Essential oils aren’t anything new. Ancient Egyptians used aromatic plants for medicinal purposes.1 For the past few decades, they’ve been used to scent products and flavor foods. More recently, they have become a large part of the country’s appetite for wellness and holistic healthy living practices.2
Celebrities from all walks of life have praised essential oils and claimed that they have helped them overcome different ailments. You may be wondering if these oils could help ease your asthma symptoms, too.
What Are Essential Oils?
The Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who had extensive knowledge of plants and their essences, paved the way for our modern understanding of essential oils when he wrote “a perfumed bath and a scented massage every day is the way to good health.”4 This singular line from the renowned scholar solidified the belief that plants had medicinal purposes.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines essential oils as “a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds, or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.”3
The 10 most commonly used essential oils to heal various ailments are:
- Clary Sage
A 2014 study found that inhalation of lavender essential oil via oil diffuser had the ability to suppress allergic airway inflammation common in asthma patients. Other more extensive studies and data, however, have shown that essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree contain compounds known to exacerbate asthma symptoms.6
What Are the Dangers of Essential Oils?
Essential oils contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are known to release terpenes, toluene, benzene and other VOCs into the air. Inhalation of VOCs has been associated with increased asthma symptoms, such as nocturnal breathlessness and bronchial hyperresponsiveness, among patients both with and without asthma.
Other everyday products that contain VOCs include:
- Air fresheners
- Permanent markers
- Glues and adhesives
- Cleaning supplies
Additionally, unlike prescription asthma medicines, essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA classifies essential oils based on their intended use and has issued letters to companies selling essential oils warning them about making false claims. Essential oils are usually classified as cosmetic.8
Are Essential Oils the Right Treatment for Asthma?
Though increasingly popular, essential oils are not the right treatment for those who suffer from asthma. There is little to no evidence supporting claims that these oils can help treat asthma. If anything, there is more information suggesting that they can be harmful and increase asthma symptoms.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recorded other potential health effects of VOCs, including:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
- Damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system
- Increased cancer risk9
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made it clear that alternative treatments are not subject to scientific review and may not be safe for consumer use.
As with most medical concerns, it is best to consult with your doctor or a specialist before experimenting with new treatments. Also remember to never substitute anything for the asthma medicine or treatment regimen your doctor has prescribed, as there could be negative health consequences.
Receive Asthma Treatment From the Experts at Allergy & ENT Associates
Are you an asthma sufferer in the greater Houston area? Asthma requires specialized treatment when primary medications don’t work. The specialists at Allergy & ENT Associates can provide you with the treatment and management strategies best suited for you.
With more than 58 years in healthcare, Allergy & ENT Associates has become one of the most trusted names in asthma care. We provide a comprehensive assessment of your lung health using multiple procedures to ensure we are providing accurate diagnoses and recommendations.
Book an appointment at the location nearest you by calling (713) MY-SINUS or visiting us online.