Essential oils, scam for healthcare

Health Science

The sale of essential oils has increased but doctors say they do not have proven health benefits; in fact, they do more harm than good.

Bengaluru: Shreya Paul, a skincare enthusiast, bought a bottle of lavender essential oil after getting influenced by an advertisement on social media. She loved the aromatic fragrance of the oil and was told that the oil has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. She applied it on her face after diluting it with sweet almond oil (carrier oil). Next morning, her face was full of red angry rashes. She consulted a dermatologist and was told that she has developed allergic contact dermatitis.    

Dr. Vasunethra Kasargod, MD, Pulmonologist, Manipal Hospitals, Millers Road said that there are no proven health benefits of aromatherapy which includes inhalation of essential oils. In fact, it triggers asthma and other allergies. The oil inhalation can also lead to lipoid pneumonia. He said that long term exposure can lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which leads to narrowing of airways whereas short term exposure would lead to acute reactive airways diseases. The symptoms are similar to what smokers experience like cough, whizzing and sometimes hospitalization.

He also mentioned that during the pandemic, people started inhaling steam at home. One of his patients started inhaling eucalyptus oil and he had to stop him.

N. Riah, Cosmetologist, Mac cosmetics, New Delhi said essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants and are extremely powerful. However, these beneficial oils can cause skin sensitivity and possible irritation. They can be dangerous when applied on body without dilution and during pregnancy. Many essential oils which people usually consume are dangerous.

She added that many people are unaware of the risks of essential oils and are taken in by advertisements and influencers. They feel that the ‘all natural’ essential oils will bring instant beauty.

N. Riah advised that instead of relying only on natural products or ingredients, people should use “clean beauty products” which are made in labs. “With clean beauty, you get a science-backed skincare product that contains natural as well as non-toxic chemicals. Clean beauty products are unadulterated and safe,” she added.    

According to research, 71 patients experienced adverse effects of aromatherapy. Adverse effects ranged from mild to severe and included one fatality. The most common adverse effect was dermatitis.

Dr Jaydev Yadav, MD, Dermatologist, Manipal Hospitals said that the brands use essential oils to add fragrance to their products. This leads to cosmetic dermatitis in some people.

He said that applying essential oils on skin do more harm than good and cause allergic reactions.

Various reports have shown that essential oils disrupt the functioning of hormones, like causing male prepubertal gynecomastia and premature breast growth in young girls. Another report states that essential oils cause nausea and headaches.

Growth in Business

Srinivas, owner of  Soukya essential oils store, HBR Layout said that since the pandemic the sale of essential oils have doubled as people have become more health conscious. “The skin care enthusiasts and practitioners educate people about the health benefits of these ultra rich oils,” he added.      

According to a research, Indian Essential Oils Market size was valued at USD 149.63 million in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 239.85  million by 2028, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.97 percent from 2021 to 2028.

Dr. Shri Praveen, an alternative practitioner, Arogyaveda Holistic Health and Wellness Centre, JP Nagar said that she uses essential oils for skincare, body massages and aromatherapy. She said that aromatherapy helps in improving quality of life by reducing stress, body pain, depression, anxiety, etc.

She said that people have a  busy lifestyle these days, therefore, they need aromatherapies. Aromatherapy provides ‘complete rejuvenation,’ which improves blood circulation and overall body function. She said that aromatherapy is getting popular these days as she is seeing more clients at her centre.

She further added that everyone is different and every skin is different so some people do get allergic reactions from therapy and essential oils.

Another research states that during the pandemic, the Indian essential oils market increased their production of essential oils such as basil, clove and eucalyptus, etc due to increase in demand.