Medicine or Myth? Seeking the truth on essential oils

Myth or Medicine? Essential Oils

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Rachel Hatfield of Jackson uses essential oils every day, for almost everything... cleaning, sleep, anxiety, immunity support.

“When I first heard about essential oils I was skeptical about them. (I thought) They’re just some silly fad,” Hatfield says. “Then I started using them, and I thought, these actually work.”

No one in her family gets a flu shot, and she says they don’t get sick because of the natural ingredients in an oregano and orange oil blend, which she applies to the spine.

Rachel Hatfield's family doesn't get flu shots; instead they use essential oils to boost immunity.
Rachel Hatfield's family doesn't get flu shots; instead they use essential oils to boost immunity.

“You don’t want to put five drops on your skin, but you’ll put on one drop and five hours later you put on another drop,” she tells us.

We asked Hatfield why she likes them so much.

“They’re natural, they’re from the earth. God made them,” she says.

That word ‘natural’ is often associated with health and healing. But that’s just where some doctors urge caution. Dr. Gailen Marshall is the R. Faser Triplett Chair of Allergy and Immunology at UMMC.

“The essential oils business... is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s predicated on the idea that it’s more natural and therefore more preferable. But that’s not necessarily correct,” Dr. Marshall explains. “Water is a very natural substance. You have to have water and drink it correctly and regularly or you’ll die. If you put your face down in enough water and breathe it in, you’ll die as well.”

Rachel Hatfield uses essential oils for wellness, cleaning, and other needs.
Rachel Hatfield uses essential oils for wellness, cleaning, and other needs.

We wanted to know if there was any clinical evidence that one essential oil might ease your migraine or another oil might ease stress or take care of another problem. We asked Dr. Marshall, who practices integrative medicine. He says there’s really no easy answer.

“There are studies where people do sleep better when they get certain essential oils. People are less likely to have certain maladies. Maybe even their asthma gets better. Is that a direct effect of the oil on the pathophysiology of the asthma or is it because that oil helps that person feel better, more optimistic?” he says.

Still, Dr. Marshall’s mind is open. He says if a patient brings essential oils to him, he will test it on their skin, and if all goes well he won’t dissuade the patient from trying it. But it’s not his practice to suggest essential oils as a remedy.

Dr. Marshall encourages people to make informed decisions on essential oils, by seeking out an unbiased expert.

“A licensed aromatherapist. These individuals have been trained and (have) demonstrated a certain level of expertise. And the good news is they really have no built in prejudice. They’re not a manufacturer’s representative who will automatically push a product line because that person is being paid to sell that product,” Dr. Marshall says.

Dr. Marshall says he knows of no licensed aromatherapists in Mississippi, but a search on the website for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy will pull up practitioners across the country.

Rachel Hatfield of Jackson has a full array of essential oils.
Rachel Hatfield of Jackson has a full array of essential oils.

Hatfield is an essential oils representative, but she didn’t try to push any product on our crew. She adds that she does support traditional medicine, but has found a way to enhance it through essential oils.

“It’s hard to believe something until you try it,” she says.

We have also learned that the safety of essential oils depends upon a number of factors, according to Healthline. For example, some oils need to be diluted before they’re used, and your age and underlying health issues can contribute to the efficacy of the products. Essential, oils, as Dr. Marshall points out, should be thoroughly researched by the consumer before they’re used.

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