Essential Oils For Weight Loss: Can They Actually Help?

Imagine the following scenario.

Say you’ve been trying to lose weight for a while.

You’re tired of the squishy fat clinging to you, and you’ve been trying everything to get rid of it.

Somehow though, you always fall off the wagon. Maybe you even start thinking you’ll never get rid of the extra pounds.

essential oils for weight loss

However, you decide to give it one more try.

So you make a resolution with yourself. Starting tomorrow, you will embark on a plan to lose weight.

The plan isn’t very different from the plans you tried before. But this time, you have a secret weapon.

You start your new weight loss plan. The first few weeks pass by.

To your surprise, you are not suffering and you are not miserable. Right from the start, you can see results — the weight is coming down and the fat is disappearing. You don’t feel hungry, and you don’t feel overcome with cravings.

A few months go by, and you find yourself looking great, feeling great, and a little confused that it was all so easy.

Could it be the secret weapon actually worked?

I think you know where I’m going with this.

Essential oils — fragrant plant extracts that are best known for their use in perfumes — have actually been the secret weapon that some people have used to lose weight effortlessly.

Look, I’ll admit it right away: essential oils have been hyped and over-hyped in recent years.

growing popularity of essential oils

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that essential oils actually do help big time with some issues. Weight loss is one of these issues (I’ll give you evidence further down to back up this claim).

This guide will cover every detail you need to know about using essential oils for weight loss. I tried to write it in a way to answer any questions you might have. Here’s what we will cover:

Questions to ask before you start

  1. Does it work?
  2. Is It safe?
  3. Why do I need essential oils? Why not just the fruit?
  4. Where do I get essential oils?

4 steps to using essential oils for weight loss

  1. Step 1: Get the available metabolic boost
  2. Step 2: Curb your appetite
  3. Step 3: Cut your sugar cravings
  4. Step 4: Find peace in fat loss

Are you curious whether essential oils can actually help you lose weight? Read on to find out.

4 Questions To Ask Before You Start Using Essential Oils To Lose Weight

The Big Question: Does it Work?

Perhaps you’re skeptical that essential oils can help with weight loss. I understand — many people feel the same way as you do.

can essential oils help with weight loss?

Let me cover some of the evidence out there.

First, there are scientific studies that look at the effect of essential oils on body chemistry. For example, here is a sample scientific study that looked at grapefruit essential oil and its effect on mice.

The scientists found that grapefruit essential oil decreased hunger, increased energy, and stimulated fat burning.

However, this is mice we’re talking about. What about humans? I’m glad you asked.

The second piece of evidence comes from a doctor named Alan Hirsch who studied essential oils directly for their ability to control appetite in people.

He found that there was a correlation between regularly inhaling certain essential oils and weight loss.

Something similar happened when Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, asked subjects to inhale peppermint essential oil every two hours.

The outcome of that study was that, on the weeks that subjects were inhaling essential oils, they consumed on average 1,800 calories less than on weeks when they were not inhaling.

Third: essential oils have been studied extensively for their ability to help with issues that are related to fat loss, such as stabilizing stress hormones, reducing inflammation, and improving sleep.

Fourth: there are the testimonials of people who have successfully lost weight (often after many failed tries) with the help of essential oils.

Here’s Stephanie Tait from the Joy Parade blog, who lost 50 pounds over 6 months:

I decided to give the oils for weight loss a try – and within 6 months I was 50 lbs lighter. When taking the oils I could feel a noticeable difference in my energy levels, in how quickly I felt full at meals (my portion sizes were dramatically reduced,) in how regular I was, and most noticeably in how much less I craved sugar.

And here’s Jenilee Samuel of Imaginative Mama:

Lost weight!! After about a week I lost 3-5 lbs, BUT I had already been exercising a couple times a week, cutting calories and had cut sugar two days prior. However, I had been cutting calories for months without change, and am not sure if it was the oils that brought the loss or my hard work was finally paying off. Could be both.

