Essential Oils: Can they aid in weight loss?

We are all very familiar with fad diets such as no or low carb, cabbage soup, Atkins, This can go on ad infinitum. Aside from diets, supplements, drugs and even potions – or in this case essential oils – are frequently marketed as miracle weight loss aids. Can essential oils really induce weight loss?

What exactly are essential oils? Essential oils are basically plant extracts. Various processes such as steam distillation or mechanical expression extract compounds from plants. The finished product is an fragrant oil that is purported to have a slew of benefits. In order to produce a small vial of essential oils, several pounds of a plant can be used. Essential oils are most frequently used in alternative medicine, commonly referred to as aromatherapy.

Research has identified several therapeutic and medicinal benefits associated with essential oils. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and antifungal benefits. This oil can be applied topically to help with acne or dandruff. Peppermint oil can help relieve headaches and lift mood. Lemon oil has antimicrobial benefits and can aid in reducing anxiety. Cedarwood oil is commonly found in insect repellant. Frankincense oil is frequently used to help with sunburn, rosacea or breakouts.

Grapefruit, lemon, ginger, peppermint and cinnamon are the most common essential oils marketed for weight loss. Claims include reducing sugar cravings, decreased appetite, boost metabolism, burn stubborn fat and improve digestion. Although there is evidence to support the use of essential oils for its calming or mood enhancing effects, there is scant evidence to support the use of them for weight loss. A few blogs do cite weight loss as an indirect benefit. The notion if you feel better you mentally and physically you are more likely to stick to your new health goals.

The most common way to use essential oils is to apply them topically or inhale them (most people add a few drops to water, such as in a diffuser or humidifier). Recently, some essential oils are being sold as dietary supplements in capsule form. Unfortunately, the concentration of the essential oils can be unknown. Knowing the concentration is important in preventing ingesting toxic levels leading to negative health effects. To date, there is no scientific evidence that support the safety and efficacy of ingesting essential oils, let alone for weight loss. Despite the lack of evidence, recipes calling for the use of essential oils in cooking still exist. This method may seem as harmless as adding a drop of vanilla extract to a cake mix or fresh herbs to dinner. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 1 drop of peppermint essential oil is said to be the equivalent of 26 cups of peppermint tea! Whether it’s in a bottle or a capsule, as a general rule of thumb, do not ingest essential oils.

Based on the available literature essential oils are NOT essential for weight loss. Nothing promotes health like engaging in regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet. If you are looking to boost your mood or help wind down, essential oils can help with that!

Cassie Evans is a registered dietitian and a published researcher. She has studied sports nutrition and completed an internship with the University of Miami Sports Nutrition Team and Nova Southeastern University’s sports performance team. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sports Science and received her CISSN in 2018. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Human and Sports Performance from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.


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