Essential Oils: A Poor Choice for Asthma (and a few other things)

Alright…we need to talk. Those of you who know me personally or follow my blog are aware that I don’t shy away from controversial topics, and that I don’t have a problem speaking my mind. I try to do it in a respectful, informative, and somewhat humorous way. But I saw something this morning that needs to be addressed, and it’s not funny at all. (To be clear: it wasn’t this picture. That’s mine, and I think it’s pretty hilarious.)

As I was eating breakfast this morning, I saw a link about essential oils posted on a fellow pediatrician/blogger’s Facebook page, where he made some important observations about the author’s claims regarding medical uses of essential oils. I agree with him completely, but I think the point needs to be driven home a little harder. The article he linked to is called Essential Oils Alternative for Pediatrician’s Top 10 Prescribed Drugs. It’s a bit unclear, but the article appears to have been written by one of two people:

  • Xavier Lannes, the CEO of The Essential Tools, LLC (the website where it was posted). Based on his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Lannes has a strong interest in skateboarding, some business experience, and no medical training whatsoever. But I’m sure he’s just as knowledgeable about children’s health as your pediatrician.
  • Or Julie Behling-Hovdal, a Gold Member at Young Living Essential Oils, with a BS in Biological Sciences and a couple MA degrees in unrelated fields. She also blogs at, where her profile states that she is also a “reflexologist/holistic healer.” (For those of you unfamiliar with reflexology, it’s a form of alternative medicine that involves manipulating certain areas on the hands, feet, or ears in a fruitless attempt to influence other organs.) Again, no medical training. Did I mention that she sells essential oils?

Before I go any further (and before you starting typing in the comments box), I do realize that this is not representative of all those who sell or use essential oils. I feel like the majority of parents (and certainly the corporations that are smart enough to be concerned about legal liability) are more cautious than Mr. Lannes or Ms. Behling-Hovdal. But this post has 1152 Facebook shares already, and has evidently been posted on numerous other sites as well, so somebody’s believing it. I’ll write about the potential merits and limited evidence for essential oils in a later post. For now, I want to address one thing: the use of essential oils in place of proven treatments for serious medical conditions.

So what are pediatricians’ top 10 prescribed drugs? I’m not sure where the author found the data, and I haven’t verified it for myself, but the list seems pretty close: amoxicillin, azithromycin, amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin), montelukast (Singulair), cefdinir (Omnicef), albuterol, Concerta, Adderall XR, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), and prednisolone (Orapred).

Four of these medications (amoxicillin, azithromycin, amoxicillin/clavulanate, and cefdinir) are antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections like ear infections, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections (among many others). Are they overprescribed? Undoubtedly. Are they sometimes necessary? Not according to the author, who suggests that essential oils like lemon, peppermint, or frankincense might do the trick. But the author probably doesn’t know much about lung abscesses after pneumonia or permanent kidney damage from an untreated UTI. The author has probably never watched patients die from sepsis. Some bacterial infections (like strep throat or most ear infections) will resolve on their own, but others need treatment with antibiotics to prevent life-threatening complications. If you don’t trust your doctor to decide when antibiotics are necessary, you need to find a new doctor. Sometimes, lemon oil won’t do the trick.

Two of the medicines on the list (Concerta and Adderall XR) are stimulant medications used to treat ADHD. When most people hear “ADHD,” they think about a little kid that has bad grades and won’t sit still in class. That’s part of it. But ADHD can be far more serious. Children (and adults) with untreated ADHD are more likely to have automobile accidents, get speeding tickets, abuse drugs, have unplanned pregnancies, get divorced, be fired from a job, suffer accidental injuries, and go to jail. ADHD is undeniably overdiagnosed, and the medications we use for it are frequently abused. But it can be a very real problem with very bad consequences, and I haven’t seen a study that showed rubbing lavender oil on someone’s feet to be an effective treatment.

I’m going to skip over Tamiflu, which is a medicine used to treat influenza (the flu). It’s not very effective, and it has some pretty awful side effects, especially in kids. In many cases (in otherwise healthy people), we’d be better off without it.

And…that brings me to asthma, a very common use for the remaining three medications (albuterol, montelukast, and prednisolone). Let me tell you a story about asthma. I had a 7-year-old patient in medical school that I met in the pediatric ICU during a severe asthma attack. He had gone to spend the night at his grandmother’s house while his parents were out of town. Within an hour of being in her house, he started coughing uncontrollably and having trouble breathing. By the time EMS arrived, he was gray and barely breathing. Fortunately, they were able to keep him alive on the way to the hospital, and with some pretty intense treatment, he was back to his baseline two days later. Before we sent him home, we talked extensively to his grandmother about possible triggers–dust, pets, smoke, all that stuff. The dog went to stay with a relative, we gave the kid an allergy cover for his pillow, and the grandmother spent several hours cleaning the house before we sent him home that afternoon. When I went in to work the next morning, he was back. EMS had picked him up overnight, almost dead…again. The grandmother couldn’t figure out what had happened, but it soon became clear: as part of her cleaning efforts, she had sprayed some Febreze on his bed. The minute he climbed into the sheets, his airways clamped down and he couldn’t breathe.

For many children, asthma is mild. It may act up only at certain times of the year, and sometimes the symptoms aren’t that bad. But it’s not at all uncommon to admit them to the hospital. And asthma kills over 3,000 Americans every year. Different people have different sets of triggers. Sometimes asthma is set off by viral infections, pollen, exposure to animals, or exercise. Asthma can also be triggered by “volatile organic compounds,” one example of which would be essential oils. Advising parents to treat asthma by diffusing essential oils is dangerous and irresponsible, and it demonstrates a tremendous lack of understanding about the disease.