(As you can see, there’s no answer to the question of how much weight you could lose thanks to essential oils. It will depend on where you are starting from, and what other changes you are making in your life.)

Now, if you’re looking to poke holes in these studies and testimonials, you’ll certainly be able to. Even in the best case, there’s a good chance essential oils are only a part of the weight loss solution.

But I think there’s enough evidence to give essential oils a try.

Essential oils might prove to be a big help to you in losing weight. Or they might not. But you won’t know unless you personally give it a shot.

Is It Safe?

In short: yes, essential oils are safe, as long as you use them right.

I’ll talk more about how to properly and safely use essential oils for weight loss in the sections that follow.

For now I just want to address an important point. Lots of people make the following argument:

  1. Essential oils are natural.
  1. Therefore, essential oils cannot be harmful.

This is simply not true.

Plenty of plants can sting you, give you a rash, cause you to have an allergic reaction, or even poison you.

The same holds for essential oils. In fact, it’s even more true for essential oils, since essential oils are plant extracts that are super concentrated.

In other words: some essential oils are safe for most uses… while some need to be used carefully and in limited ways.

You need to get informed about the specific essential oils you will be using. And that’s what the rest of this guide is all about.

But Why Do I Need The Essential Oil? Why Not Just The Fruit?

Boy, you’re a skeptic. I like that.

One of the common questions that comes up around the topic of weight loss with essential oils is why you would need essential oils at all.

It’s a reasonable thing to ask, since many essential oils come from familiar fruits such as grapefruit and lemon, or herbs and spices such as ginger and peppermint.

So you might be wondering:

Can’t I just make a pink grapefruit lemonade and garnish it with peppermint?

Now, if you want to eat more fruit and use more herbs and spices in your cooking, more power to you. You will only be healthier as a result.

But essential oils do offer some unique benefits that you won’t get simply by eating the plants that the oil came from.

There are two big reasons for this.

First, essential oils are incredibly concentrated. It commonly takes a ton or more of plant material to extract just a pound of essential oil.

lavender essential oil field

This means you can eat all the ginger you want… but you are unlikely to get the same effect as you would from a few drops of ginger essential oil.

Second, some essential oils are not extracted from the part of the plant that’s normally used for food.

For example, grapefruit essential oil comes from cold pressing grapefruit peels, not the fruit inside.

The fruit might have benefits of its own, but when it comes to the weight-loss power of grapefruit you’ve heard about, you will do best with the essential oil.

Ok, So Where Do I Get The Essential Oils?

If you already have an essential oil company you love… great. Go right ahead and skip to the next section.

If you’re new to essential oils, you’re in for a ride. Picking an essential oil company isn’t as simple as you might think.

essential oil company names

To start with, there are dozens of essential oil companies out there. On top of this, many of those companies put out misleading marketing to convince you that only they provide safe and effective essential oils.

Here’s the truth. Many essential oil companies provide high quality oils. In fact, many essential oil companies actually get their oils from the same underlying suppliers.

The other thing to know is that all of the official-sounding certifications you might come across (such as “therapeutic grade” or “100% pure”) don’t mean anything.

I’m not kidding. There are no 3rd-party certifications for the quality of essential oil, and this includes the Food and Drug Administration.

Don’t believe me? Here’s Jade Shutes, Past President of the National Association For Holistic Aromatherapy:

The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘therapeutic grade’ (or grade b, c, or d) in the sense that some organization or higher power has bestowed on an essential oil line. A grading system, quite simply, does not exist for essential oils. It is a product of marketing and marketing alone.

So what to do? I’m planning on writing a much more detailed guide about this later, but for now, let me refer you to some other voices who have done research on different essential oil companies.

Adrienne Urban from Whole New Mom and Christina Anthis from The Hippy Homemaker have both written posts specifically about this issue.

You can read about their reasoning here (Adrienne) and here (Christina), but in the end, Adrienne recommends Rocky Mountain Oils, and Christina recommends Mountain Rose Herbs.

