Essential Oil—Snake Oil Or Not?

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I’m a big skeptic when it comes to alternative medicine. After all, the lack of effectiveness of alternative treatments is why modern medicine developed in the first place.  Well, that’s possibly an oversimplification of the history of modern medicine, and I’m not here to be an advocate for the modern medical system with all its problems, but you understand what I mean. Way back when, the natural remedies weren’t cutting it, so we humans went in a different direction.

I used to hold doctors in high esteem. After having three children I got to know them pretty well, and as a result I stopped idolizing them. They are human, some are good and some are, well, not so good. Then, of course, there are all those problems with the medical system I eluded to above.

Today, I’m mature enough not to be wowed by degrees and initials after a name, but still young enough to embrace new or alternative less invasive and less toxic methods of treatment. I now seek a balance between the two.

My path to seeking out new methods has not always been clear. While I’ve experimented with my share of elderberry syrup and used coconut oil in more ways than I thought possible, essential oil just seemed too implausible and expensive to explore.

Then to make essential oil even more of a turn-off, two of the leading brands of essential oil are run through multi-level marketing (MLM). Honestly, I’ve never heard anything good about MLM! Well, except from the people way up on the tier or from the latest people to buy into it. But, I digress, there are plenty of articles out there about the woes of MLM; that’s not what this post is about. (Read more about MLM here, here and here)

Yet, I kept reading testimonials from people whose condition greatly improved after using essential oil and I couldn’t help but be intrigued. After researching essential oil I learned that a lot of these oils really aren’t new and they have been around in one form or another for centuries.

To make these oils even more attractive, they have a long shelf-life, and if you know how to use them can be effective in maintaining health. In other words, they can take the place of many over the counter medicines and some prescription medicines.

Let me just interject here and say that I believe in many cases a person is better off suffering from what ails them rather than taking some of the drugs on the market today. Some of the side effects can be worse than the condition a person is suffer from. It is in these cases that essential oils might offer some relief.

So over the past few years I’ve been experimenting with these oils to see if they make a difference in my health and the health of my family.

Here are some of the problems I’ve had and the results of using essential oil:
  • Dandruff: My oldest son had trouble with dandruff. He no longer uses shampoo, instead he uses a mix of baking soda, water, and tea tree oil. The dandruff is gone.
  • Motion Sickness: My family and I went on a cruise last year and I took an oil blend designed to relieve motion sickness and applied it on the cruise. To my amazement it worked.
  • Throat Infection: I have a lot of sinus drainage in the back of my throat that often leads to throat infections. I started gargling with an antibacterial oil blend. I have not had a throat infections in over a year. I also use this same blend to make an antibacterial spray that I use like a homemade Febreze on mattresses and other non-washable furniture.
  • Minor Cuts: I’ve used lavender oil on minor cuts. They seem to heal faster. I also put a few drops in my homemade laundry detergent.
  • Motivation: If you place a few drops of orange oil and peppermint oil in a defuser it will perk you and everyone else in the room up. I think it works better than a cup of coffee. I have also used a few drops of peppermint in my tea to aid in digestion.
  • Trouble Sleeping: Right before bed I often defuse an oil blend designed to help you relax so you can sleep. I often have problems falling asleep because of anxiety. Defusing the oil helps me fall asleep.

I have been slowing working essential oil into my recipes and routines, with great results and I have not experienced any negative side effects. However, I highly recommend you do your own research and delve into the world of essential oil slowly, and as with anything you put in your body, with caution.

Getting Started With Essential Oils

Using essential oil is not like popping a pill, often the most effective way to use the oil is not through the digestive system. This was a concept I had to process for a long time to understand it and to get past my traditional medicine way of thinking.

Remember traditional medicine only treats the body and not the mind. Yeah, I know I sound like I’m about to go off into a new-age abyss, but bear with me. If you stop and think about any condition or ailment logically you can understand that it has an effect on the mind and the senses along with the effected part of the body. Essential oil can help with all three: the mind, the senses and the effected part of the body.

Motion sickness for example is a sensory condition.  By simply inhaling the aroma from certain essential oils you can change how the body is processing the motion. Every condition has a mental aspect, even a broken bone for example. Your mood effects the rate at which you recover. So the way you apply essential oil is not conventional, and that was a big part of why I was so skeptical.

The other unusual thing, at least it was to me, is that you can use essential oils for medicine and then turn around and clean with them. This really doesn’t have anything to do with essential oil per se; it has more to do with being accustomed to artificial products. For example you would never cook with Windex but you can certainly clean and cook with vinegar.

Ways To Apply Essential Oil
  • Baths: Place a few drops of oil in a bath.
  • Massage: Place a few drops in a another oil (a base oil or a carrier oil) and massage it into the body
  • Inhaling from a tissue: Placing a few drops on a tissue or handkerchief and inhaling the aroma.
  • Diffusers: Placing a few drops of oil, diluted in water, in an air diffuser.
  • Room Sprays: Placing a few drops of oil, diluted in water, in a spray bottle and spraying around the room. This works great if you don’t have a diffuser.
  • Ingesting: Placing a few drops of oil in tea or water and drinking.

If you are completely new to essential oil and have never used them before, I recommend starting small. Pick out one blend. A blend of essential oil is a combination of oils that a company has blended together. They often have names that are not related to the herbs they are derived from, but have a name more associated with the condition they help.

