Essential oils have been used therapeutically and medicinally for centuries. Ancient Egyptians utilized the therapeutic and antibacterial properties of aromatic oils since approximately 4,500 BC. Today, essential oil for personal use is gaining in popularity, as people ingest, diffuse, steam or massage oil infused formulations into their epidermis to promote relaxation, enhance meditation or to self-medicate. Many enlightened consumers are using essential oils in the formulation of homemade, eco-friendly cleaning products. Huge multi-level marketing companies advertise and recruit thousands of people to sell their oils. The internet offers a wealth of information on the benefits of every aspect of the healing plant essences. The public has embraced the healing potential of essential oils, especially as many grow more skeptical of big pharma and modern conventional medicine.
Western medicine and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognize essential oils as cosmetics rather than drugs, making medical claims prohibited. This allows people great freedom to experiment; however, this can be a double-edged sword. We must realize that if we are to assign medicinal powers to these potent oils, then we must also realize that there can always be side effects to anything that enters the bloodstream or impacts the endocrine system.
Equally as important is the question of efficacy and purity of the volatile substances. As consumers, we must always research contraindications, potential side effects and dosage instructions. Contraindications and potential side effects can involve more investigative research, as even the manufacturers are not always aware of the need for caution because of the FDA classification. Because the oils are classified as cosmetics, the focus of the seller is more about not overstating the medical claims rather than warning people of what conditions could be exacerbated by the oil once it enters the body’s systems. The molecular structure of essential oils does allow them to enter the bloodstream, and among other potential reactions, they can have an impact on the endocrine system.