I have seen lots of other people recommending those two companies as well, and if you are just starting out with essential oils, either one is going to be a safe choice.

One thing I should mention: wherever you do decide to get your essential oils, make sure you are in fact getting essential oils, not fragrance oils or perfume oils.

If you are new to this, you might easily confuse the two. Here’s the difference.

Essential oils are plant extracts with health benefits. Fragrance or perfume oils are synthetic products that might have a similar smell but won’t have the same beneficial effects. In fact, fragrance or perfume oils might cause allergies that essential oils would not cause.

Aromatherapist and author Kayla Fioravanti puts it in a really clear way:

An essential oil is an orange and a fragrance oil is a piece of orange candy.  The body gains nothing of value from fragrance oil because this man-made substance was only created to duplicate a natural aroma not the properties.  Whereas the essential oil is a function and byproduct of a plant created to protect, heal and pollinate life is far more beneficial.

How can you tell whether you are getting at an essential oil or a fragrance oil?

An easy way is to look for the Latin name of the plant that the oil was extracted from on the bottle (eg. Lavandula angustifolia for lavender). Essential oils should have this, fragrance or perfume oils won’t.

UPDATE [8/20/2016]: I’ve written an article on where to buy essential oils where I collected the recommended companies from 4 aromatherapy experts.

How Do I Use Essential Oils For Weight Loss?

Now that we’ve addressed some of the preliminary questions you might have had, we can get to the heart of the matter.

In the next sections, I’ll tell you which essential oils you should use to lose weight, and how you should use them safely and effectively.

Before we dive in though, I have to tackle a controversial topic, and that’s ingesting essential oils.

At bottom, there are two schools of thought on this:

  1. Don’t ingest essential oils, because it’s dangerous and unnecessary.
  1. It’s ok to ingest essential oils, as long as you do it right and only for a limited time.

The argument against ingesting essential oils is this:

  • you might irritate or damage your mouth or your stomach lining
  • you might get too much of the essential oil constituents into your bloodstream (which might lead to unpredictable and possibly bad results)
  • inhaling essential oils or applying them to your skin is safer and can be as effective

The argument for ingesting essential oils is:

  • many people have done it safely and have had good results
  • the amounts that are recommended for weight loss are small and are similar to the amount used for food flavoring
  • ingestion has the highest bioavailability (the amount of essential oils that your body will absorb) of all methods of using essential oils

bioavailability of essential oils for different application methods

If you want to read up more on the arguments for and against ingesting essential oils, I suggest a great roundup on the topic put together by Faith Schwartz of Thrive! CMH.

Why am I giving you this big lead-in?

In the sections below, I’ll tell you to ingest some essential oils to help with weight loss. In these specific cases, I think ingestion is safe, effective, and convenient.

My attitude is based on what Robert Tisserand, an expert on essential oil safety (he literally wrote a textbook on the topic), has to say on the matter.

Here’s an excerpt from Robert’s blog on the topic of ingestion:

I am wary of scenarios involving the liberal oral use of EOs for people who are not sick. But I am not, and have never been, against sensible self-treatment using EOs orally, for a limited period of time.

And what does Robert think is a “sensible self-treatment”? Here’s another article from Robert’s site:

If you’re talking about very small amounts as you would use in food flavors – if we’re talking about one or two drops a day – that’s fine, that is OK, but if you’re taking a therapeutic dose of essential oils, if you’re taking 10 drops, 20 drops a day just because somebody told you it was a good idea, it’s not a good idea.

That said, if you prefer not to ingest essential oils, I understand. That’s why I will also give you alternative ways of using the same essential oils to help you lose weight.

Step 1: Get The Available Metabolic Boost With Grapefruit, Ginger, and Cinnamon Essential Oils

The first step of the essential oils weight loss program is to get the available metabolic boost.

By the way, by “metabolic boost” I mean using essential oils to improve your body chemistry in any way that helps with weight loss. This includes optimizing your hormone profile, balancing blood sugar levels, or changing how you store and how you break down fat.

