I was recently perusing the internet and came across a story of a woman who had lost 50 pounds using essential oils! I had to check this one out.
I’ve outlined the major points that were brought up in the article below (using quotes from the article):
My personal favourite statement – “I decided to give the oils for weight loss a try – and within 6 months I was 50 lbs lighter.”
Bam, just like that! A miracle.
This woman believes her weight loss was a result of her “secret weapon”, essential oils. I believe otherwise – Notice points 1, 2 and 3 in the image above, we will discuss them later in the article.
First, let’s discuss essential oils!
What exactly are essential oils?
Essential oils are extracted from plants and they contain the aroma and chemical properties of the plant. The use of essential oils as an alternative medicine for healing purposes is called aromatherapy.
So, which essential oils are good for weight loss?
None! Sorry to break it to you.
The only thing essential oils seem to be good for is making money for the multi level marketing companies who sell them. Oh, and maybe for making the home smell nice when used in a diffuser.
The fact remains that essential oils for weight loss is not a thing. In other words, they are NOT science backed at all, despite numerous claims on the contrary.
6 reasons essential oils should NOT be on your ‘to buy’ list for weight loss.
I’ve looked at the research and have put together the top reasons essential oils are basically a scam in a bottle.
Let’s settle this argument once and for all.
1. You’ve lost weight? That’s great, but essential oils were NOT the reason.
The sellers of essential oils claim quite definitively that they will help you lose weight, often quoting numerous scientific studies to back up these claims.
Keep in mind, just because someone quotes research doesn’t mean they actually know how to read it, or even understood the outcome of the study at all. These misunderstandings are unfortunately more common than you might think.
Let’s now touch on some of the research on the topic of essential oils for weight loss.
A 2001 critical review on alternative treatments for weight loss stated that they were, “currently aware of no plausible mechanism of action or credible data supporting the use of aromatherapy for weight loss.” (1)
Not a great start.
There are a few studies looking at potential mechanisms of weight loss on rats or mice, which tend to be referenced by most people promoting essential oils. These studies suggest there could be something there, but none are conclusive enough to make an honest claim regarding weight loss (2,4,5,7).
Citrus based essential oils (grapefruit, lemon and lime) seem to be the most investigated type of essential oil for weight loss, according to a recent assessment looking at the potential anti-obesity effects of essential oils (3). This assessment found only one study, out of nine collected, that matched their criteria of a credible study. This study, again, showed inconclusive evidence and suggested further research was necessary.
There is actually no conclusive evidence, at all, that shows essential oils assist with weight loss.
2. No, essential oils will not speed up your metabolism.
One essential oil blend claims that it “combines powerful essential oils known to promote a healthy metabolism in a natural way.”
“Great, exactly what I’m looking for.” You might say, as you browse the website of the company. There’s no doubt the thought of a “healthy metabolism” is an attractive claim!
Except what you don’t realise is that NO foods or products are going to boost your metabolism in a lasting way. In fact, the biggest thing that will have an impact on your metabolism is your muscle mass.
Instead of spending money on the latest essential oil scam, why don’t you start a resistance training program instead – increase your muscle mass if you really want to boost your metabolism!
3. Essential oils will not suppress your appetite either.
Another essential oil blend from a different company claims to “support healthy weight management goals” by controlling hunger and suppressing appetite.
Sorry but no, it has not yet been proven that you can suppress your appetite by inhaling essential oils. Essential oil sellers are getting a little ahead of themselves to be claiming that their essential oil controls your hunger. There are very few studies to begin with, and of the few, the results show only possible effects on rats (2,7).
For those who speak of their cravings being controlled by essential oils, it is more likely to be the effect of placebo rather than the magical oil itself.
So, while essential oils won’t control your appetite, try focusing on things like exercise, hydration and your food choices, which actually might!
4. Now we know essential oils don’t work for weight loss, but did you know they don’t cure illness either?
A few years back, the two companies I mentioned above (and their distributors) made some particularly crazy claims regarding the healing properties of their oils.
These claims suggested that their essential oils could heal a number of serious illnesses and diseases. Not only are these claims untruthful, but they are downright unsafe and dangerous.
The FDA intervened at this point with a warning letter to one of the companies. A section of the letter stated, “Your consultants promote many of your Young Living Essential Oil Products for conditions such as, but not limited to, viral infections (including ebola), Parkinson’s disease, autism, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, insomnia, heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia, and multiple sclerosis, that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners.”
It is incredibly dangerous to promote the self treatment of serious medical conditions using unproven natural methods only. This kind of thing encourages people to seek alternative treatments and reject conventional medicine, which can lead to all kinds of health complications, even death.
5. Couldn’t hurt to try them, right? Wrong. Essential oils aren’t as harmless as you think.
Although they claim to be medicinal, essential oils are still classified as cosmetics by the FDA if applied topically.
When ingested for the purpose of healing, they should be considered a drug and be subject to review by the FDA (6).
Because essential oils can be bought, used and sold by anyone, there is a huge gap when it comes to regulation. There are certain standards that are outlined, but these are not enforced in any way (6). So basically, even though people routinely ingest these oils, they are not regulated by the FDA (or even AT ALL) because the essential oil companies are able to keep them under the “cosmetics” section.
Both companies I have looked into have safety information available, but it is cleverly buried. It was hard for me to find this information while actively looking for it.
