Essential oils continue to grow in popularity - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Essential oils continue to grow in popularity

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Essential oils are concentrated liquids containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. An oil is "essential" in that it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant.

They have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes -- and claim to be a cure for anything from skin treatments to common ailments.  

The use of essential oils has boomed among families who want to stay free of pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics.

Wendie Mitchler, mother of two, swears by essential oils and natural remedies.

"I started using them in July of last year to address some sleep issues that I had. When I started seeing the results, the dramatic quick results that I got, I started delving into learning as much as I could about the oils," says Mitchler.

"I had been really against a desire to take any type of medications, prescription medications to help with sleeping. I was looking for something natural."

 Mitchler recalls the first time she used essential oils on her son, to treat an injury. 

"My son was in the backyard, and he slipped while climbing a tree, it took some of the skin off his neck. I took him inside, cleaned it off with peroxide and then put coconut oil and lavender on his neck and then the next morning, it looked like it had happened five days ago."

Now, Mitchler purchases dozens of oils from Young Living -- a popular online source for essential oils -- while continuing to read about other potential uses. 

"My family, as a whole, we have become more conscious about what we are putting into our bodies. Whether that be food, medication, environmental chemicals, that sort of thing. And this just went right in line with that for us," says Mitchler.

Dr. Bill Hardwick, a pediatrician with Children's of Alabama, says some of the roots of modern medicine can be traced back to early essential oils.

However, unlike today's medicine, these oils lack research and clinical trials. 

"The question always is, 'what is the safety information and the quality of the product?' So, safety wise there is very little information about widespread use of these products."

Research is especially lacking in what Hardwick calls 'specialty populations.'

"Pregnant women, nursing moms. There's very limited information about the safety of those products within those populations," says Hardwick. "The quality of these products is something that restricts a lot of doctors from recommending these."

That's where Hardwick believes pharmaceuticals win out. By offering a known product with proven results.

"Every time the plant produces a different essential oil, it's a different product. That's not what you get when you get a pharmaceutically produced product. You're getting the same exact thing every time."

For Wendie Mitchler, the oils are here to stay. She offers this personal advice for anyone wanting to try them. 

"You want to make sure it's the highest quality, the best that there is, and that you have knowledge of how to use the oils. Because they are very powerful and you need to know the appropriate way to use them."

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