By: Christina Butler
YORK, Pa. — It’s a growing trend, with more and more people using essential oils for anything from weight loss to improving health, but the science remains unclear about whether or not these oils are actually doing what their manufactures are claiming.
Many people claim the oils have done wonders for their families, but the oils aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so it really falls on the users to self-educate before usage.
The oils may be inhaled, applied or ingested and are quickly becoming essential to many families.
For Kathleen Gingrich, she has seen them relieve a family member’s crippling migraine.
“They gave her Delaudin, they gave her Ativan, they gave her Imitrex,” Gingrich said. “Going on for seven or eight days, [it] was not able to be abated. [She’d] been to the emergency room, had been to the doctor, I got all kinds of medications and it just didn’t go away.”
Gingrich said after starting use of the oils, the migraine didn’t go away completely, but it helped to abate it when most medications would not.
Gingrich isn’t alone. Gwenn Wheeler became a believer and later a distributor of Doterra Oils after her daughter got two staph infections.
“Doctors took it very seriously. They stabbed an antibiotic pencil several times. She was on two different medications and it took a long time, and it finally went away,” Wheeler said.
The second time, the infection was identical and in the exact same place. Wheeler said she remembered she had some oils in a drawer.
Wheeler said she combined olive oil, oregano, and frankincense and applied it to where her daughter’s infection was and down her neck. Within one hour it was clearing up.
“All that was left was this little crust around her ear and it wasn’t swollen anymore, and I was in a rush, I could not believe it cannot be these oils,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said her daughter wasn’t on a prescription when she applied the oils.
Oils and fragrances aren’t anything new to humanity and Dr. John Neely, with Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said that’s one reason they’re growing in popularity.
“So we’re now developing the superbugs. I think people are seriously interested in not using so many antibiotics, but thinking of more natural ways to deal with it,” Neely said. “What I often find when I see patients in my integrative medicine clinic, people come in with 10 or 12 different medications for different purposes, they cross react with each other, they have more problems with the medication then they do with the original disease. It’s just not the way to go. Understanding self-care, understanding how to keep things in balance is a much better way to go.”
For stress relief or relaxation, Neely recommended lavender or a blend, but he stresses all oils need to be used properly and from a well-researched producer.
“I would ask about these, be skeptical about them, but go ahead and give them some try,” Neely said.
Peppermint is a commonly used oil. One drop is the equivalent to 26 cups of peppermint tea. It can sooth stomach aches and headaches, but if incorrectly ingested, can be fatal.
The FDA does not regulate oils. They aren’t a prescription, so they are considered to be like a vitamin.
The FDA did send warning letters to two popular distributors at the height of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, warning them they cannot tout their products as treatments or cures.
Those were claims paid representatives of the companies made.
Wheeler, who has a pharmaceutical background, doesn’t make promises for particular cures.
“It’s been years and I still can’t believe when these oils work for many different things,” Wheeler said.
She hosts parities for people to come and learn about the oils and their preventative benefits.
“The essential oils come from plants. They are aromatic compounds that naturally come from plants and they protect the plants from disease or from predators and different things so when you take that and put it on your body, or you breathe it in, or you take it internally in your body, you’re trying to protect yourself and help yourself,” Wheeler said.
Nan Melham uses the oils for a different reason.
“I use it to clean my countertops because it smells good and it’s a disinfectant, and you don’t have to use chemicals, which is one of the things I’m really a stickler about,” Melham said. “I hate using chemical products on surfaces my kids are going to be touching and we have pets and that sort of thing.”
Medical professionals remind essential oils users to use them only has directed and make sure they’re from a reputable company that has been well-researched.
The oils should also not be used in place of wellness check-ups or treatment from a doctor.