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Essential oils: are there real benefits, and are there risks?

Posted at 2:54 PM, Apr 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-09 18:46:57-04

Oils like lavender, peppermint and tea tree are part of the latest wellness craze. But are there real benefits to using them, and are there risks?

Essential oils are natural oils distilled from selected plants, and they are currently a marketing rage.

“We use essential oils in our house every single day,” said Ladonna Calhoun, a natural health practitioner.

Calhoun began using essential oils four years ago, but she was skeptical when they became popular.

“I thought it was complete snake oil, and this is just a gimmick, and a sales pitch,” said Calhoun. “And I was not into it.”

Calhoun, who is also a surgical first assistant for a neurosurgeon, is now the owner of Archer Soapworks & Apothecary. She says using essential oils has led to an improvement in her health and overall well-being.

“You can take charge of your health,” said Calhoun. “Whether you’re too stressed out, whether you didn’t get any sleep last night, (or) whether you’re getting a cold.”

Essential oils are quick and easy to use. They’re extracted from different kinds of plants and can be inhaled or rubbed on your skin.

But some doctors say there’s not enough research about them and their safety.

“They’re marketed as being as safe and effective because they’re all natural,” said Dr. Katherine Hensley, a general pediatrician. “Just because it comes from a plant doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

Hensley also worries someone may not seek medical care if they have a health issue.

“Somebody might ignore a potentially serious problem and not seek appropriate medical care, because they’re using this alternative therapy that may or may not be effective or safe,” Hensley said.

Hensley says it’s important to inform yourself and do your research. She also encourages anyone interested in using essential oils to talk to a professional about the benefits and risks.