Self-care trends using natural ingredients has been all the rage for years now because it offers a sense of comfort wrapped in benefit to those who do it. Essential oils, natural, plant-derived oils however may not fully be safe for all people.
Diffusing these oils in homes has become almost synonymous with promoting a healthy environment for your body; after all, how risky can smell scents like eucalyptus, lemon, or mint even be to the common person? The growing trends would have you believe they are completely harmless but are they really; here we will explore that very question.
Words such as therapeutic or all-natural make a product appear safe and lead people to assume the product they’re consuming is safe for their bodies but many chemicals and compounds occurring naturally don’t necessarily offer benefit to our bodies. Recent studies such as the effectiveness of Echinacea reveal its little benefit for instance stands to say just that.
The same can be said for essential oil benefits. Just because it’s derived from a plant does not mean it should get a place in your diffuser.
The level of safety depends mostly on the individual using it but what holds for most people is that such oils can contribute to respiratory symptoms, skin irritation, and even symptoms related to hormones.
The endocrine system in a body consists of glands that regulate and produce hormones that are responsible for sleep, moods, metabolism, growth, sexual function, and other integral functions of the body. When these glands do not work properly they can lead to fluctuating levels of hormones, any change in such hormones thus can result in mood swings, fatigue, and weight gain.
Dr. Romy Block is a board-certified endocrinologist and is also the co-founder of Vous Vitamin. He believes these oils can disrupt the balance of the endocrine system and may interfere with the number of hormones being produced.
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He says these chemicals can either raise or lower the levels of hormones in the body beyond what is considered normal. Such a change in the hormones of the body can result in developmental changes as well as reproductive changes besides the risk of an interfered immune system.
Although evidence is limited, there still are some studies that boot his statements. Dr.Block says a few essential oils have been identified to have a link to hormone imbalances and complications. research regarding lavender oils shows it can lead to premature development of breast in girls. Tea tree oil in addition to Lavender oil can also contribute to a condition known as prepubertal gynecomastia which is an abnormal growth of breast tissue in boys.
Dr. Block, therefore, warns against the use of lavender and tea tree oils in diffusers considering the major complications it can have in both teens and children heath. At-risk groups like pregnant women, people suffering from hormonal conditions like diabetes should not use such oils without first checking in with their doctors.
Other health concerns associated with the use of such oils include allergy symptoms. Such symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny noses among other symptoms can arise in a person through both diffusion and topical use. Topically applied essential oils can also lead to hives, itchiness, and swelling of the skin.
Dr. Sanjeev Jain is a board-certified immunologist and allergist at Columbia Allergy. He describes that it is not entirely unusual for people to develop symptoms that are often differentiated by how the essential oil was used (topical application versus inhalation).
Dr. Jain encourages people to stop using a product they develop adverse symptoms of allergy to. It is wiser to talk to an allergist before continuing use. Therefore it is better to be safe than sorry and checking with your doctor before continuing the use of such substances.