Essential oils scientific evidence must be on many people's minds a lot because I get asked "Do essential oils really work?" at least once a week.
To be honest, I do think its a rather odd thing to ask someone who writes books about the ruddy things, but they do!
So my answer of course, would be yes, essential oils work.
But that's not really what they are looking for, is it?
They want proof.
They want to be reassured by the essential oils scientific evidence that aromatherapy will work for them. And, if you rely on the internet alone you could be excused for thinking there is evidence for oils curing everything.
But here's the thing....
Although there is plenty of essential oils scientific evidence - and trust me, there's tons - not much of it has been studied on humans. Most clinical trials have taken place on animals, particularly rodents, fish and insects.
For example, follow this blog for long enough and I assure you that will become far better acquainted with Drosophila melanogaster than you could ever have wished to be.
The things I don't know about that creature's reproductive habits could probably be written on the back of a postage stamp.
Why are animals used to determine essential oils scientific evidence?
Laboratories use the common fruit fly because it is always in ready supply laying copious numbers of eggs in delightful places like restaurants.
In short, it's a pest.
Understanding pests help you to manage them.
So in order to manage them you need some kind of natural agent.
And that's what essential oils are. They are the concentrated essences that plants have made to prevent pests. In short, they are the most natural insect repellent available to man.
If you consider that the largest predator to our species, killing around 725,000 people a year is the mosquito, you start to see why it's important.
There's no flies on us...
Our fluttery friend, Drosophilla is often used in genetic experiments because it is seen as being similarly evolved to the way we are. In fact, no less than eight Nobel prizes have been based on research done on the fly.
So, by examining how their tiny bodies react in certain situations give us clues to how the same might happen in our own.
Clues, though...important word "Clues".
Scientists agree plant medicine works
Many clinical studies I will draw on throughout "How do Essential Oils Work?" begin their abstract with the words "Traditional medicine has used plant abc to treat disorder xyz for centuries..." so now their experiments seek to find out why.
Once they establish which neurotransmitter receptors are involved, what hormonal balance is affected, which channels reduced inflammation etc, then they will be able to translate that into pharmaceuticals.
Synergy vs Essential Oil Scientific Evidence
So, when the men in the white coats have worked out which molecule acted on what bodily system, you would have thought they would be happy.
Surely, they can go away and make their medicine now?
Not so fast aromajunkie...
Because he now faces two specific problems.
1. If you isolate one molecule from an essential oil, it tends not to work the same way. Often the other molecules are keeping the medicine stable. This is the reason essential oils don't have side effects. They have many main effects. The constituents work as a team.
2. To make the medicine work the way a plant medicine does...he has to use a plant medicine...which can't patent.
Since plant chemistry changes according to where it grew and under what conditions, there is no way to patent it, because it is consistently changing.
A medicine needs to be predictable. It needs to replicate the same action over and over, so to do that, the medicine needs to made from a synthetic copy of the molecule from the plant.
To avoid point 2, he would go back to point 1, which would lead him back to point 2 again.
You can see why he might be miserable.
Petri dish success doesn't necessarily lead to human success.
By the time the second and third stages of clinical trials come around, trials are usually to see if the synthetic molecule does still do as they suspect.
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.
Often though, results that have performed incredibly in a test tube, don't replicate in humans. The biology inside our bodies are so much more complex than the single organism tested in the lab.
But that brings us full circle, doesn't it?
Scientists know these traditional plant medicines work. We might say our generation has elucidated (for the most part) how they work. Perhaps it our children's generation who works out how to replicate it.
You never know, the Dead Sea might get better, and maybe the corporate machine might hand over the reins to plant healers and leave us do the jobs they already know we do so well.
As it stands though, Big Pharma are the ones with the money and the best opportunity to understand how essential oils work.
For me then, I am more than happy to leave it to provide the scientific evidence for essential oils.