Look, there’s a reason that doctors go to medical school, and it’s not so “Big Pharma” can set up direct deposit to our checking accounts. It’s because there’s a lot to understand about how the body works–from a cellular level, all the way to how the organs function together. Doctors learn about how medicines are absorbed and metabolized, and about how they do what they do (including the bad stuff). We learn how to decide which patients need treatment, and which treatment would be best. And–not insignificantly–we learn how to design, perform, read, and interpret scientific studies that tell us if our treatments are safe and effective. Neither Mr. Lannes nor Ms. Behling-Hovdal went to medical school, and their understanding of these concepts is obviously lacking. What they are doing by promoting unproven treatments for serious medical conditions amounts to practicing medicine without a license, which is illegal as well as dangerous. Of course, they throw in the obligatory disclaimer at the bottom of the article: “Those statement [sic] have not been evaluated by the FDA. The Essential Oils are not officially intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Not officially. But after reading the article, I’m not sure how else to interpret their advice to replace “Pediatricians’ top 10 prescribed drugs” with essential oils.

Again, I realize that one person’s opinions don’t reflect those of everyone who uses essential oils. Hopefully, even those of you that use oils can agree that there are some cases where they’re not the best choice. I’m not saying that all essential oils are dangerous, or that they don’t have any benefits (I’ll address this later). What I am saying is that we don’t yet have enough information to know what conditions they might treat (especially in children), and that they do have risks associated with them. I have no problem with people using essential oils to “calm your mind, body, and spirit after a hard day’s work” or to “open and release emotional blocks leading to a sense of balance and well-being.” I don’t even have a problem with using them cautiously (and with your doctor’s knowledge) for minor symptoms that don’t require medical treatment. But if you’re using them instead of asthma medicines, as this article recommends, you may not like the outcome. We don’t use a lot of frankincense in the ICU.

I just refreshed the page, and the Facebook shares are up to 1500–another 348 people sharing this dangerous misinformation with the world. As a physician, it scares me. Not because I feel threatened, or because “Big Pharma” won’t make as much money. But because there are people out there treating serious conditions that they know nothing about with treatments that have no data to show that they are safe or effective–because our children’s health is at risk.

As always, your comments are welcomed (even if you happen to disagree). I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Please try to keep it civil--I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

278 thoughts on “Essential Oils: A Poor Choice for Asthma (and a few other things)

  1. Ground rules: I welcome questions and comments, even if you disagree. In fact, when I write about topics like this, I expect some disagreement. But please try to stay on topic and keep things civil. Don’t use this as a forum to promote your own essential oil sales. If you post links to scientific articles, please try your best to use human studies…after all, our kids aren’t mice, and they’re certainly not test tubes. And, as always, I reserve the right to delete any offensive or off-topic comments.

    • I only recently resorted to using lavender oil to control post viral asthma as I was trying to avoid steroid use. I knew lavender was not a trigger for my asthma and I read the following study which show inflammation markers in mice were decreased with lavender inhalation:
      The inhaled lavender helped me a lot. I’m a mathematician- very eager for evidence based medicine. I understand there may be side effects. Albuterol sends my heart racing, and I’m sure there could be other side effects of that medication. I actually had a prescription for dulera filled, and didn’t use it. After reading the dulera warnings, which included severe allergic reactions, I wanted to avoid it. I have had prescription inhalers which made my asthma instantly worse – I suspect an allergy to some adjuvant.

      Btw, I have found Tcm and acupuncture hugely helpful for my asthma. As far as Tcm herbs, I wish there was more testing. I usually try to stick with Blue Poppy herbs as every batch is tested independently and those results are readily available.

      I appreciate the sentiment and concern expressed, but I personally alternative therapies have saved my quality of life.
      I have experienced with my extended family, dangerous and life threatening reactions to pharmaceuticals. I’ve also seen pharmaceuticals save my family members. I’m all for quality control and more studies, but who will pay if there isn’t big money in it for them. I just wish we had well funded government studies unmotivated by profit – so these other therapies were studied. I’m comfortable in the meantime – using essential oils as well as other therapies.

      • Wow! You couldn’t say any better! You shut him down! So glad to find that the homeopathic remedies helped you so much! 🙂

        • Not shut down…just allowing people to speak their minds. To be clear, though, he wasn’t talking about homeopathic remedies (which violate the laws of physics and chemistry and have never been shown to work better than placebo…for anything). Essential oils do have the potential for beneficial effects–but they also have the potential for adverse reactions. That’s why they need to be studied–and while mouse studies are a good start, they’re far from representative of what we can expect with humans.

          • All prescription medications have the potential for adverse reactions or side effects. Essential oils have been used for medicinal and aromatic purposes for thousands of years. Many prescription medications have been around for how long? Some not even 15 years. We do not know how these newer prescription drugs affect the body over a lifetime.

          • All oils have the potential for side effects as well. Anything that can have good effects can also have negative ones. And the fact that we’ve been doing something for thousands of years doesn’t mean it’s a good idea (think bloodletting).

            The two most important questions to ask about a treatment are “Does it work?” and “Does it cause any harm?” And because there have been very few human studies to look into this, choosing to use oils for medical conditions means choosing a treatment that probably won’t help and may cause harm. That’s the real difference.

          • Hello Dr Chad,

            actually, I was once in the middle of quite severe asthma once and a helpful homeopath gave me a remedy which calmed my wheezing considerably.
            I didn’t have to get an ambulance and got home safely.

