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

First For Women - - Nutrition -

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.

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