Researchers are finally beginning to pay attention to aromatherapy and its medicinal effects. Not only is it effective, too much aromatherapy may not be good for you.
A study reported by Cardiology news found that workers exposed to aromatherapy had a decreased heart rate and blood pressure during the first hour of exposure, but increased heart rate and blood pressure in the hours following. (The essential oil in this case was Bergamot).
What can we say about this study? Too much is too much? Or do the solvent compounds in essential oils build up in a room over time, acting much the same way as any other volatile solvent compounds?
In cell studies of bergamot, the essential oil led to both antimicrobial and antifungal effects. But prolonged use also caused cell death through breakdown.
The mantra of “more is better” doesn’t seem to work anywhere in nature. Once we acknowledge that plant medicine is powerful medicine, we need to acknowledge that powerful medicine can be overused. Essential oils are still a huge improvement over the “air fresheners” ubiquitous in modern life that leach out carcinogens with their overly sweet synthetic fragrances, but over time even essential oils can cause cell stress.
- Extended Aromatherapy May Affect the Heart, Scientists Warn (news.softpedia.com)
- Prolonged Aromatherapy May Harm the Heart (livescience.com)
- Depressive Disorder And Aromatherapy (holistichealthliving.wordpress.com)
- Blood Pressure And Heart Rate Lowered By Short-Term Exposure To Essential Oils (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Lengthy aromatherapy may pose risks to heart (cbc.ca)
- “Smell” your headache off! (scentsciences.wordpress.com)
- Prolonged Aromatherapy May Harm the Heart (illuminutti.com)
- Aromatherapy Essential Oils: Seven Things You Should Know (associationif.wordpress.com)
- Aromatherapy is being scientifically studied (beyondmeds.com)
- Spa workers could use some fresh air (doubtfulnews.com)
3 Replies to “Too Much Aromatherapy: From Relaxation to Stress.”
While the first article says they used 100% Bergamot essential oil (I couldn’t view the entire full study since I’m not subscribed to the site), I’m not inclined to blindly trust that it was, in fact, 100% pure. There are practically no regulations on essential oil labeling in the world. I think somewhere around 98% of essential oils sold in America are either completely synthetic and/or adulterated. (Most essential oils can be steam distilled without the use of a chemical solvent). Some bottles of essential oil I’ve seen say “100% Pure oil” but their ingredients list more than just an essential oil! You can label it and market it however you want.
The other studies you linked to in pubmed give no indication (from what I can tell) of the purity of the essential oil. Given that the vast majority of oils in America and in the world are not completely pure and are adulterated, I easily suspect that these studies are not dealing with pure oils. Could not the synthetic ingredients and solvents found in these oils be the real culprit behind the negative results? I doubt it not. However, I am quite willing to be proved wrong, if someone can prove to me that the oils were indeed completely pure.
I certainly agree that even natural medicine can be used to an excess and cause problems. I’m an avid essential oils user and advocate, and purchase my oils from a company that I trust in providing completely pure and unadulterated oils (and I pay for that too). My family uses essential oils daily for different things, and we have only experienced positive health benefits. I don’t touch synthetic or adulterated oils because I fear the ill effects it may create. But I would definitely say diffusing even pure oils for over half and hour is excessive… and over an hour is extremely excessive! The study and research of PURE essential oils is desperately needed, so we can learn how to best apply and use these powerful and beneficial substances. But if we’re doing research with adulterated oils… well… we aren’t learning anything and can be missing out on some great health benefits.
That being said… Bergamot is one of my favorites! 🙂 I diffuse it throughout the night and it makes me feel relaxed and happy. Our diffuser has a timer, so it diffuses for one minute and shuts off for 20.
And all that to say… I found your website and watched a lot of your videos and I really like you! 😀
Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!
I agree that it is likely that solvents or other agents likely played a part. But I’m also reminded that pure peppermint oil applied to my skin will burn.
It sounds like you’ve got a better handle on the oils and the researchers should have contacted you before exposing their subjects around the clock. I think a one minute on/twenty minutes off suffusion study would show continued benefit and it makes more sense than the “industrial” exposures they tried in the study.
Thanks for viewing my videos, etc. I really try to make things available.