Is there Science for Essential Oils and Alternative Medicine?

Do you like to know there is science to back your medicine? We’d all like some reassurance right? It’s what we are taught to expect and respect in the world of medicine.

Funny thing is, our language determines how we think about our medicine. Anything that isn’t prescribed from a Dr is “alternative” right…like hippies and tie-dye. So of course we don’t trust it – there’s no science behind hippie potions….

Or is there..?

First let me add this disclaimer – what science has discovered about essential oils has been limited to date NOT because there is no medicinal benefit, but because noone has been committed to producing good quality oils until…about 10-20 years ago. And in scientific time frames, well, that isn’t very long. Research is now being released at a massively accelerated rate and it’s exciting to watch as oils become more and more widely accepted.

Second it needs to be noted that you can’t patent nature. So there has been ZERO motivation by pharmaceutical companies to bring you natural medicines or tell you how amazing natural medicine can be – they can’t profit on it. What they can do is isolate the natural compounds which are effective, then they create a synthetic mimic which they CAN patent…and then they can sell it to you. They are recreating synthetic versions of natural medicine in order to create marketable drugs…it’s smart business. They obviously know that it’s beneficial right? I mean, they go out looking for natural chemistry they can re-create in a lab….but the marketing and expectation that medicine comes from a lab has left us all not trusting anything natural…

I feel like it’s time to retrain our brains, so here’s some science-y stuff about oils…

What are Essential OIls?

Essential oils are made of complex chemistry: monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes and phenylpropanoids including carbohydrates, alcohols, ethers, aldehydes and ketones.

They are responsible for the fragrant and biological properties of aromatic and medicinal plants [1].

They have demonstrated antiinflammatory, antioxidant and anticancerogenic properties….[2, 3] As well as antibacterial, antifungal, immunomodulatory, and antirheumatic activities have been described for essential oils [1, 4].

Phew! That’s a list isn’t it!

The essential oil of star anise was able to suppress viral multiplication by >99%; trans-anethole, β-caryophyllene and farnesol (essential oil components) suppressed herpesvirus infectivity by >90% [4]. That’s handy to know, with a viral issue playing out right now as I write…right? β-caryophyllene is also present in large quantities in Copaiba and Black Pepper essential oils, and this is just one of many molecules that have been researched…

And in more research: “studies indicated positive effects to quell anxiety. No adverse events were reported” [5].

Now this is interesting isn’t it. Let’s look at that again “No adverse events were reported.” Doesn’t every drug come with a product insert to tell you all the potential side-effects and adverse effects? They have to – they inherently create adverse events by being synthetic and not being something the body recognises naturally…take a moment and think about it. Isn’t a natural option better, if it works? And haven’t I just shown you science to suggest that it works?

So what natural solutions do you need? Want to explore the options with me? Just get in touch.

Need to get your head into some more aromatic science? Try here.

  1. J. Reichling, “Plant-microbe interaction and secondary metabolites with antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties,” in Functions of Plant Secondary Metabolites and Their Exploitation in Biotechnology, M. Wink, Ed., vol. 3 of Ann Plant Rev, pp. 187–273, Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, UK, 1999.
  2. M. Golab, O. Burdzenia, P. Majewski, and K. Skwarlo-Sonta, “Tea tree oil inhalations modify immunity in mice,” Journal of Applied Biomedicine, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 101–108, 2005.
  3. N. Ito, T. Nagai, T. Oikawa, H. Yamada, and T. Hanawa, “Antidepressant-like effect of l-perillaldehyde in stress-induced depression-like model mice through regulation of the olfactory nervous system,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2008.
  4. Astani A, Reichling J, Schnitzler P, “Screening for antiviral activities of isolated compounds from essential oils,” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011.
  5. Lee YL, Wu Y, Tsang HW, et al. A systematic review on the anxiolytic effects of aromatherapy in people with anxiety symptoms. J Altern Complement Med. 2011;17(2):101-108