Much like taking a daily vitamin, a probiotic, or things like chiropractic care or acupuncture, the topic of essential oils has been the center of some hot debates. Essential oils have been used for centuries as natural remedies for things like the common cold, headaches, and muscle tension. They have only recently cycled back into the mainstream as alternative medicine gains popularity among the masses.
Since the FDA does not currently monitor or regulate the production of essential oils, consumers like myself can often find themselves with more questions than answers about the topic.
As a side note, I find it to be a little concerning that the FDA approves of taking pharmaceuticals like Vicodin or Prednisone, but won’t touch essential oils or dietary supplements with a ten foot pole. But, that’s an entirely different Oprah.
As my interest in essential oils grew, so did my questions. Ultimately, I have spent more time than I imagined learning more about essential oils in order to provide you with the most authentic information I can. This post has been particularly hard to write because there are SO MANY (strong) opinions about the use of essential oils to treat illness or condition, as well as simply for mood or relaxation. Maybe that should be added to the list of first date no-nos; don’t discuss politics, religion, or essential oils.
Since I highly value the trust you put in me as a wellness blogger and information messenger, I wanted to be sure I was looking at this topic from all angles. The extensive research I have done (and continue to do) about essential oils includes a two week study that I participated in directly, survey results from 10 individuals that currently use essential oils in their lives, I have read and analyzed published scientific studies and testimonials, as well as countless conversations with those that are self-proclaimed “believers” and “non-believers.”
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are defined as highly concentrated and plant-derived substance containing characteristics such as scent. Most people interested in the health and wellness field have either used essential oils in some capacity or have at least heard of the claims essential oils have in regards to health.
Essential oils are more than just lavender and eucalyptus (the two I knew about when I first started digging in). There are literally hundreds of plant derived oils that are said to treat just about any ailment you may experience. Many companies like DoTerra and Young Living have now come up with proprietary blends of multiple oils to provide mood support, pain relief, and even boost immune function.
My Experience with Essential Oils
Let’s quickly rewind the story to about 60 days ago. My understanding and use of essential oils was that you can diffuse them in your room so it will smell less like dirty laundry and more like (fill in the blank.) I have a tendency to be skeptical about medical claims, dietary recommendations and even new products when I don’t know much about the research to support claims or the recommendations for use. Skepticism is my default personality trait thanks to my very own father.
So, you can image that when I was approached by a childhood friend to try essential oils for two weeks I was optimistic and curious but did not think that I would benefit from their use. I was both flattered and nervous to participate in the study. My thoughts about trying out essential oils was a little like opening Pandora’s box. I cautioned Rachel, the woman that invited me into the study, that I would have an open mind but would not hold back to inform my readers if I thought essential oils turned out to be snake oil.
So, over the course of two weeks, I engaged in a digestive support protocol using essential oils. Rachel was kind enough to send me samples of lemon oil, peppermint oil, and a blend called DigestZen that contains peppermint, anise, fennel, caraway, coriander, and ginger.
I used the lemon oil in my water each morning to support detoxification and gut health. While I did like the taste of the lemon oil in my water, detoxification is a hard thing to quantify. My cells don’t feel especially clean but I did not experience any negative effects either. For me, the jury is still out on whether or not I will continue to ingest oils, like lemon internally.
For the DigestZen blend, I applied it topically to my stomach or throat whenever I experienced any issues like heartburn, upset stomach or bloat. Towards the end of the study, I also diffused it in an essential oil diffuser in my room to treat a very angry digestive system (thanks, ice cream).
I noticed that DigestZen reduced my stomach ache and heartburn symptoms within minutes on more than one occasion. Using DigestZen certainly does not reverse the effects of eating or drinking things that I am sensitive too, but I did notice an overall reduction in symptoms. In addition, I am drawn to the smell of DigestZen which is a little like black licorice. I have found hand-diffusing (rubbing it into my hands and cupping them while I breathe) has also had calming effects.
The peppermint oil is really the MVP of my little story here. Peppermint had similar results in terms of digestion to the DigestZen. However, one of my favorite uses for the peppermint has been rubbing a small amount mixed with coconut oil on my neck and shoulders before bed. I am an extremely “hot sleeper” and putting the peppermint on my neck has cooling effects that made me feel glorious! I also used a bit of peppermint oil directly on some back pain I was having and noticed a small reduction in my overall pain.
What Others are Saying
Since I have only just begun this not-yet-facebook-official relationship with essential oils, I thought it best to reach out to people that have a bit more experience under their belt to share how they use essential oils in their daily lives. I reached out to as many people as I could from all walks of life to hear how they’re using essential oils.
