Celebrated throughout social media, essential oils are a trending topic in the health and wellness world. Whether you’ve seen them while scrolling through Instagram or pinned them onto your “To Try” board on Pinterest, learn more about essential oils with Dr. Rena Szabo at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center and Banner Cancer Center Specialists LLC.
Are Essential Oils Safe?
The use of essential oils for holistic healing and health can be safely used to enhance wellbeing and as part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the use of essential oils from plants to improve the mind, body and spirit can be complementary to healthcare.
They are often used by patients with cancer to improve quality of life and reduce stress, anxiety, pain, nausea and vomiting caused by cancer and its treatment. Essential oils may be used with other complementary treatments like massage therapy and acupuncture, as well as with standard medical treatments, for symptom management.
However, essential oils are powerful substances and can be harmful if not used with due care and diligence. Bottled essential oils can be 50-100 times more concentrated than in the plant.
Do Essential Oils Have Any Proven Benefits?
Aromatherapy is a natural and a complementary therapy. Aromatherapy doesn’t “cure” major illnesses, diseases, rashes or illnesses, but they can support conventional treatment of various conditions and alleviate many of the discomforts associated with them. Supporters claim that these and a wide range of other symptoms respond well to aromatherapy, but it’s important to note not all of the uses are supported by scientific evidence.
Aromatherapy not only smells good but is beneficial in many ways. Aromatherapy can help relieve:
- Pain and body aches
- Anxiety, agitation, stress and depression
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Muscular aches
- Menstrual problems
- Menopausal problems
- Alopecia or hair loss
- Some types of psoriasis
- Digestive problems
- Tooth ache and mouth sores
How Should Someone Use Essential Oils for Their Health?
A range of essential oils have been found to have various degrees of antimicrobial activity and are believed to have antiviral, nematocidal, antifungal, insecticidal and antioxidant properties. Aromatherapy applications include massage, topical applications, and inhalation. However, users should be aware that "natural" products are also chemicals and can be hazardous if used in the wrong way. It is important to follow the advice of a trained professional when using essential oils.
How Can I Use Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy can be used in several ways:
- Indirect inhalation: The patient breathes in an essential oil by using a room diffuser, which spreads the essential oil through the air, or by placing drops on a tissue or piece of cotton nearby.
- Direct inhalation: The patient breathes in an essential oil by using an individual inhaler made by floating essential oil drops on top of hot water. Note: Ingesting or swallowing essential oils is not recommended. Taken by mouth, the oils can damage the liver or kidneys.
- Massage: In aromatherapy massage, one or more essential oils is diluted into a carrier oil, like olive oil, and is then massaged into the skin. Essential oils may also be mixed with bath salts and lotions or applied to bandages. You should never apply essential oils directly to your skin without diluting. Always do an allergy test before trying a new essential oil.
Essential oils can be a great supplementary asset into your health routine. Before you test out essential oils, be sure to speak to your Banner physician about what is best for your body.