            I use my medication all the time and have had had times when it simply doesn’t work.
            It seems that my asthma always has different causes -virus, allergy, gut bacteria etc -and it is a constant puzzle as to how to alleviate it.
            I do use dietary methods to control it which often work and then it will flare up if I deviate – or if it’s too hot – or draughty – or whatever…
            I’ve had constant, severe asthma for a long time and am attempting to drill down into causes this and next year.
            It is a long, tedious, expensive, poverty-making, strangling process and if that homeopath had not helped me that day, I might not even be here to write this.

          • Hi, Jill, I hear you! For most of my life I have suffered respiratory complaints– asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, allergies, wheezing and gurgling when I breath. In desperation I discovered auto-immune diets, and last winter went on a strict Paleo diet (Wow!That was tough!) And added supplements, especially turmeric, and probiotics. The book the Grain Brain convinced me to add a couple others to that, but those two especially, plus no gluten, no dairy, no grain (and no to a lot of other things on the Paleo diet) . I haven’t had any trouble breathing in months, given a few weeks during the initial healing of my body, and I feel all around healthy in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Summer came and went with no allergy meds. I am not exhausted all the time. I avoid situations where the air is tainted (scented candles, diffused essential oils, car exhaust, etc.) . I am 67 and feel better than I have ever felt in my life. Hope some of my experiences are helpful to you.

          • The two most important questions to ask about a treatment are “Does it work?” and “Does it cause any harm?”

            I agree completely. I wish more doctors thought and applied this.

        • Laura are you at preschool here? Shut him down? My goodness me. Given your obvious maturity levels I can only assume that actually reading the above article was beyond your talents… so let me summarise. What triggered the author of this article to write it was another article saying that these things were categorically safe.

          Dr. Hayes wrote this article so that those who do not know the potential downsides to using aromatherapy oils for medical conditions can learn about them. No where did he state that people should always avoid them at all costs.

          The writer of this comment you so childishly responded to did their research, and knew that lavender did not affect their asthma. The issue is that people think because aromatherapy oils are ‘natural’ that they can’t possible have any side effects. Which is simply untrue.

          The difference is that pharmaceutical companies are honest about all the potential side effects. The manufacturers of essential oils do no such thing. And just like some people will have life threatening reactions to steroids or other medications, others will find it works perfectly for them with no side effects at all. The same is true for essential oils.

          Knowledge is power. Too little knowledge (like ‘all essential oils are safe for everyone because they are natural) will put lives at risk. Knowing the risks allows you to take sensible precautions.

          So given that all the above is true… I have to wonder why you are so threatened by your own opinion that you feel relieved when you perceive someone to be ‘shut down’? It is possible for conflicting views to coexist happily together.

          • Hayley: “pharmaceutical companies are honest about all the potential side effects.”

            “Honest” Really?
            Do you know that many drugs are pulled off the shelves every year because pharmaceutical companies falsified data?

            According to CDC, pharmaceutical drugs kill more people than hard drugs.

            Prescription Drugs -45%
            Street Drugs (Amphetamine+ Heroin+ Methamphetamine+Cocaine) – 39%

        • I don’t think Crepuscule “shut him down” at all. Rather, Crepuscule stated succinctly how certain alternative therapies have helped Crepuscule and Crepuscule’s extended family. Nowhere does Crepuscule suggest not seeking medical advice when necessary. In fact, Dr. Hayes is not suggesting we don’t use alternative therapies – cautiously and with your doctor’s knowledge. And that’s the point he’s making isn’t it? Caution. This is especially important where our kids are concerned because their bodies are not fully developed and handle chemicals differently than the adult body in many cases.

          For Dr. Hayes, I have to wonder though if the severe reaction might have been to the non-organic chemicals in the Febreeze? It’s also possible that the grandmother really laid it on strong. Perhaps her sense of smell had deteriorated due to her age and she kept spraying until she could smell it. There are several variables that must be ruled out before stating that the trace of oil in the Febreze was the culprit.

          I do agree with Dr. Hayes that fragrances can trigger attacks. I cannot walk into a church on Mother’s Day without having an allergy attack triggered by all of the flowers brought into the sanctuary for the occasion. I’ve also seen my kids’ and grandkids’ asthma triggered by fragrances, food, and other irritants but it’s usually because of the quantity encountered. In my experience, minute traces do not trigger allergy or asthma attacks. But that’s my experience and while I’m a research scientist – in education – I am not a medical doctor. So before I try any alternative therapy for myself, I thoroughly research the alternative and then discuss it with my GP. If he’s cautious then so am I. I’ve never had him tell me not to try an alternative unless he knew without doubt that it was dangerous for me to do so medically.

          I have to ask Dr. Hayes, have you ever encountered a case of a PURE (no additives) essential oil used properly according to the directions (quantity/amount, method of delivery, etc) triggering asthma or allergy attacks? Again, the Febreze doesn’t count because you didn’t rule out the additives and other chemicals contained therein.

          Thank you for remaining diligent and providing your expert medical opinion so those of us without medical degrees can do our due diligence and make informed medical decisions.

      • I have found that eucalyptus, lavendar and peppermint oil seem to take care of my asthma if I get shortness of breath which mainly happens with allergies and colds, but that is for me and I have learned what works for me personally, would I use it to treat my child, no, I think it would be highly irresponsible for me to use natural rememdies on my children or on anyone outside of myself, mind you I had my mother take chormium and magnesium and not only did they regulate her blood sugar but her blood pressure, however think they helped the medicine the doctor had her on which was no longer as effective

    • My 7 year old has cough variant asthma. She started with RSV at 4 moths. She was admitted into the hospital 4 times and visit to the ER 4-5 times by the time she was 2. No hospital visits since- BUT she is now on daily singular and has her albuterol inhaler. Her pedi also just put her on Qvar 2x a day. I in NO WAY would ever replace those with essential oils!!! But, is there any proof that they may slightly help? I did use one with my daughter a couple of times. Once seemed to help the other I didn’t notice any change good or bad. Not sure if it is something I should try in addition to the medication she is already on.

