In Part 1 I covered some of the reasons why the symptom based approach to essential oils is outdated and simply doesn’t work in today’s world. Now let’s focus on some of the other limitations for essential oils.
Essential Oils Are Somewhat Specific
Each essential oil usually has multiple benefits and so do most herbs, but they are limited to their specific biochemical pathways. What that means is that it will only help if it addresses the thing that you are actually in need of. To go back to headaches, there could be 5-10 root causes of any given headache. The peppermint oil may address 5 of those and not address the other 5. For this reason you often see combo products made. The combo products try and address all the possible pathways that contribute to most headaches, but it is just a guess based upon the general population.
Combo products also have their limitations as they try and cover a broad spectrum of possibilities, but the truth is that each individual usually only has 1 or 2 pathways or problems that need to be addressed. If a combo oil has 5 oils and you only need 1 of them, then by having 4 other oils in the product you get less of the essential oil that you need.
Essential Oils vs. Essential Nutrients
Sometimes the body needs a specific vitamin, mineral or nutrient. If your body needs magnesium, it simply needs magnesium. No amount of iron, zinc or fish oil is going to supply the magnesium. This is true of essential oils too, if you are in need of a specific nutrient, you will get poor results or may only get temporary relief from a product.
From my personal experience, about 70% of my patients need a specific vitamin or mineral and about 30% need an herb or essential oil. (a very rough guesstimate)
The Snake Oil Salesman
Lastly, I want to add a caution about the marketing of essential oils. Essential oil companies are still companies. They are trying to sell products to make money. As with most other health products, I don’t believe any of the companies are “out to get you” as a consumer, but it is important to make sure the consultant you deal with has proper intentions.
To go back to Part 1, many people will use sales tactics whether intentionally or not that are based on the symptoms approach. It may have cured all 12 of their children’s ear infections (symptom) or eradicated their eczema (symptom) but as someone trying to be as healthy as possible, you realize that ear infections and eczema are just symptoms of an underlying deep root cause that needs to be addressed.
Also, as a physicians, we have legal limitations on saying we can “treat” or “cure” any condition. Your local stay at home consultant does not have those restrictions. They can pretty much claim any oil “cures” or “fixes” anything without repercussion. So beware of overextended claims.
How to Make Essential Oils Work Better
Some things about a holistic approach unfortunately, you simply can’t figure out for yourself. It could be that you aren’t familiar with all the possible root causes of a given symptom or it could be that you don’t have the proper testing equipment or even the necessary lab work.
I see patients that spend $300-$500 a month on supplements and products because they don’t want to spend the money for an office visit. When they come in, I usually take them off of all but 1 or 2 supplements and save them hundreds of dollars. So while sometimes an office visit seems expensive, I consider it a savings both in money and time to resolve your concern.
If you just love to experiment with products on your own (and most people do), then I recommend you avoid symptom based usage of essential oils and look for systemic based root causes.
Try and dig deeper and find a root cause! Some common root causes that should be considered are diet, digestion, hormones, environmental toxins (copper toxicity), dysbiosis and subclinical infection, nutrient deficiencies and muscle imbalances.
Pay attention to your own symptoms! What time of day do things occur, what make it worse, what makes it better, when did it start, etc. You are going to be the best person at knowing what product is best for you and only you can know how things are changing in your body. If you have to, make a journal of symptoms and how you are feeling. When self-experimenting, find a root cause and then use your oils to treat a root cause and see what happens. Multiples symptoms should resolve, not just one. Don’t give the oils too much credit, if one didn’t work, that’s okay, just move on to finding the real root cause.
So Should I Use Essential Oils or Not?
So my final conclusion on essential oils and all other supplements is that they should be specific, address a root cause and be temporary.
If these natural products work so well, and they SHOULD, then if they are truly “working” you should be using the oil or supplement for about a few weeks to a month and then you should not need it again for a few months, years or ever. If you are applying peppermint oil once a week or more for headaches, then you can keep on doing that while you do your “self-experiments” to find the real root cause as long as you know that the peppermint isn’t really curing you but is providing temporary relief for symptoms in the short term.
In my office I do use 3 different essential oil products…surprised? Each product I use is only temporary and is used to address a root cause. I also test each product in office to assure that it provides results and is not just a guessing game. Some people benefit most from essential oils, some from herbs and some from vitamins.
The key is making sure you don’t put all your faith in the miracle snake oil and you don’t take a symptom based approach!