Now, not only are essential oils not regulated, but many people seem to think essential oils are natural, with no additives, and therefore are gentle on the body. This is not the case. There are many natural substances that are not safe for our bodies. The safety of a substance is largely determined by the dose and how it is used.
Grapefruit, lemon, lime and bergamont oils are all considered photosensitive. These oils are also often used as a “cellulite rub” and allegedly reduce the appearance of cellulite. Sounds legitimate.
However, the fact that these oils are photosensitive means that if these are applied topically on the skin, skin should avoid being exposed to UV rays for 12 hours. So they don’t work for weight loss AND if you apply them topically you are risking skin damage.
These oils are sounding less and less appealing by the minute.
6. Just because your friend swears “They work!”, doesn’t mean they actually do work.
The essential oil companies both operate as a multi level marketing structure (or pyramid scheme). This structure works well for them because their followers are the ones who sell the product, and the companies are the ones who make the money!
If the sellers don’t sell enough product, they will lose money. It’s in their best interest to get as many people to buy their essential oils as possible. This is exactly why there is so much nonsense circulated about these products.
The internet is a breeding ground for pseudoscience, hyped up marketing claims and personal anecdotes which may or may not have any truth to them. Just because your friend tells you something worked for them, does not mean it will work (or even be safe) for you.
When multi level marketing companies let anyone become a seller/distributor, it becomes very difficult to regulate the information that is circulated about the products. The distributors have often fallen prey to clever marketing from the top company, and are very unlikely to make even a tiny income from selling the products.
This lack of regulated selling also means sellers are able to say what they like to promote the products, often guided by the marketing of the company – they may not even be aware that they are falsely advertising!
Your friend most likely believes in the product and just wants to help people become healthier. Despite his/her good intentions, this desire to help does not make them an effective source for advice on your weight loss or health.
Don’t waste your time on essential oils for weight loss. Do this instead.
Let’s go back to the story about the woman who lost 50 pounds with essential oils.
This woman (like many others who claim the oils work) had actually started building healthy habits, and was enjoying them! She was seeing so much progress because, for the first time, she felt less restricted and was being consistent with her new nutrition and exercise habits.
The lifestyle habits are the real success here, NOT the essential oils.
This is a very common thing that happens with many fad diets and products. People are instructed to change their nutrition and exercise habits, while also using the product. These companies aren’t silly! They know that the nutrition and exercise is what will actually get you the results. But if you change your habits while using their product, the product looks like the winner! Despite most people’s better judgement, the allure of a magic solution is exciting. Habits aren’t very exciting and therefore rarely get the recognition they deserve.
What often happens, when we focus on these alternative methods, is that we don’t put as much (or any) effort into the methods that actually work!
Essential oils are just another addition to the huge number of unscientific health and weight loss advice out there. Further examples include:
You might think that you need all the help you can get, but I assure you, the basics will always work. They will always work above and beyond any diet or health fad!
Your hard earned cash would be better spent on pretty much anything else.
As we’ve already discussed, the basics of healthy nutrition, exercising daily even for 5 minutes, building habits for the long run, and using the weight loss settling point theory to your advantage, will go much further than looking for quick fixes or expensive ‘extra help’.
Yep, they might sound boring but they have actually been proven, over and over again, to work without a doubt.
Don’t fall for essential oil scams. Here are some better ways to spend your money:
- Purchase a gym membership or trainer or Flat Belly Firm Butt (just sayin’)
- Invest in a cooking course (because cooking at home beats eating out)
- Invest in a Netflix membership (why not, it’s fun)
- Donate to a beggar on the street
Literally anything, just don’t waste your money on trying “essential oils for weight loss” if trimming your waistline is what you care about! Plus, you might make a beggar’s day.
Let me know, have you used essential oils for weight loss? Do you have friends who have? Was the experience positive, neutral, or negative? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
- Allison, D. B., Fontaine, K. R., Heshka, S., Mentore, J. L., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2001). Alternative treatments for weight loss: A critical review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 41(1), 1.
- Niijima, A., & Nagai, A. (2003). Effect of olfactory stimulation with flavor of grapefruit oil and lemon oil on the activity of sympathetic branch in the white adipose tissue of the epididymis. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 228(10), 1190-1192.
- Rashed, A.A., Mohd Nawi, M.N., Sulaiman, K. (2017). Assessment of essential oil as a potential anti-obesity agent: a narrative review. Journal of Essential Oil Research, 29 (1), 1-10.
- Murase, T., Misawa, K., Haramizu, S., Minegishi, Y., & Hase, T. (2010). Nootkatone, a characteristic constituent of grapefruit, stimulates energy metabolism and prevents diet-induced obesity by activating AMPK. American Journal of Physiology.Endocrinology and Metabolism, 299(2), E266-E275.
- Jeena, K., Liju, V. B., & Kuttan, R. (2013). Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive activities of essential oil from ginger. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 57(1), 51-62.
- Manion, C. R., & Widder, R. M. (2017). Essentials of essential oils. American Journal Of Health-System Pharmacy, 74(9), e153-e162.
- Shen, J., Niijima, A., Tanida, M., Horii, Y., Maeda, K., & Nagai, K. (2005). Olfactory stimulation with scent of grapefruit oil affects autonomic nerves, lipolysis and appetite in rats. Neuroscience Letters, 380(3), 289-294.