For the last couple of years, there has been a lot of buzz about essential oils, especially for allergies. There are oils to relieve headaches, congestion, scratchy throats and inflammation among other ailments, but the following questions arise:
- Are they safe?
- Do they really work?
Well, the truth is the answers aren’t quite as clear cut as you might think, and they highly depend on whom you’re asking.
What is an essential oil?
Essential oils used in aromatherapy are typically extracted from various parts of plants and then distilled. The highly concentrated oils may be inhaled directly or indirectly or applied to the skin through massage, lotions or bath salts.
Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions.
“Laboratory studies and animal studies have shown that certain essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, calming, or energizing effects.”
On the other hand, there are people, both inside and outside of the science field, that claim that essential oils are nothing but a placebo, and that use can actually be harmful. This side of the debate can be seen in the Time article “You Asked: Does Aromatherapy Really Work?”
So, which side is right?
Again, there is no definitive answer. Part of the reason there is no general consensus, even among the aromatherapy community, is that FDA approval isn’t required for essential oils, meaning that there are no strict standards that companies must adhere to when producing and marketing them. Consumer Reports explains:
Currently there is no proof that the practice can cure any illness. For many of the “softer” claims—such as its purported role as a sleep aid or pain reducer—there has been little testing, and the scientific research that has been conducted has generally yielded conflicting results.
The truth is, like most anything else, if not used properly, essential oils can be dangerous. For a list of possible risks associated with misuse of essential oils, visit the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and Poison Control.
That said, when used correctly, most people agree that the oils are safe. The effectiveness, however, depends on a number of factors:
- Concentration of oil
- Way it is used (diffused, topical, or ingested, the latter not recommended without doctor supervision)
- Individual people’s chemistry (oils may work for one person and not for another and some may cause a negative reaction for one person and not others.)
Unfortunately, right now there is no direct scientific proof for any of this. However, essential oils have been used for over 5,000 years, and many people, both inside and outside of the medical field, swear by them — maybe not as a cure-all, but as complementary treatments. For example the National Cancer Institute explains that aromatherapy “is used with other complementary treatments (e.g., massage and acupuncture) as well as with standard treatments for symptom management.”
If you are suffering from allergies and thinking about trying essential oils for relief, talk to your doctor first (which is advice we always give prior to starting any physical or medical routine). If you get the go-ahead, be sure to do your research on oils and companies. You’ll want an oil that is 100% essential, not one filled with fillers and synthetic substances. Healthy and Natural World provides the top oils and their usage for allergies:
- Tea tree
On the other hand, if you are looking for something more permanent for your allergies, make an appointment with CT Sinus Center to see how we can help.
Our expert physicians are well versed on all the essentials of sinus conditions and can help you figure out exactly what is causing your symptoms and how to treat them. When you come in for your appointment, we’ll sit down with you and discuss your symptoms and medical history. Next, we’ll conduct a series of tests that will tell us exactly what is causing your allergic reaction so that we can come up with an individualized treatment plan that is right for you and your lifestyle.
Call 860-BALLOON today and schedule your appointment. With four conveniently-located offices across the state, just follow your nose to the closest one. Then, sit back and relax with your calming essential oils and your peace of mind that your sinus suffering is over.