      • My daughter has the cough variant Asthma. Not brought on by RSV but allergies and she was a premie. I use the albuterol inhaler 3 times a day and Qvar twice a day for her. Along with two allergy medications, one for morning and one for night. I will not replace them either. But I do use some essential oils along with her medication that I think have helped, especially since allergies have been bad this year in our area. I’ve used some blends specifically from young living company, but their expensive. I will diffuse their Thieves oil at night, and use and RC during the day if she starts coughing. My son doesn’t have asthma but has allergies. Along with his allergy medicine the RC has helped.

        • QVAR has many side effects not including the high cost which my pharmacist said would cost me approximately $350+ a month without insurance. If you have time to sit down and read the small print brochure they include with the prescription, you will see long-term use can cause heart problems and many other things in the future. I actually read some of this and thought how this may help my asthma but cause other issues later. My mother has been give 6 years to live because of liver damage caused by prescription medication unless she has a liver transplant which she has chosen not too. They wanted to blame overuse of Tylenol, but she said she could count on two hands how many aspirins/Tylenol or any other over the counter medication she has taken in 70 years. They finally found it was medication she was taking for her heart. All that said, I just started trying Essential Oil, I have not stopped using my asthma medication nor visiting my doctor but if it will help and possibly ease me off some of the prescription medication then I will try it. I know my body better than most doctors. It is hard to find a good doctor who will listen to you and your concerns. It is always rush, rush, rush. I, too, wish more politicians would look at funding more research into alternative medicine, but I am afraid there is too much money being passed around from the pharmaceutical companies for this to happen.

          Parents, please read the small print folded pamphlet included with any medication your child/children may be taking. Ask questions, and research on the internet (be careful on the internet thing), do not always rely on your doctors advice. There are always side affects to everything. Be informed and make wide decisions. If you have a good doctor, be grateful, but still ask questions.

        • I’m not a doctor, so please take this with a humongous pile of salt; but if your daughter is taking albuterol three times a day, you may want to seek a second opinion, preferably with an allergist or pulmonologist instead of a primary care doc. (Not that primary care docs aren’t good and many are well-versed in asthma in particular because it’s so common.) Taking albuterol that frequently is a sign of uncontrolled asthma.

          I’m just a patient who also suffers from asthma, not a medical professional. Please, again, take what I say with a huge grain of salt; but if you are able to, I’d get a second opinion on your daughter’s treatment from a medical professional who knows much more than I do.

  2. While I have sometimes not been happy with the attention and/or answers I’ve received from all doctors, I always consider that they know more than I do and I have never felt that they had any other agenda that solving my problem (no personal ties to drug companies, etc). I really don’t understand people who think they know better or who are willing to take medical advice from any random person. Especially when it comes to their children! Thank you for posting this.

    • Thanks, Karen–there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there, but I think you’ll find that most people in the medical field are genuinely trying to help.

      • Perhaps, and I’m sure you may be one of them, but the conspiracy theories come about when doctors refuse to consider the sources of symptoms in a patient, and natural ways to cure them, and instead choose to go directly to pharmaceutical drugs. I have many allergies, and asthma, and chose years ago to go to natural doctors because they actually spend time trying to find the problem and fix it versus cover it up with meds. THAT is trying to help. I actually had a doctor try to tell me once that my symptoms were not caused by something I proved was the culprit, with the help of a naturopathic physician. As in, the symptoms went away. I just wish more doctors didn’t refuse to veer from protocol once and awhile to at least consider that other things besides drugs could help people with their problems. Now, I’m not saying use essential oils if you have asthma, but I’m also saying that people should stop being sheep and research what other possibilities are out there that may help, without the common drug side affects. Especially if you have children.

        • Cheryll–totally agree that the reason many people are driven to alternative medicine is that physicians rarely have the time (or take the time) to listen. It’s a huge problem with the way our system is set up–primary care doctors are pretty much forced to see around 30 patients a day because of decreased insurance payments and increased overhead to pay staff to perform administrative tasks. Alternative practitioners often have more time with patients, which is truly a luxury. It helps to develop trust, find and fix the root problem…and just feeling like someone cared enough to listen can do wonders for people. We desperately need more of the personal approach in medicine.

      • I agree that most healthcare professionals have a sincere desire to help the people they treat. The problem with healthcare in the U.S. is that when doctors receive their education at medical school, their training is very limited. They do not study multiple modalities for healing and for treating disease. The Pharmaceutical industry has made sure that medical schools focus on the use of pharmaceuticals to treat patients. There are thousands of peer reviewed studies that endorse and prove efficacy of alternative treatments. This information is not part of your doctor’s curriculum at medical school. Not saying that pharmaceuticals should not have a place at the table, just that a buffet of effective alternatives would offer people the possibility of appropriate and effective treatments for certain conditions, and encourage pharmaceuticals with potential side effects to be used with more discretion. The best doctors are those who do research outside the parameters of pharmaceutical data and research, which is obviously geared toward a pharmaceutical treatment, for obvious reasons. Drug companies don’t research natural remedies because they are not patentable or profitable for them. The best doctors go way beyond their medical school training, have open minds, and utilize critical thinking skills.

