Essential oils: The benefits and risks of the trendy aromatics

Essential oils: The benefits and risks of the trendy aromatics

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Essential oils and their various uses have been rising rapidly in popularity lately, but do they actually provide health benefits?

You can find them at specialty health and wellness stores, and even main stream grocery stores now.

But what do they do -- can they actually help you feel better?

Aromatherapy offers natural, concentrated relief from what ails you. Stress, sore muscles, a cold? All can be helped with essential oils, according to those who are sold on the practice.

"Essential oils can be used to simply elevate your mood or actually to decrease pain," said Jennifer Hays, a licensed massage therapist. She has been using them herself and on her clients for more than a decade.

"When you tune in to how you feel, that's the most telling thing for me, personally," she said.

And their popularity is swelling, particularly among those who are trying to steer clear of pharmaceutical remedies

"Once I found them I turned over, from what I was using an aspirin for, maybe a headache, I can find an essential oil to do the same for a migraine," said Jennifer Leffel, who uses and sells essential oils.

The oils stimulate a person's sense of scent and create a chemical reaction in the olfactory system.

Leffel said regularity is the key to effective use, and trying different applications.

"Some people may prefer to drop a few drops in their bath water. Some people may want to put a wet wash cloth, put a few drops on it and put in their laundry ... freshen up the laundry," Leffel said.

Doctors warn there is limited clinical research to back up claims of the therapeutic value of essential oils.

And the FDA issued warnings to three companies recently, for making false promotions about effectiveness for things like cancer and autism, and ADHD.

But believers say it works for those who are open minded.

"It just really makes people feel good and it's hard to argue whether you believe it works or doesn't work. Or it's a placebo. it's hard to argue with feeling good," said Hays.

The FDA has not approved any oils as drugs because they don't meet safety or effectiveness standards. So if you are going to give essential oils a try, make sure the bottle lists it as therapeutic grade.

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