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Aromatherapy Myths and Facts

There's so much confusing information out there about aromatherapy. Sometimes it's difficult to know what to believe. So here are some common myths and misconceptions busted for you.

Myth #1 - It's natural so it must be safe

Fact: Anything that has a therapeutic effect is also potentially hazardous. Some more so than others. There are a lot of toxic essential oils, while there are others that can do things like irritate your skin, affect your blood pressure or interfere with your medications. It always pays to check first.

Myth #2 - Essential oils don't have any therapeutic benefits

Fact: essential oils can have powerful therapeutic effects. Many of our modern medicines originally came from plants - like aspirin, which comes from salicylic acid, found in wintergreen and other plants. Essential oils are concentrated forms of these naturally occurring chemicals which have been extracted. Used correctly, they can have powerful effects.

Myth #3 - There is only one essential oil company that you should buy from

Fact: there are many reputable essential oil companies out there with equally good quality oils. The message that one company is better than all the others usually comes from the company themselves or one of their representatives. Don't be afraid to shop around!

Myth #4 - Essential oils are safe to ingest

Fact: It is definitely not a good idea to ingest essential oils. They can damage our stomach lining and they are so concentrated that we can easily take more than is safe, or than our liver can handle trying to eliminate them again. Yes, it's true that some countries like France will prescribe them as a medical treatment. BUT this is only done by qualified doctors using a short term prescription in the same way that your doctor would prescribe antibiotics. They're not used on an everyday basis.

Myth #5 - You can't use essential oils around animals

Fact: Essential oils can be used near animals as long as you are careful - the same rules apply as for children - keep them out of direct reach. You can diffuse small amounts in a room - just leave the door open so they can get out if they don't like the smell. And never leave oils where they can reach them - this includes placing a diffuser where they can go up and sniff it, accidently dropping some oil on the floor - or, for animals like cats, putting it on their fur where they can lick it off.

Myth #6 - Essential oils can cure major diseases

Fact: Essential oils have been shown to be effective against disease like viruses and cancer in laboratory conditions. But this is very different to curing the disease in a person. You would need such a large amount that the person wouldn't tolerate it. Essential oils can be used to help the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, but they shouldn't replace the chemotherapy itself. Use them as a complementary therapy, not an alternative one!

Myth #7 - Therapeutic grade oils are purer, better quality or safer

Fact: Therapeutic grade is a marketing term used by some manufacturers. Nothing more. There is no independent organization that certifies essential oils. Some companies will tell you that their oils are the only ones safe because they are pure. But that's not true. The majority of manufacturers have just as high a quality standard. And it's not impurities that make them unsafe - it's the actual chemical constituents of the oils themselves.

Myth #8 - You can't use essential oils when you're pregnant or breastfeeding

Fact: Some oils are contra-indicated - those which affect blood pressure, can potentially affect the development of the baby or have hormonal effects. Any of these should only be used in a diffuser. Other oils - especially citrus oils - are completely safe to use during pregnancy and can really help with relaxation.

Myth #9 - Essential oils do not cause allergic reactions

Fact: allergic reactions are rare but they do happen. Essential oils contain molecules called haptens that can bind to the proteins in our bodies to cause an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions don't always happen the first time you use something, so always be aware.

Myth #10 - You can use undiluted oils directly on your skin

Fact: It's not a good idea to use undiluted oils direct on your skin. Quite a few oils are skin irritating and can lead to redness, pain or itching. Also, let's remember that essential oils are very powerful and concentrated. So using them undiluted often means that you are receiving a much higher dose than is good for you.

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