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Essential Oils: Separating Fact from Fiction

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If you spend a day or two on social media sites, you get the idea that essential oils are a panacea that can replace every modern medicine, both over the counter and prescription. Kid got a fever? Rub a little of this oil on his feet. Big job interview coming up in a few minutes? Inhale a little of this to relax. Fungal infection? Splash some of this on. It’s gotten particularly out of hand on Pinterest, where multi-level marketing schemers attempt to convince everyone they absolutely need to become essential oil wholesalers. Conversely, if you hang around in the online skeptic communities (Science Based Medicine, Quackwatch, etc.), you come away with the impression that essential oils are at best pleasant-smelling placebos and at worst expensive poisons. So – who’s right? Who’s wrong? Are essential oils simply glorified air fresheners without any evidence of efficacy, or does the truth lie somewhere between the two extremes?

Let’s first dig into the common claims and the evidence for some of the most popular essential oils.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/essential-oils-separating-fact-from-fiction/

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So, what’s the final verdict on essential oils? Bunk or boon?

It’s complicated. It’s tough to give a single opinion that applies to dozens upon dozens of unique essential oils. But we can say a few things that apply to all of them.

Essential oils are not inert placebos. They’re not expensive air fresheners. They are pharmacological agents with bioactive compounds, many of which are powerful enough to rival prescription drugs. But with this power comes randomness. As much as we harp on pharmaceuticals for the unwanted side effects we often counter using another prescription, at least the dosages of the active ingredients are stable and constant. Essential oils? Not so much. There’s no real way of knowing the “dosage” of the bioactive compound, or even whether we’ve successfully uncovered every possible compound present in the plants, herbs, and spices used to make the oil.

Essential oils are also not harmless. For example, topical essential oils can be quite harsh and even toxic. When exposed to air, lavender oil forms strong contact allergens, and compounds in lavender oil have cytotoxic effects on human skin cells. Topical orange oil is a “very weak” promoter of skin cancers.

It’s clear that some essential oils work for some things, while others don’t. And the ones that don’t work for one claim might very well work for another. As I said: it’s complicated.

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