Like I said before, there is scientific evidence that essential oils can directly act on your body chemistry to make it easier and more likely that you shed the unwanted extra weight.

Anyways, here are the essential oils that will be involved in this step:

  1. Grapefruit essential oil, because it helps increase energy, stimulate fat burning, and decrease appetite
  1. Cinnamon bark essential oil, because it’s been shown to regulate blood sugar levels
  1. Ginger essential oil, because there is evidence that it promotes fat burning

How should you use these oils to get a metabolic boost?

Basically, you’ll put them in a gelatin capsule along with some olive oil, and swallow them once a day.

Here’s how to do this step in detail:

  1. Get a glass bottle with a glass dropper to mix the essential oils in. You can get this at your local pharmacy or on Amazon (here’s a 10-pack of amber-colored 1/2 oz. bottles)
  2. Get a set of empty gelatin capsules. Again, you can get them at your local pharmacy or on Amazon (here’s a set of 1000 empty capsules)
  3. Put 30 drops each of grapefruit, ginger, and cinnamon essential oils into your glass bottle
  4. Roll the bottle in your hands to mix the oils well
  5. Drop 3 drops of the blend into your capsule
  6. Fill up the rest of the capsule with olive oil or grapeseed oil
  7. Swallow the capsule with some water to make it go down easier

Take one capsule a day. You can keep using this blend as long as you are trying to lose weight.

A few important points:

  1. Do not simply put the essential oils into water and swallow them directly (even though many sites on the Internet will tell you to do this). Essential oils are not water-soluble — this means that you haven’t done anything to dilute the oils by putting them in water. And if you don’t dilute the oils, you can irritate your stomach.
  1. Do not just put the essential oils inside the capsule, or fill up the capsule with water. Same reasoning as point 1: you need an oil like olive oil to dilute essential oils.
  1. If you do feel stomach problems or any other side effects, stop taking the essential oils. Do not try to power through it, and do not convince yourself that you are “detoxing”. If you don’t feel good after ingesting the essential oil capsule, stop doing it.
  1. Do not use a plastic bottle instead of the glass bottle to store your essential oil blend. Essential oils can gradually eat through plastic, and even if you don’t see any damage to your bottle, chemicals from the plastic might be seeping into your blend.
  1. If you are taking medications and are worried because of side-effects due to grapefruit essential oil, the best that I can do is refer you once again to Robert Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety, which seems to say that grapefruit essential oil doesn’t pose the same concern as grapefruit itself:

grapefruit

Phew. I think I’ve answered all the questions for this step.

Wait a minute. What if you don’t want to ingest essential oils at all?

It’s simple. You can then inhale them.

The most effective way to inhale essential oils is steam inhalation.

Boil a pot of water, and put 3 drops of your blend inside (steps 3 and 4 above). Put a towel over your head and inhale from the pot. Close your eyes to prevent any irritation.

This way, you should get about 50%-70% of the essential oils that you’d get by ingestion. I’m getting these numbers from a short video course by Robert Tisserand (you can sign up for it for free here).

Step 2: Curb Your Appetite With Basil, Oregano, and Peppermint Essential Oils

Earlier in this article, I mentioned two studies that examined how essential oils can reduce appetite.

Well, the second step to losing weight with essential oils is based on those studies.

It simply has you inhaling from a bottle of one essential oil throughout the day (I’ll cover which oil you should inhale in a second).

Maybe you’re wondering, how does inhaling essential oils help curb appetite?

One theory is that inhaling concentrated essential oils calms or overrides the messages that the hypothalamus (your brain’s satiety center) is sending out about you being hungry.

It’s also possible that smelling a strong scent, particularly one that is associated with eating, such as basil or oregano, tricks your brain into thinking that you’ve actually eaten.

Whatever the pathway is, the two studies show that it can work.

Moving on. Which essential oils should you use?

Most essential oils should work, but oils extracted from herbs used in cooking and flavoring might give you an advantage. That’s why I’m suggesting basil, oregano, and peppermint essential oils.