    • Most people try a lot of out-there remedies because what they have been prescribed does not work or stopped working and their doctors don’t help them!

      • Not true
        Try a D.O.
        They may be more to you liking
        I have seen too many children rushed to emergency rooms because of parent’s experimenting
        I work in the ER

  3. I have seen the same claims you speak of and I know that, as you say, this is not representative of the large essential oil corporation philosophies or directives. I follow the directives of the company I represent, I read the labels, and I engage in professional development. I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (practiced psychotherapy for 20 years), a nationally certified wellness coach and aromatherapist. I am not a medical doctor and I don’t work from a diagnostic or prescriptive orientation anymore. I do guide people toward a well and whole lifestyle.

    Essential oils can support health and wellness. For every body system there is an oil to support it. Using essential oils and using medication does not mutually exclusive. Allopathic and alternative methods can compliment one another.

    I began using essential oils because I was curious. And now I use essential oils to support my everyday living. Keyword: SUPPORT. I have had Stage 4 pulmonary sarcoidosis for 15 years as well as primary lymphedema. Since embarking on a lifestyle change that includes the proper food choices, body movement, spirituality, personal growth and essential oils, my health has never been better. For me, the oils have been tremendously effective in supporting my respiratory issues. I took OTC medications or prescription inhalers everyday for many many years. I don’t anymore because I don’t need to. I still have scarred lungs, I still have days that are harder than others. And I still go to see my pulmonary doctor for regular checkups and on an as-needed basis. I am grateful for medicine and I am grateful for essential oils and nutritious food.

    I would like to see more physicians support alternative approaches and engage in dialogue with their patients who might want to use essential oils to support health. Sometimes people are able to ease off medications when they engage in a lifestyle that promotes health and wellness. For me that lifestyle includes essential oils.

    • DeeAnna, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m planning to write more on complementary and alternative medicine over the next week or so…it seems that you have been using oils mostly as a complement to proven, science-based medicine. My biggest concern about the use of EOs (and what I addressed above) is that people use them instead of known treatments for serious conditions. I have much less of a problem with using them in addition to proven treatments, with the realization that there is potential for harmful effects, and that the evidence for effectiveness (so far) is minimal.

      I totally agree with you that lifestyle modifications and dietary changes can reduce or sometimes eliminate the need for medications, and I certainly prefer that when it works. Check back in soon–I’ll be going into more depth about this. -Chad

      • I agree with both Chad and Deeama, given different situation different treatment will deem better from one another. Given most important is the choice of the patience him/herself.

        To best concern, a holistic lifestyle: defining problems from the roots is more crucial. Given stake, drugs save millions of live too!

      • My 14-year-old son has asthma and an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts that is airborne. We have known this since he almost died at about 18 months old. We began turning to health through nutrition and yes, homeopathic medicine, as a family about 3 years before he was born. We still go to doctors. We still take pharmaceutical medicine if needed. But we do not do everything someone with an M.D. behind their name says to. We also do not do everything someone selling something with a great testimony says to. We do take responsibility for our own health and in my son’s case, I do my best to make sure he is never left in an allergenic environment. But you can’t control everything. He has also had a severe reaction to Fabreeze, by the way–sprayed in a church nursery. And he’s had a reaction in a hotel room that had been just cleaned. And being at a wedding reception with an open container of peanuts. And being near a campfire when someone was making Recees peanut butter cup smore’s. And being in a car with a jar of peanut butter in the back. And visiting a town with cotton pollen blowing around profusely. And he’s had a reaction spending the night at someones house–to who knows what. Sometimes his reaction affects his breathing right away and sometimes it begins with hives that will lead to breathing problems if not treated soon enough. We believe in whole foods, avoiding vaccinations, and homeopathic medicine. And that is what we use mostly to keep well. But I know my limits about what I know. My oldest son never had any pharmaceutical medication until he was 5 years old. But when he needed an antibiotic for something I didn’t know how to treat, I gave it to him. When my 14-year-old son, who is healthy otherwise and doesn’t get sick, is starting to have an anaphylactic/asthmatic reaction to something I give him the appropriate pharmaceutical medicine from our emergency kit and if necessary take him to the hospital without hesitation. At this point I don’t know of anything else that will save his life. Maybe there isn’t anything. Maybe there is, and I just haven’t discovered it yet. Maybe no one has. I often think about George Washington Carver and how well he studied the peanut and found so many uses for it. I wonder if he were alive today if he could explain for all of us why so many children are developing peanut allergies all of a sudden and what can we do to stop it from getting worse? But alas, I digress….My son used to take Singulair daily, but I took him off of it. I know of other more natural things to give him now to support his immune system, that don’t have side effects or risks of psychological problems. I don’t know much about essential oils yet, but I’m pretty sure you don’t either. (Ouch) I’m pretty sure there are things out there that can provide healing, treatment, and maybe even life-saving emergency treatments that you are unaware of. The M.D. behind your name says that you went to medical school and finished. Hopefully you were one that actually learned what was taught and graduated honestly, without cheating your way through. (Hey, you know it happens.) But that M.D. label does not make you God. It does not mean you know, or are able to understand the human body more than the next person that truly wants to understand it and help people. And in some ways, if you are not careful, it can limit you in truly helping people. You see, it is not that doctors know nothing or know everything. It is not that parents seeking health through alternative, or “complementary” means know nothing or know everything. Anyone that wants to learn can learn. But knowledge, especially one kind of knowledge, is not all one needs. Wisdom of how to use that knowledge is what we all should be seeking. I believe it is simply pride that sometimes gets in everyone’s way. I understand your concern for some people, that will just listen to anybody and try anything, to run to essential oils for asthma treatment. I agree that is stupid and shows ignorance. But I don’t think most people are pushing essential oils as an emergency treatment plan. And just like with the Fabreeze, if you or your child has an asthmatic reaction to an oil, you probably won’t use it around him again. But you would never have known that was a trigger before you did it. I plan to look into essential oils–pure quality essential oils– as a possible tool to add to our health care plan for our family. I already know I can’t breathe well with some that are diffused. So I will be careful. Heck, I never even used the fireplace in our house for 10 years because I was told it “might” be a trigger for someone with asthma. But eventually I did and it turned out to be O.K. for him. I would not do it if he was having a lot of uncontrolled allergy/asthma/or respiratory illness though. There are stupid people out there that will listen to anyone and use faulty logic themselves but you can’t change that. It sounds like you are not completely throwing out the idea of essential oils–just concerned about asthma patients. And I agree that people should be cautious–especially because not all essential oils are even made the same. And when you have a child with asthma–a life threatening disease–you should always use caution and be smart. However, I don’t agree with you about homeopathic medicine. I think you should try a little harder to understand homeopathic medicine. (wink) Forget what they taught you in med school and remember it is not the same idea as what you were taught so it naturally can not be “proven” the same way. There. Just wanted to put my 2 cents into the discussion.

