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We all love a miracle product. One that bringeth eternal youth. In this age of convenience and band-aid solutions you don’t have to look far to see a new shake, fad diet, extreme exercise regime or superfood that promises to melt those fat cells away into oblivion.
Of course, they all share one key “ingredient” if you will, the ingredient being “to be used as part of an overall healthy eating and daily exercise program”. These miracle workers are not in fact working miracles, they are offering a kick-starter and a motivator.
Before I go on to answer this question which, according to Google is one of the most searched questions when it comes to essential oils, I want to talk a little about how essential oils essentially, work their magic.
Hormones and neurons
The modern medicine world is often trotting out the implications of alternative and esoteric medicine against pharmaceutical suggestions. In some cases doctors may go so far as to advise their patient to avoid certain essential oils that may interfere with traditional courses of medicine. Why? Essential oils contains hundreds of chemicals and some oils such as Eucalyptus and Lavender have significant quantities of certain chemicals such as linalool, eucalyptol, 4-terpineol, limonene and so on. Research whilst still ongoing has linked exposure to these chemicals as endocrine-disrupting and in some cases can cause abnormally high levels of estrogen during periods of exposure.
The endocrine system includes the pancreas, pituitary, thyroid and other glands. This system is the one responsible for hormone regulation and an imbalance in either estrogen or testosterone can cause fat accumulation.
Whether you inhale, ingest (not recommended), apply topically, any exposure to significant quantities of essential oils it seems may alter your hormonal balance.
On the therapeutic side of things, our psychological neurons (or, nerve cells), are responsible for our thoughts, feelings and many aspects of behaviour. Essential oils have been used medicinally for thousands of years to treat disease and have been studied in modern science for their biological activities such as antifungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects.
Some of these studies suggest that chemicals within essential oils such as linalool and limonene contribute significantly to anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. Synthetic medicines such as tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibiters (common antidepressant and antianxiety medicines) have been said to produce weight gain amongst many other side effects.
Fat burning triggers
Diet and exercise are not the only two major components to weight loss, scientists have been researching the nervous system and it’s involvement in the process of shedding kilos. In 2012 a 12 week study found that individuals with significantly higher resting nerve activity also had a higher weight-loss success rate.
Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells that tell the brain how much fat you have stored and how much energy you need to burn or how many calories to eat. Leptin fluctuates naturally across the day, like after you’ve had a meal, gone for a walk or had a high stress moment. If leptin levels are out of whack this can cause your body to not respond properly to the need to either eat, not eat or burn fat.
Just as odour stimuli plays a role in food flavour, it also has been shown to increase rates of appetite, release gastric acid and insulin. However this is a learned response as we grow up associating some smells with food we either like or dislike.
The olfactory system (the system of smell and brain connectivity) stores and sends information that can alter the activity of hypothalamic neurons (your main brain control centre). Olfactory perception guides decisions regarding food consumption. There is however no conclusive evidence to support that an aroma can increase metabolic stimulation.
The simple answer
All signs point to no, essential oils themselves can not help you to lose weight, however, they can play a role in balancing or producing the hormones needed to help your body understand if it needs to eat or exercise. Essential oils are also becoming a recommended complimentary medicine to synthetic anti-depressant and SSRI drugs to help reduce such side-effects as weight gain. Just be careful not to over-do it, too much linalool and limonene can produce significantly high proportions of estrogen which can inhibit the bodies ability to produce leptin. Science is never simple but moderation is always key.