected, a reputable, online pharmacy referral service operating in Canada that has passed numerous regulatory procedures and is dedicated to patient safety.
A certain degree of skepticism is healthy. If you want to learn more about this topic, check out the articles used for this blog post:
- How Essential Oils Became the Cure for Our Age of Anxiety (The New Yorker)
- Are All Oils Essential? Are Essential Oils Even Oils? (McGill University: Office for Science and Society)
- Aromatherapy: Fragrant Medicine or Stinky Psuedoscience? (McGill University: Office for Science and Society)
- Aromatherapy (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
- doTERRA: Multilevel Marketing of Essential Oils (The Society for Science-Based Medicine)
- Aromatherapy (University of Minnesota: Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing)
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