  4. We use essential oils for our daughter who is autistic. We use stress away and it helps with her anxiety. I tried some of the essential oils for my asthma but they make it WORSE! The odor alone can cause my breathing to be worse. And I really wish that weren’t the case but it is 🙁

    • Kathy, I’m with you on some essential oils being more of a trigger for my asthma. I do support the use of essential oils for aromatherapy and massage. Since you can make your own with a carrier oil, peppermint has never bothered me, nor has orange, lemon, or tea tree. Good luck with your asthma and the use of oils with your daughter.

      • I just tried the RC essential oils and the lavender and my bronchitis and sore throat is alot worse today so I shut my diffuser off

    • True – Anything “Natural” has the potential to be harmful. What are EO made from? I have MANY allergies but one of my MAJOR allergies is to grass. Every and ALL grasses (some more than others) if I even have it brush my feet or legs I get hives and start a downward spiral into an asthma attack. I am also allergic to many flowers and trees – so it is a valid concern that one would be allergic to certain EO. That is where the importance of allergy testing comes into play plus a little common sense never hurt either. All the best. 😉

      • Ohhh you said a naughty word! (Tamiflu). My body does NOT like that stuff!

        My asthma seems to be 100% reactive. I was in the hospital for several days for what they said was a “light” case of pneumonia (I’d hate to see a heavier case! I’m 71 and I ran a temp of 103 in the middle of the night, I was so weak I couldn’t stand up and could barely crawl to my neighbor’s door across the hall to call 911 for me. My phone was out of reach and I really couldn’t stand up even holding on to something.

        A newer drug, BROVANA, which is normally used for COPD, worked where nothing else had , stopped a really severe asthma attack in its tracks. When I got pneumonia, it should have led to a really serious asthma flare, but it didn’t. However, someone cleaning the room with bleach set it off. It was easily reversed, which was remarkable under the circumstances (and no, there’s no chance I have COPD).

        The asthma started after a Christmas Eve service where the incense spun out of control. I’m the only person made sick by it.

        Essential oils would probably put me in the hospital, and some sources say that everyone with asthma has an element of reactive airways.

        For myself, based on my experiences with airborne irritants (I have to wear an industrial-grade face mask when in a car), I would urge people to skip the essential oils, all of them.

  5. Here is a link to information about harmful ingredients found in Febreze (one of many). Although, it is possible that someone may have an allergic reaction to an essential oil, we should start with addressing obviously harmful ingredients first. If you told me that the grandmother was diffusing a specific essential oil in his room then, no doubt that could be the cause. But she was simply spraying harmful chemicals on his bed.

    • Iwona, it’s not necessarily about an allergic reaction. People with asthma can have airway sensitivity caused by a variety of substances, and a common known trigger is volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are simply carbon-based molecules that diffuse into the air. This is a broad category of chemical that includes many compounds from industrial solvents to plant-based oils, any of which has a potential to trigger asthma.

      While it’s true that Febreze has other chemicals in it, their toxic effects are disputable, and far less likely to trigger an asthma exacerbation. My money is on the fragrance.

      • Wow..that makes so much sense to me now. I have asthma and I use essential oils for cleaning (because chemical cleaners are a severe trigger…although strangely only since I had pneumonia a few years ago), but I have found some, even the ones said to be good for asthma, to be a trigger. Sometimes even the ones I’m most safe with can bother me occasionally if I’m flaring for other reasons. I’ve become extremely sensitive to scents in recent years but figured EO’s would be different. Senstivity to VOC makes sense.

    • Exactly! Why was the toxicity of this product not mentioned? Those of us with asthma/allergies, and most normal folk, would be affected by breathing many of the dangerous ingredients in many products on the shelves.

  6. I truly think what needs to happen, is there needs to be studies done and the effectiveness of the oils. However, this will not happen because it would cut in to the pharmaceutical companies profits.
    I am in the medical field and we do use essential oils also at home. We do still go to the doctor, but I believe with some research the oils could be great treatment alternatives without the side effects of regular synthetic medicine.

    • Ann–I agree. If we’re going to use oils to treat things, we need research to show that they are safe and effective. But until a regulatory agency requires that, or people stop buying them without this evidence (which I don’t foresee happening), there’s no incentive. I’m planning to write more on this–check back in.