If you have been using essential oil but are frustrated with the price and the MLM I want to encourage you to look at a company that I have been using for some time and really like, Spark Naturals.

This company sells therapeutic grade essential oil at reasonable prices without trying to entice you to join a multi-level marketing company.

In addition they offer Are We Crazy, Or What? readers a 10% discount when you use the coupon code AWCOW.  Here is a comparison chart for some of the more common blends for reference.

Essential Oil—Snake Oil Or Not?

I have ordered essential oils form a lot of different companies and have not found any better quality or price than Spark Naturals.

Stay tuned for more essential oil posts from me. It’s not a subject that can be explored in one post. I plan to write more about making your own blends and more health benefits from using and storing essential oil.

In the meantime I would like to recommend this great book that I found helpful in my research: The Complete Book Of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy. Also, be sure to check out the Preparedness Planner Essential Oil Edition I designed it for you to keep track of your essential oil stock pile. It also includes pages for you to journal how you use your oils.

  • I’m a skeptic. I don’t buy into things easily, and I only have one essential oil in my house- tea tree oil. It was given to me from someone who thought it would help my son’s eczema. I had a health issue that I had heard was improved with the use of tea tree oil. I had already spent thousands trying to get help, and nothing worked. Without really believing it would help, I tried the tea tree oil. It worked. Like, everything went away. Immediately. It was unbelievable. I still haven’t gone crazy with essential oils, but one of my goals for this year is to learn more. I fully expect to add this to my preps.

  • Anvil says:

    My major hangup on essential oils is that they feel mostly unnecessary. Most of the touted benefits can be achieved by eating good food, getting exercise and using simple medicine that is cheap and effective. So its like this why get willow extract or something which is gonna cost you a good chunk of money when you basically have the exact same thing in aspirin?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Anvil,
      I appreciate your perspective, but a lot of people (including me) are seeking a more natural sustainable way to help with minor ailments.

  • JOHN says:

    HI : Great article , very informative , touch the surface of a very old and deep topic , essentials oils. 2 points I would like to add ..# 1 ..prior to 1910 .. the medical universities taught homo patic medicine along come the drug companies saying if you teach our type of medicine we will build you new buildings .. the rest is history ..#2 I feel you are a little heavy on MLM ‘s .. they are just another way of marketing a product alternative to retail outlets or door to door sales people .. In MLM a person has no premises , no staff , no inventory …
    I have been a distributor (1 of the companies you mention ) and user of oils for 15 years and as a senior I appreciate the cost of oils compared to drugs and the small commision that supplements my Old Age Pension each month .. Essential oils have been a part of my PREPS for the past 5 years .
    Great blog , thank you , keep up the good work …. JOHN

  • Carrine says:

    Thanks for posting this information. I am very interested in essential oils but the price is too high for me to be able to purchase as much as I would like…and the MLMs always make me hesitant. I’m glad to know of a different company as an option…I will be checking them out!

  • PrepNow says:

    I’ve been using frankincense essential oil to help reduce my high blood pressure. I don’t have skin irritation to straight frankincense oil so I place about 7-10 drops on a cotton ball and massage it into the arch of my foot. It normally drops the BP by up to 20-30 points within about 2 hrs. If it’s only a placebo effect, then so be it but from what I have read it’s the oil that’s helping. I’ve also used essential oils to treat cluster warts on my hands (with GREAT success). I have confidence in using essential oils, personally.

  • Linda says:

    Tea tree oil is a hormone disruptor. Check out this website for more information. Boys may have breast enlargement after using tea tree oil and lavender.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Linda,

      This study is so small that you can not use it to make factual statements. Even the researchers say, “Although we found an association between exposure to these essential oils and gynecomastia, further research is needed…” This study was done in 2007 and involved laboratory test based on a doctor’s hunch after he saw 3 patients. It really does not prove anything. However, I encourage everyone to read it and make their own judgments.

      You do bring up a very important point with your comment, though. Essential oil along with everything you put into your body (including food) can have side effects. I mentioned in the post that I have not had any side effects from essential oil, but I did not go into the fact that essential oil can cause side effects. They can! And you should use them with caution and common sense. I’m one of those people who gets all the side effects from drugs so I was leery of trying essential oil. As I said above I have not experienced any side effects.

      Also for the record my son had already gone through puberty when he started using tea tree oil. I suspect that quantity probably had a lot to do with the problems mentioned in the study. I would not expose young children to any one oil on a daily basis and the oils you do expose them to should be mixed with a carrier oil.

  • Lisa says:

    And here I thought I had invented the citrus/peppermint blend for the diffuser…


  • Neo says:

    They definitely work. I agree that the MLM aspect is icky, but when I’ve got a burn or a sore, it’s peppermint oil I want now as, dang, that stuff works.

  • JayJay says:

    ***Way back when, the natural remedies weren’t cutting it, so we humans went in a different direction.**

    Wanta bet when that happened?? How about around the 60s when GMO began forcing farmers to use their pesticides and genetically modified seeds?

  • Todd says:

    Can’t wait for more of your posts on EO’s!!!!

  • Felecia says:

    Hi Jennifer! Thank you so much for such an informative post on essential oils! I believe they work! I use them in some small way everyday. I haven’t heard of this brand and am glad to know that it’s not MLM company. I’m not trying to sell anything or make money with my blog or anything else; just to live simply and practical, the way God intended! I hope to read more on essential oils soon. Have a nice day! Blessings from Bama!

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