Essential oils continue to boom in popularity, so all this week on 10News Today we've been addressing your questions, comments and concerns with the trend and showing you what experts and other locals have to say.
Below are interviews and segments we've aired on essential oils this week. Click on the videos or links above them to watch!
Watch 10News Today from 4:30 to 7:00 a.m. on Channel 10 and Fox 43 News This Morning from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. from Feb. 12-16 if you're interested in learning more about essential oils. We'll continue
What are essential oils, and do they actually work?
Essential oils are fragrant, concentrated extracts of various plants and natural substances. They are typically extracted through expression, usually for citrus oils where the rind is pressed to obtain the oil, or though distillation, where they are combined with water and heated until the plant releases compounds through its vapors which are collected and condensed back into a liquid.
The oils are then used in a number of ways, but the most common are either being applied to the skin and hair topically or diffused in the air. A few types of oils can also be ingested, particularly ones from common citrus and herbs.
Many people that use essential oils will list a plethora of positive benefits, ranging from promoting healthy skin, boosting mood, aiding in relaxation and even a few direct health benefits.
The mood and relaxation benefits can certainly be verified if you ask people that use the oils -- even if there is certain level of a placebo effect to be accounted for, the benefits regarding mood are prevalently reported.
The jury is still out in some regards on the claims regarding essential oil's ability to promote good health. It's not all "snake oil" as some would claim: There have been clinical trials done that suggest there could be real benefits in aromatherapy, and some doctors have turned to it to improve patients' quality of life alongside other treatment.
What concerns should I have with essential oils?
Essential oils can be dangerous to some pets, as some animals are reportedly unable to metabolize the volatile essences in many of the products. Cats can be put at risk if they are exposed to diffused oils in a poorly ventilated area, but whether it's immediately dangerous will depend on the a number of circumstances. Experts recommend erring on the side of caution when exposing your pets to essential oils.
For people, there are fewer risks. However, it's going to depend person-to-person -- as experts claim the oils can be dangerous to those with particular allergies to certain substances. The oils themselves come in many different makes and varieties, so it's important to know which oils you are buying and which ways they are approved for correct use (topically, diffused, or ingested).
Pregnant woman should also be mindful of certain essential oils. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommends pregnant woman avoid oils such as wintergreen, sage, camphor and aniseed -- saying it could cause hormone imbalances.
Essential oils and their effectiveness as medicine
Essential oils are seeing more and more use as a holistic/alternative medicine, and even doctors here in East Tennessee have found good uses for th oils in certain regards -- particularly with treating symptoms such as nausea and general anxiety, and improving quality of life for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Dr. Clayton Bell with the University of Tennessee Medical Center shared his experiences about using essential oils with his patients. You can watch the full interview below.
Some preschools in the area are also turning to essential oil diffusion to help boost immune systems and ward off illness.
It's not proven yet if the diffusing oils can ward off disease directly, but the science is there to show that there could be a small, if tangible benefit to boosting immune health related to the calming effect of the aromatic oils. Clinical trials found rats exposed to certain oil fragrances showed improved immune responses under stressful conditions.
Another study compounds from essential oils used in aromatherapy could be found in a person's blood, meaning it can affect a person like other drugs. The study did not explicitly link any positive or negative effects associated with this, though.
Essential oils for food and drink
Essential oils aren't used strictly for alternative medicine purposes. People have been experimenting with ways to incorporate them into daily life through food and drink as a way to complement their aromatic and therapeutic properties. Bartenders are even experimenting with infusing cocktails with the oils!
Check out by Dr. Jane George's example of 'gratitinis' below. She says you need to make sure the oils used in the mix are GRAS rated (recognized as safe for consumption). These oils include basil, bergamot, clove, dill eucalyptus, and most citrus oils.
Moms finding daily uses for essential oils
Many moms swear by essential oils, and we soon discovered that fact is definitely not a secret. One local mom, Hannah Davis, now incorporates them in almost every aspect of her life after she was introduced to them by a nurse at UT Medical Center.
Hannah said her friends became interested in learning more about her experiences with essential oils that she eventually found time to turn that knowledge into a side business. She's become an essential oils vendor and said the money from the business has helped put a dent in her babies' hospital bills.