      Thanks for reading. -Chad

      • I would argue that the problem is not so much that it would cut into the pharma companies’ profits as it would cut into the profits of the companies that produce essential oils and supplements. (Though, in fairness, sometimes those are actually the same companies, just falls under a different line of business. And I certainly have no love for pharma companies and how much they jack up their prices.)

        It’s much more costly to sell these things when there are more requirements for testing safety and efficacy, not to mention testing to ensure that the products even contain what they say they do. (Steroids and banned diet drugs that have caused heart problems have been found in some weight loss supplements, for instance.) Don’t forget that the market for supplements is a multi-billion dollar industry as well. (I know that supplements and EOs aren’t the same, but they share some similar issues.)

        • I completely agree with you about the financial side of alternative remedies. Bothbaspirin and tamoxifen have their riits in tree bark. I used to know a botanist who worked for “big pharma.” It was her job to go into the Amazon, connect with the local indigenous peoples, learn about the nature remedies they use, and try to sort out which ones might actually work. Those were targeted for more intensive research.

          Both aspirin and tamoxifen have undoubtedly saved a lot of lives.

    • I agree, wholeheartedly. Some will have a better use with EOs and some will not. I’ve personally never had to take any medications for a chronic condition. My husband has and does for allergies and high blood pressure. We tried the lemon peppermint, and lavender combination and he was able to stop taking his allergy meds. My 1 year old had respiratory problems, was in the hospital twice for pneumonia before he was 4 months. They couldn’t diagnose him with anything because he was to small but decided to treat him for allergies and asthma. I used the R.C. EO ,diffused it in his room and his congestion cleared up 2 days and his cough was gone within the week. He hasn’t need a treatment or his allergy meds (which made him extremely drowsy) for 4 months. I think that there’s enough people that it works for there to be more research on them. This makes me think of the whole mmj debate, how it works for some but can make conditions worse in others. There’s not enough research in natural remedies.

  7. I appreciate your clarification on this subject. What I would like to say is that if someone is going to go the homeopathic route, see a homeopathic doctor. Like you said people can be triggered by oils, even though I use them myself, I always ask people if they have sensitivities. You never know, just like a doctor had to go over patient history to make a medical decision on what is the best source of treatment for their patient, you must consider that everyone is different. ADD may be best treated with diet change, omegas, DHEA or prescribed medications. Only doctors are truly educated on this information and only after knowing patient history.

    • Ana, thanks for reading and for your comments. I do want to make it clear, though, that essential oils are not homeopathic. Homeopathy is a very specific type of alternative medicine that I’ve written about before. It contradicts just about every law of physics and chemistry, and hasn’t ever been shown to work for anything. It also has almost no potential for directly harmful effects, because the active ingredient simply doesn’t exist in the bottle.

      Essential oils, on the other hand, have potential for both positive and negative effects. The problem with them, as I plan to address in an upcoming post, is that we are currently lacking evidence about what conditions they may or may not treat, as well as what adverse effects we should expect.

  8. i also agree there are too many self professed “experts” in the essential oil field. Oils are powerful! More research needs to be done in how they can be combined with traditional medicine.

    Concerning uti- I know you won’t believe me – but I cured my reoccurring uti with frankincense oil. I was tired of taking antibiotics- the uti has not come back in 6 months.

    • Nikia I realize your post is several months old but I was wanting to ask out of curiousity: Did you ingest the frankincense oil or just apply to your body somewhere i.e. soles of feet? If you ingested it how much did you use? I have never ingested an essential oil before, and I’d be scared to! (the exception being a drop of clove oil on a toothache) But I love love love the smell of frankincense, I find it so soothing! Also how long before you felt improvement? Thanks for reading this!

      • You need to find out how the oil is made it but the pellets. My daughter makes tea from myrrh.

        I put no more than two stops of myrrh oil and gargle with it. It helps strengthen your gums and prevents infections and him disease.

        I know for a FACT that frankincense and myrrh oil can raise INR level of you put it on someone who’s already on blood thinners. My dad has a machine at home and his diet consisted of the same good. When I give him something with vitamin K in it, I oil his legs so it doesn’t affect his INR level.

        Like I said, the topical use of the oil can work for certain conditions. They’re being used for tumors.

        While I don’t deny the value of science and the need for prescription medication, there are often natural alternatives available that tend to work best as preventive measures or as supplements to doctor recommended treatment. However, we have to be careful because they CAN interact with prescribed medication. If I didn’t have a device to check my dad’s INR, I wouldn’t have been able to use the EOs on him. And he wouldn’t have been able to drink green tea or a number of items.

        His mother is over 100 and takes no medication because she has no medical problems. Maybe because she understood her body and used herbs to treat herself before giving any treatable illness greater access to affect her body.

  9. As a person who suffers from chronic migraines and asthma, I take about 7 prescription drugs a day for prevention of symptoms. I do use peppermint oil as aromatherapy for nasal congestion and headache relief and a few others for relaxation that I know won’t be a trigger for an asthma attack or a migraine. Essential oils are not a substitute for modern medicine or seeking out medical attention. There is no medical evidence to suggest that essential oils have cured any ailment. I will agree that a body and mind that are relaxed and free of stress is more able to heal itself- that’s where aromatherapy can play a role. Please consult a medical doctor before ingesting essential oils as it may also wreak havoc with prescription drugs and since frankencense is not generally a part of one’s diet, keep some benedryl on hand in case you’re allergic to it. If oregano and lemons are going to cure your affliction, my suggestion is to stop at the local grocery store and pick up some there.