Here are some ideas of how people have successfully introduced essential oils as part of their wellness plan for themselves and their families:
- Breathe blend (DoTerra) to combat the effects of seasonal allergies
- Sleepyize blend (Young Living) to help little ones sleep through the night
- Sniffleize (Young Living) to fight off cold and flu symptoms
- Copaiba oil for teething and pain
- Tummyize (Young Living) for stomach pain
- Rosemary as an ingredient in natural deodorant
- Lavender for better sleep (recommended brands including Aura Cacia, DoTerra and Young Living)
- Peace blend (DoTerra) for anxiety
- Joy blend (Young Living) as a cheerful perfume
- Lemon and thieves/OnGuard for non-toxic cleaning products
- A combination of lavender, lemon, and peppermint for allergies or headaches
- Citrus blends (grapefruit, wild orange, and lemon) for drinking water to support natural detox
- Painaway (Young Living) or Deep Blue (DoTerra) for chronic or acute pain
- Lavender and peppermint for sunburn relief
- Any combination that smells good to replace candles (unsafe with little ones)
- Frankincense for inflammation and mood support (recommended brands including Aura Cacia, DoTerra and Young Living)
- OnGuard (DoTerra) to boost immune function
- Clary sage to ease menstrual cramps
- Melaleuca (tea tree) for skin conditions such as acne (Here’s a recipe!)
- Oregano to shorten the life of a cold or cough
- Wild orange to support mood and weight loss
I also asked which three oils everyone should own. Here are the most common responses:
- Thieves (YL)/OnGuard (DoTerra)
With all things, there are certainly the naysayers when it comes to essential oils. Truth be told, there is simply not very much research on essential oils, especially regarding the long term effects of ingesting them. Some people shared that they did not notice any benefits to using. essential oils at all. For the people that shared that they do not use essential oils, the most common
reasons why were:
- Essential oils can be very expensive
- Individual results were underwhelming
- Concerns about the unknown effects of essential oils on the skin or ingested due to lack of research
- Their doctor or healthcare professional did not recommend using them (either by omission or by advising against it)
The Question of Quality?
When I look to add a new product into my daily routine, I care a whole awful lot about the quality of that product. Similar to sunscreen, vitamins, and deodorant, there are many products available at widely considered health-conscious stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods that contain harmful ingredients. I’ll be the first to admit that my very first experiment with essential oils (years ago) involved my buying whatever was cheapest on amazon. Not the best idea.
It is no surprise that every brand of essential oil claims to be the purest and the most high-quality. There are two big guns when it comes to essential oils on the market. DoTerra and Young Living seem to be the most widely supported brands.
DoTerra carries a label “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” which is a badge that they created since there is no regulation on essential oils indicating that they are purely sourced and do not contain any additives. Young Living claims a “Seed to Seal” level of purity which to the best of my understanding is similar to DoTerra’s claim. Both DoTerra and Young Living utilize multi-level marketing strategies to get their products in the hands of consumers. Whether their prices are relative to quality or to marketing costs is up for interpretation.
The bottom line on the quality question is that there is no winner here. I do believe that essential oil brands fall into categories of good, better, and best as well as some that you may as well toss directly into the trash. In terms of choosing a quality brand, I think looking for naturally sourced oils that do not contain additives or preservatives that are organic is the best method. Personally, I have only tried DoTerra oils so I cannot accurately say whether or not other brands would have similar results.
How To Use Them
So, if you’re new to essential oils and you are curious about diving in, I would recommend a few things to help you make the best choices for yourself and your family. First, I would spend some time reading about the different essential oils on the shelves and which ones may help you the most. I’d do this by picking one or two areas of health you’d like to improve like digestion, stress, pain, or sleep and digging in deeper on those topics.
Then, I would choose a brand that best aligns with your standards. This part may take a bit of a leap of faith, but you’re not married to brand once you pick one, so don’t fret too much. There are three ways to use essential oils; diffusing, ingesting, and using topically. When you purchase some oils it’s important to do your research about how to best address your own needs and get the most of your oils safely.
Where to get DoTerra Essential Oils
There are tons of brands out there for essential oils. Whether you choose something from a local shop or market, or go with a bette
r-known brand the options are nearly endless. Do a little research on what brands might meet your standards and give it a try. I have only ever heard good things about DoTerra, Young Living, Aura Cacia, and NOW. As with all things, there are varying price points and levels of quality, so choose one that you’ll be happiest with.
I personally had an excellent experience with DoTerra oils! So, after some serious debate and even more research (better known as decision paralysis) went ahead an decided to take the plunge and bought myself a kit of the top 10 oils.
It’s important if you’re brand new to essential oils to find someone that can serve as your “tour guide.” My childhood friend and essential oils guru, Rachel Tabor is offering an exclusive deal for my readers! If you mention this post you will receive a FREE oil sample and an essential oils 101 class. This is the very best way to dive in without making an financial commitment. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media (Rachel Tabor). Or, if you’re a seasoned professional and already know what you want, you can hop right over here!