Why would a PhD Molecular Biologist get into these “essential oils”?

We got to get a “sneak peak” at the data for some really great studies that are currently underway and they addressed in full all of my skeptical concerns

We were first introduced to essential oils (defined here) through a co-worker of my wife LeeAnn’s. She had a lot of health stuff going on and he suggested that we try this “essential oil” stuff to help with it. Some of the claims seemed… umm… a bit excessive for my academically trained ears. She tried it with great success, but I remained skeptical of the underlying mechanism. 


Fast forward until September 2016, when we planned a “his and hers” 10 year Anniversary Vacation. I planned the Seattle half (which turned out great!) while she scheduled us to go to DoTerra’s Annual Convention for the other half. Her health stuff had cleared up and she wanted to make sharing DoTerra’s essential oil products to be a major part of our lives. By this point, my main reservations with essential oils had coalesced around three specific questions:

  1. If essential oils have any anti-pathogenic properties, why hasn’t anyone showed this in a simple in vitro assay?
  2. If essential oils help support the body to fight off mutated cells, where are the in vivo tests demonstrating the oils killing abnormal cells while not affecting normal cell lines?
  3. Finally, and this was a big one, how do I know that all of this isn’t just a placebo effect? If these oils are so great, why don’t these essential oil companies perform double-blind clinical trials in order to demonstrate efficacy?

Over the course of the convention, all three of these reservations were addressed to my satisfaction, with the critical disclaimer that “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

I have been taking nutritional supplements for years and years and am very comfortable with disclaimers like this. While omega-3 fatty acids won’t cure heart disease, there is a lot of scientific evidence that taking an omega-3-fatty acid supplement will probably help your health in specific ways such as reducing triglycerides and reducing blood pressure. (For more info on how awesome omega-3’s are for you, check out the Examine.com page on them.)

During the convention, notable speakers presented pre-publication data addressing all three of these key experiments. It has almost been a year and the studies that were described haven’t been published yet, but I will share some of the highlights and point you in the direction of comparable studies where possible.


In vitro assays

Dr. Nicole Parrish at John Hopkin’s University described a study where her group tested “every oil versus every bug”. While most of the previous literature focused on demonstrating anti-pathogenic properties of individual oils, her landmark study broadened the scope to the in vitro testing of virtually all the pathogenic microbes they could put their heavily protected hands on against all the essential oils that they could get from a high quality source.

While her paper hasn’t made it into the public eye, you can checkout her other work looking at Orange Oil and its ability to kill “Mycobacterium tuberculosis and non-tuberculous Mycobacteria” (pubmed link) as well as Orange Oil’s ability to kill the bat pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans (pubmed link).  She has a great review article on antimicrobial properties of essential oils which you can check out in full here. For more reading you can also check out this review looking at using essential oils with skin issues and this other one using them to support healthy immune function!


Cellular Health

There were two speakers on this topic. Dr. Raymond Price at Organovo and Jared Barrott of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Both had some really great data demonstrating the in vivo effects of the essential oils on human cell lines. However, since it hasn’t been published yet, I will focus on work that has been. Frankincense, extracted from the Boswellia sacra tree, has been the focus of significant study for its role in support of healthy cellular functioning (i.e. unhealthy cells that become mutated undergo apoptosis rather than continuing to grow out of control). Here is a pretty definitive study looking at frankincense’s impact on mutated human breast cells. If you just check out the pubmed listings on Frankincense, it is full of great research backing up its impact on human health. Even the widely respected meta-analysis site Examine.com has some super positive things to say about its impact on cellular health.


Double Blind Clinical Trials

DoTerra Managing Scientist Nicole Stevens talked about the clinical study which she conducted on the Serenity Sleep Complex product. They followed full clinical protocols, including giving subjects the sleep complex product or a vegetable oil filled placebo. While I haven’t seen the study published anywhere, the reported results demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in sleep quality over the control.


Time to be an oil biz rock star!

That was it. All three of my reservations had been addressed and I was convinced that these essential oils could really help people improve their health. Since then, I started integrating them into my personal health practices and sharing them with friends and neighbors. Now that I have seen them change the lives of people around me, I am ready to take the next big step and share them with the world!

I hope you enjoyed reading about the science behind essential oils. Since you made it this far, I would love to hear your thoughts. You can follow up with me on Facebook or on Twitter to continue the conversation.

If you are interested in learning more about oils or purchasing products, you can check out our business webpage at www.mydoterra.com/hoptothedrop.  If you purchase products through our website it supports us 😉 .


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