  10. Thanks for sharing this! I use essential oils. For minor issues from a simple cold to a skin irritation. If my child has a reaction to something I would try a oil first unless it was serious I would DEFINETLY see doctor first. I luckily have not had a serious situation for my kids. But I can only trust to get them diagnosed first take the doctors recommendation and do my research. I use the oils for emotional support to meditation stress relief and such. I would never never tell someone to use them to cure anything cause I’m not a doctor but I can only share how the oils have helped me and my family. There are A lot of people out there playing doctor with the oils and it’s unfortunate because it gives the oils a bad name. I also make a lot of All natural products with the oils for gifts and such.

  11. Know what you call alternative medicine that works?

    Medicine 😉
    Snake oil takes crafty salesmanship. That’s why essential oil companies teach sales techniques rather than basic science.
    Albuterol sells itself after parents see how their little asthmatics breath more easily after a nebulizer treatment.

    • How, maybe you should do a bit of research so you can learn how ingredients in EOs are used to make medication.

      The “snake oil” you claim to be BS more often than not have naturally occuring chemicals used in synthetic medication.

      The ingedient in anise star is used to make the flu medicine. I make tea out of it to help me get rid of the flu NATURALLY.

      The problem with some doctors is that they have a need to feel needed. Since they know you need them for a script or to tell you that you don’t need a script to see them, they tend to stand against anything not prescribed. Doctors are indoctrinated in med school. That’s why most don’t invent or discover anything new. Only the ones that see beyond the shade and know who to balance PC and practical experience become more than their speciality in life.

      Get a clue.

    • Oils sell themselves and the company I work with is very much into education about the body and oils and how they work together. I have been off of asthma meds for 2 years now. I use only EO’s for my asthma, with my doctors’ blessing. I also diffuse oils all the time and have never had an asthmatic response. I have never personally experienced any side effects from oils and have not liked how albuterol made me feel at all. I am thrilled to have found something that truly works for me and doesn’t have any side effects. I wouldn’t call that snake oil at all.

  12. Is it possible that it’s more than just the single variable of the essential oil that patients find beneficial? Is it possible that massaging the feet of a child with an essential oil increases blood flow, opens lymphatic vessels and provides temporary, yet noticeable improvement in something like attention? Couldn’t it be possible that the parents who spend time rubbing these oils on their children are in effect, spending extra time with their child and providing a tactile benefit, as well as giving a psychological benefit of closeness and comfort, thereby reducing stress, anxiety and decreasing overall cortisol levels in the bloodstream? I don’t personally use the oils, but I’ve met parents who say they noticed a difference for their child. Our bodies are fascinating, and we don’t all respond the same way to traditional medicines. When traditional medicines don’t work, parents are left searching for answers. If there’s even a 10% benefit to using these oils, a desperate parent and patient would find worth in using them. Again, I don’t use these for our kids, and think it’s worrisome to rely only on an oil for serious asthma or an infection, but I don’t doubt that the oils, in combination with the methods and time spent using the oil, could be helpful for some people.

    • Great questions, but I have no answers. It’s hard to quantify the psychological benefit of a parent taking the time to apply/massage oils (but I would argue that the parents who spend the money and time to do this probably wouldn’t be ignoring their children without them). There’s certainly something powerful about feeling like you’re doing something–both to the parent and the child.

      The main point I wanted to make here was that when there are proven treatments, and the condition is potentially serious, essential oils are not the way to go. I’ll get to specific uses in a future post.

      Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    • I totally agree. It’s like when you read an ad for a cellulite cream or a lotion that “smoothes and tones your skin” and it tells you to MASSAGE it in twice a day. Um, hello, it’s the stimulation from the massage – the increase in blood flow and oxygen into the tissue – that is toning the skin!

      My youngest son is lactose intolerant but we didn’t know for sure until he was diagnosed at 11 months old. When he was only a few months old he’d often be unsettled and squirmy and windy and I found massaging his belly and and gently massaging his feet helped to calm him and he’d often drift off to sleep. No oils were used. It was only my hands doing the work with love.

  13. Agreed! As a parent of a child with asthma, and also an owner of an oil diffuser, we also have to be careful about which oils we diffuse. Any oil with cinnamon in it will trigger an asthma attack in my child almost immediately.

  14. I believe that conventional medicine has a time and a place. I also believe essential oils can do many wonderful things with few, if any, side effects for the average person. Using (properly) diluted oils that are age appropriate can cure many things like mild ear infections, sinus infections, fungal infections, headaches as well as heal cuts and scrapes faster and keep them from being infected. They also calm the mind and body as you stated and help lessen allergy symptoms.
    Having said this I agree with you that for serious conditions, stick with the big guns. My 4 year old has RAD that is being watched for asthma. Diffusing oils helps clear the air and open her airways up when I notice she starts breathing faster while resting. They will never take the place of the albuterol I use when her resp gets above 50. They are wonderful tools to help keep healthy but should never be replaced for serious conditions, but in conjunction with as long as they don’t interfere with the medication.
    *My training comes from being a mom of 5 kids aged 17-2- 1 with horrible environmental allergies, 1 with adhd, 1 that had a liver transplant at 5 months old due to a tumor and 1 child with RAD. I’ve been

      • Asthma is a tricky disease, because the trigger is so very different for each person. The good news is that often, not always, kids grow out of it during puberty. Mine still acts up in smog or fresh cut grass, but rarely any other time. I had to be in a mist tent as an infant on more than one occasion. EO’s haven’t bothered me at my adult age. Never had them when I was young. Learning the triggers is the best thing you can do.

  15. