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Essential oils: healing or hazardous?


Essential oils, used for centuries as a natural medicine, have regained popularity in recent years. These fragrant, highly concentrated oils are extracted from plants. There are at least 3,000 types of essential oils.


These natural oils have been used to treat a wide variety of ailments such as dandruff, indigestion, nausea and heartburn. They’ve also been used to boost moods, improve learning and memory, reduce fatigue and increase energy. Essential oils can either be used in aromatherapy or applied directly to the skin. There are also food-grade varieties of oils such as lemon, cinnamon, peppermint, orange and grapefruit that can be consumed, although there may be health risks associated with taking them that way.

Benefits to oral health

• Fighting cavities and gum disease by reducing bacteria in your mouth. Some mouthwashes are made with essential oils such as tea tree and eucalyptus.

• Treating thrush, an infection that causes white patches in your mouth. Clove, cinnamon, lemon and tea tree oils are antioxidants that have healing potential and are commonly used to treat thrush.

• Relieving anxiety and pain during dental visits. Lavender oil is a favorite for aromatherapy, relaxation and stress relief. Orange oils can also be used.

• Combatting bad breath by adding a minty flavor to toothpaste, gum and mouthwash. Peppermint is widely used for this.

Potential side effects

• Heartburn, nausea and vomiting, especially if consumed and not diluted.

• Fatigue and headaches when drinking them, such as by adding a few drops of oil to a water bottle.

• Allergic and toxic reactions, including a rash, welts, blisters and burning where the oils are applied.

• Dry mouth when consuming essential oils.

• Teeth and gum damage after applying an essential oil directly in your mouth.

• Other potential side effects include abdominal pain, a swollen throat and racing heart. More severe effects can include poisoning, seizures, kidney and liver damage.



Our verdict: Check with your physician and dentist before using essential oils, especially if you plan to consume them or apply them directly to your skin. Caution is especially advised for children, teenagers and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.