Essential Oils. Do They Work?

Experts say they are effective for pain treatment, stress relief, relaxation

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you don’t use them in your home, you’ve likely experienced essential oils in a diffuser at a business or friend’s home. Extracted from plants, essential oils have become a popular means of freshening the air. But they can also do much, much more.

“The market for essential oils is just exploding,” said Wendy Meyerson, owner of Natur-Tyme in Syracuse.

She said that one big reason is the rising interest in self-help. According to Meyerson, many people buy oils at Natur-Tyme for making their own skincare products, using as home health remedies and for taking care of their homes.

“People are looking for more natural options to combat mosquitoes and ticks, treating sinuses and colds in winter and they want essential oils for use in diffusers and lamps — that is really big,” Meyerson said.

Household uses include as natural air fresheners and household cleaners, both of which would otherwise contain chemicals. Meyerson said many conventional air fresheners and cleaners are toxic and people develop sensitivities to these.

“They’re finding they do much better with a natural essential oil,” she said. “People coming in have as many different reasons as to why they want essential oils.”

Young Living, a popular brand of essential oils, sells more than 80 essential oil types, plus numerous blends. With all this selection available, it may be difficult to know what to use.

Meyerson recommends not taking essential oils internally unless the company specifically states it may be ingested.

“We recommend a carrier oil like jojoba oil,” she said.

She added that pet owners should store their essential oils away from pets, since some can be toxic to animals.

To learn how to use essential oils, Meyerson recommended “The Essential Oils Book” written by Colleen K. Dodt and published in 1996 by Storey Publishing. She also said “Aromatherapy for Everyone: Discover the Secrets of Health and Happiness with Essential Oils,” by P J Pierson and Mary Shipley, published in 2004, is a great source of information about essential oils. They are both available at

Laurel Sterling, health educator and registered dietitian practicing in Canastota, uses many essential oils.

She recommended using a patch test for topically applying oils to ensure the user won’t have an allergic reaction. Although essential oils come from plants, people may respond differently to oils because of their concentration.

“Carrier oils should be used to avoid skin reactions, like almond oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil,” Sterling said. “With pregnancy, there are oils that should not be used during certain stages.”

Physician Az Tahir practices holistic integrative medicine at High Point Wellness in Syracuse. He said that he has seen “a lot of benefits from essential oils combined or alone. It is very, very safe.”

Tahir added that people should use essential oils with great care because they’re so concentrated. Most people need only a drop or two in a carrier oil for use topically, for example, or a few drops in water to use in a spray bottle. Carrier oil may include coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil.

Like Meyerson, he offered caution to people interested in taking essential oils internally “since it’s very highly concentrated. It can be a problem,” Tahir said. “Too much of anything can be dangerous. Be very, very careful.”

He said that another way to use essential oil is in a bath with Epsom salts.

Because the FDA doesn’t regulate essential oils, users should seek products from a well-known company to help ensure the product is organic and pure.