CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - When it comes to essential oils, there is certainly no shortage of opinions.
Some people swear by them as a cure-all for everything from a common cold to chronic illness, while others remain skeptical of the benefits.
“When I first heard about essential oils I was skeptical about them. They’re just some silly fad," said Rachel Hatfield. “Then I started using them and I thought, ‘These actually work.'”
Hatfield is an essential oils representative from Mississippi. She uses essential oils every day for almost everything - cleaning, sleep, anxiety, immunity support.
Her family even uses essential oils in place of flu shots.
Hatfield says they don’t get sick thanks to a blend of oregano and orange oils.
“With the whole flu season that’s going on right now, we’ll use them daily on our spine so that we can fight off any seasonal threats that are in the air.”
Hatfield says she likes using essential oils because "they’re natural, they’re from the earth."
"God made them,” she said.
The word “natural” is often associated with health and healing, but that’s just where some doctors urge caution.
“People that think that because something is all natural, then it must be safe,” said Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
“These are still chemicals. Now, they’re chemicals made by nature, but they’re chemicals and chemicals have effects on the body.”
Studies show aromatherapy can help relieve stress and anxiety, and even ease joint pain, but can essential oils really take the place of traditional medicine?
And should you use them in place of a flu shot?
“Absolutely not,” said Edwards. “And I say that as a person who uses essential oils with my family.”
“There is no scientific evidence that this works," she said. "A lot of people swear by it - ‘Oh, I do this and I’ve never gotten the flu.’ Except, a lot of people never get the flu.”
In addition to the flu shot, Dr. Edwards advises against using essential oils in place of any vaccine.
“That’s just not a good idea,” she said. “You’re leaving your child at unnecessary risk. This year, we’re looking at a 300% increase worldwide in the number of measles cases year on year. 300% increase. Vaccinate your children, then rub the essential oils on them.”
Dr. Edwards says you could also be putting yourself or your family at risk by ingesting essential oils.
“There are people who advocate for ingesting essential oils and I think that could be potentially dangerous.”
Even diffusing some oils could be dangerous, especially for young children and people with asthma or lung disease. It can also be dangerous for pets - especially cats.
Dr. Edwards says eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender oils have a compound in them called monoterpenes, which can cause bronchial spasms and coughing fits in infants and young children.
However, if used on the right patients, Edwards says oils with monoterpenes compounds can improve the clearance of mucus or, when you’re congested, can also help make it easier to breathe when added to a chest rub.
Edwards told us she has heard about people using a blend of essential oils called a “flu bomb” in place of getting a flu shot or taking Tamiflu.
“I wouldn’t advocate for that,” she said. “I’m an infectious disease specialist and I believe fully in modern medicine, but I do think that there is a role for complimentary and alternative medicine as a supplement to modern medicine. But certainly not in replacement of.”
Rachel Hatfield says she supports traditional medicine, but says she has also found a way to enhance it through essential oils.
“It’s hard to believe something until you try it,” Hatfield said.