Aromatic secret to slim: Essential oils
Celebrities are buzzing about the calming, rejuvenating and—yes!—slimming powers of essential oils. But can these oils really shrink your waistline? FIRST health and wellness columnist Jorge Cruise weighs in
Move over, Chanel No. 5! These days, stars like Kerry Washington, Natalie Grant and Daphne Oz can’t get enough of aromatic essential oils. These concentrated plant aromas are becoming so popular that aromatherapy jewelry and essential oil perfumes are hot sellers on the internet. But it’s not just the smell that women love—essential oils have a wide range of health benefits.
The use of essential oils for wellness dates back to ancient Grecian culture: The physician Hypocrites studied plant oils and regularly prescribed them to patients. Thanks to their antiseptic properties, essential oils were used to treat a variety of infections, from small wounds to pneumonia.
Naturopathic physicians still use essential oils to speed the healing of
wounds and infections today, as well as to ease stress and boost mood. But perhaps the reason Hollywood is so keen on the oils: They speed slimming. Scientists at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago discovered that the strong scent of oils works directly on the brain’s limbic system to reduce appetite and fire up metabolism in seconds. And inhaling clary sage, fennel or anise seed oils has been shown to reduce levels of the belly fat–promoting stress hormone cortisol by 36 percent.
Additional research shows how great the payoff can be: Animal subjects exposed to grapefruit, peppermint, lemon and fennel essential oil scents daily lost 15 percent of their body weight in three weeks without having their calories restricted.
Proponents also claim that when essential oils are gargled or applied topically (during a massage or dabbed onto pressure points) the perks multiply. Why? The beneficial compounds are absorbed by the skin and released into the bloodstream, where they can work directly on the body’s cells. In a six-week Korean study, women who performed abdominal self-massage daily with a blend of essential oils lost four times more belly fat than women who used an unscented oil.
As beneficial as essential oils can be, though, experts warn that they should be applied and gargled with caution because undiluted oils can burn sensitive skin and mucous membranes. Additionally, some essential oils can be toxic to the liver or kidneys if ingested. For this reason, doctors note that women taking prescription medications and those who are pregnant or nursing should consult a physician before using essential oils topically—and that all women should consult a health-care provider before ingesting essential oils.