Alternative medicines have long taken the forefront of culture and remedies. From turmeric powder to herbal supplements, supermarket shelves have been stocked with cures and remedies that seem to be the only escape from the conniving hands of big pharma. Yet, with such an emphasis on the alternative side of medicine, it can be easy to get swept up in the hype.
Essential oils have been a part of alternative medicine for centuries. They are highly concentrated oils made from plants, and are typically formed through steam distillation which allows for a very concentrated amount of the oil to be collected through steam. Using these concentrated oils from plants has long allowed people to make their own forms of medicine from home, as well as to create oils for more spiritual purposes.
Recently, these oils have become another fad which is sweeping the nation. Advertisers have suggested that the oils can treat anything from depression to curing hair loss. It seems to be a one size fits all cure for the everyday ailment, which tend to be the cures which we should be most skeptical of.
I myself am a long-time user of essential oils. I have a diffuser in my room for lavender and lemongrass for when I am stressed. I also buy heaps of peppermint oil to combat my chronic migraines, as peppermint is an effective natural pain killer. It helps me reduce the amount of ibuprofen I take, and doesn’t give me the same nausea as some prescribed pain-killers I’ve been given.
Yet, I do not solely rely upon essential oils to heal my every ache and pain, and no one should. They are effective to help with migraines, but they do not eliminate the pain altogether, nor do they prevent future migraines. Their characterization of being a “natural” cure does not mean that they are automatically going to work seamlessly, or that they will properly work as a replacement for conventional medicine.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use oils to help with pains, or to relax. They smell good, they very rarely cause harm unless improperly ingested and they are relatively inexpensive. However, they are not the big rival to big pharma in the ways in which many are wishing for them to be.
The issue with essential oils is the same issue found in many naturalist movements. There is limited scientific evidence to back up the claims which they are making. Simply being “natural” does not always mean that it’s better for the body, or that it will satisfy many of the needs which we are turning to it for.
When we are constantly being preached to about the “unnatural” state of the world, it can be easy to view naturalistic medicine as a cure which can steer us away from the near constant issues we see with big pharmaceutical companies. It’s hard to become addicted to oils in the same ways it is to become addicted to over-the-counter painkillers. They also often do not have the same life altering symptoms as many prescribed medications.
This lack of side effects makes essential oils seem like an attractive alternative to the medications which have often created serious complications. There is no real harm in using the oils, but they are not the one cure that will take us away from the harms we’ve seen from pharmaceutical companies over the years.
Although essential oils can be a good alternative to using pharmaceuticals for every ache and pain, they should not replace your medicine cabinet, or the advice of a licensed physician.