In short: pick one of those oils (either basil, oregano, or peppermint), carry the bottle around with you, and inhale from it every two hours, and when you feel hungry.

By the way, this schedule comes from the two studies: every 2 hours is the schedule in the Raudenbush study, and the Hirsch study had subjects inhale essential oils when they felt hungry.

One last thing: after a week, switch up the oils.

According to Dr. Hirsch, the body seeks diversity and adapts quickly. That’s why eating the same food over and over can make a diet fail, and that’s why a new essential oil will be more effective in curbing your appetite.

Step 3: Cut Your Sugar Cravings With Fennel Essential Oil

The first two steps I listed above often have a nice side effect: they cut down sugar cravings.

In particular, inhaling peppermint essential oil is known to help with sugar cravings.

However, if you need another secret weapon to help you stay away from sweets, chocolates, and sugary treats… then I have something you will like.

I’m talking about fennel essential oil.

fennel essential oil for sugar cravings

Now, the evidence fennel essential oil helps with sugar cravings is completely anecdotal — I haven’t been able to find scientific studies specifically on the topic.

However, there are lots of stories of people using either fresh fennel or fennel seeds to cut down their sugar cravings.

And the same goes for fennel essential oil — here’s a testimonial from a woman who went into a “sugar frenzy” following Christmas and managed to get out of it using fennel oil.

How should you use fennel essential oil to cut down sugar cravings?

It’s simple. Just diffuse a few drops of fennel essential oil in a diffuser.

By the way, in case you don’t have an essential oil diffuser and are looking for recommendations, I’d suggest taking a look at the best-selling diffuser on Amazon.

Step 4: Find Peace In Fat Loss With Lavender Essential Oil

The final step of this program is a bit unusual.

It won’t increase your metabolism or speed up fat burning. Instead, it’s going to be about making you more stress-resilient and helping you keep up your resolve to lose weight for the long term.

Stress, you might ask?

Yes, there’s no debate about it any more. Stress really impacts your health, including driving up your cravings, changing your hormonal profile, and affecting just about every system in your body.

If you are curious about the intricate ways in which this happens, check out the book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky. It’s the best resource I’ve found for explaining the pathways through which stress impacts every aspect of our health.

essential oils for stress relief

And the conclusion is unavoidable. If you want to lose weight and if you want to do it in a sustainable way, you will need to find some inner peace and deal with stress effectively.

Now, if you’ve ever tried losing weight, you know that the process itself can be psychologically difficult and can bring on a lot of stress.

Here’s the good news: essential oils can help. Stress relief is probably the most common and studied application of essential oils.

Of course, there are lots of anecdotes from aromatherapists about how essential oils help with stress relief.

However, there’s also cold, hard science to support these claims (here is a study showing the decrease of stress hormones after smelling lavender and another that showed the same decrease for lavender and rosemary).

Now, when it comes to stress relief, there are dozens of essential oils that can help.

I won’t overwhelm you by listing all of them and telling you to go out and buy them. Instead, I will just tell you about the most relevant one.

That oil is lavender. Lavender is probably the most popular essential oil out there and it’s useful for hundreds of applications, one of the main ones being relaxation.

How should you use lavender essential oil for stress relief? There are lots of ways.

You can diffuse it at home with your diffuser for continuous help dealing with tough situations.

Or inhale it straight from the bottle for instant stress-relief.

Or blend it with a carrier oil (such as grapeseed oil) and use it for massage to relax after a tough day.

If you want to make your own stress-busting massage oil, use 6 drops of lavender essential oil for each ounce of carrier oil (that makes for a 1% dilution, which is appropriate for massage oils).

Your turn

We’ve covered a lot of ground. You now know the 4 steps to using essential oils for weight loss.

What’s next?

You’ll have to actually get the essential oils I talked about in this article, and try it all out for yourself.

To help you get started, I’ve written up a checklist of how to use essential oils for weight loss.

Click here to download the checklist so you can start using essential oils for weight loss

Essential Oils For Weight Loss

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