Can You Use Essential Oils for Weight Loss?

How essential oils are used for health

Essential oils

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Essential oils have seen an uptick in usage and popularity in the last few years. Brands like doTERRA, Young Living, Plant Therapy, NOW Foods, and more tout properties like anti-anxiety, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, sleep-inducing, and stress-reducing.

One of the most intriguing purported benefits of essential oils is their ability to assist with weight loss. They are said to enhance your diet and exercise regime, energize you for workouts, and possibly curb food cravings. Is all of this true?

Background

An essential oil is a natural substance extracted from a single plant species, usually through some form of distillation (using steam and/or water). Some companies use mechanical methods such as cold pressing to extract their oils.

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, “essential oil” is derived from the original term “quintessential oil,” which referred to the idea that distillation was a process of removing the spirit from the plant. Quintessence, or spirit or life force, is thought to be the fifth element of the world by many religions. It’s also been called akasha, aether, and other names.

The oils capture the aroma and flavor of the plant from which they are derived. Since they are (usually) left in the purest form possible, essential oils are regarded as a natural alternative to medications. They are most often used in aromatherapy and massage therapy.

Benefits

While they are still in plants, essential oils serve to attract pollinators, play a role in allelopathy (relating to an organism's production of biochemicals), defend against insects, and protect the plant from fungi and bacteria.

In humans, essential oils are said to have the following properties and benefits:

  • antiviral
  • antibacterial
  • antimicrobial
  • antioxidant
  • stress-relief
  • mood-boosting
  • sedative
  • relief from headaches, nausea, and skin conditions
  • libido-enhancing
  • calming effects
  • increased focus
  • energy boosting
  • digestive health
  • weight loss
  • reducing muscle soreness and enhancing athletic performance

Types of Oils

There are nearly 100 different essential oils, and each has its own distinctive aroma, taste, and properties. Some of the most popular oil and what they are known for include:

  • peppermint—relieving indigestion, headaches, sinus issues, and menstrual cramps
  • lavender—antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, soothing and sedative properties
  • bergamot—anti-anxiety properties
  • tea tree—treating acne
  • lemongrass—relieving musculoskeletal pain, fevers, common cold, sleeplessness, and anxiety
  • chamomile—helping with relaxation
  • eucalyptus—relieving asthma, coughing, and headaches; also protecting against insect bites
  • bitter orange—relieving indigestion, improves athletic performance, and more
  • fractionated coconut—helping with fat loss

Safety

Are essential oils safe to consume? Yes and no. There are some essential oils that are safe to consume, and some that are not. Other factors that determine whether an essential oil is safe to ingest include potency, quality, and personal sensitivities.

Most research on ingesting essential oils has been conducted in animals—not humans—so there’s no real consensus as to whether we should or shouldn’t be consuming these products yet. What we do know, however, is that the safest way to consume essential oils is as part of a vegetable or gelatin capsule.

This helps to prevent irritation to the intestinal mucosa (the lining that protects our digestive tract).

If you ingest essential oils without researching the safety beforehand, you may put yourself at risk for serious digestive discomfort among other symptoms.

Most high-quality essential oils are not harmful when consumed in the recommended way (within a capsule) or when diluted. You have to consider the quality of the oils you decide to ingest. Many essential oils may have harmful substances in them such as dilutors, solvents, or other additives. If you’re not sure what is in your essential oil, definitely don’t ingest it.

Since there is little government regulation surrounding essential oils, it’s important that you do your own research on your products. Even products that claim to be pure could have remnants of pesticides or might have been distilled with faulty methods.

Safe Essential Oils to Consume

The FDA has a list of essential oils that are “generally recognized as safe.” These are safe to consume in the recommended manner (within a capsule) or diluted with water. In fact, peppermint oil—the capsule version—is even linked to alleviation of symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Essential Oils You Should Never Consume

Arborvitae, birch, cypress, cedarwood, wintergreen, white fir, and eucalyptus oils are not recommended for consumption.

Ingesting these oils can cause symptoms of toxicity such as drowsiness, shallow breathing or shortness of breath, coughing and gagging, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

If you do consume one of these oils by accident, you should immediately rinse out your mouth and call the national Poison Control  center to get accurate help.

Oils for Weight Loss

With over 90 essential oils on the market, a handful may help with weight loss.

It's important to note that no essential oil is proven to directly lead to weight loss. Instead, their unique properties provide benefits that may extend to your weight-loss efforts.

A better mood, better sleep, boosted energy levels, improved digestion, and relief from aches and pains are all benefits associated with essential oils that might have a positive impact on weight loss. More research is needed to determine the true efficacy of essential oils in humans, but the limited evidence we do have is promising.

  • Peppermint, lemongrass and others may aid in digestive processes.
  • Bergamot and others may help due to stress-reducing properties.
  • Juniper is associated with antiobesity, antidiabetic, and antioxidant properties.
  • Sage may help due to its protective properties against oxidative stress, which is linked to obesity and diabetes.
  • Garlic is known to have many protective properties, including resistance to weight gain. In an animal study, garlic essential oil was found to protect mice from hyperlipidemia, obesity, inflammation, and more.
  • Ginger supplements have also led to positive changes in body weight, insulin resistance, and lipid profile in animals.

How to Use Oils

As mentioned before, consuming essential oils may not be the best method to promote weight loss (or any other health goal) because of safety considerations. However, diffusion and topical application are two effective methods that may help.

By diffusing or topically applying essential oils, you can reap some of the benefits that correlate to weight loss. For example, using lavender at night may result in a better night’s sleep, which in turn can give you more energy and motivation for your morning run. Good quality sleep is also linked to making better food choices throughout the day.

If used topically, you should dilute your essential oils to avoid skin reactions such as redness or burning.

Using essential oils in accordance with massage may even promote further weight loss. The benefits of both together can significantly impact your range of motion, focus, mood, sleep, and the way your body feels—all of which are important factors in your decision to work out and eat nutritious foods.

A Word From Verywell

While essential oils can make a great addition to your healthy lifestyle, their sole use isn’t and shouldn’t be weight loss. Instead, focus on proven methods such as exercise and healthy eating to lose weight, and use essential oils as supplements to help with sleep, stress, or other factors that may be interfering with your weight-loss progress. If you do want to incorporate essential oils into your weight-loss program, you should first speak with your doctor or another healthcare professional.

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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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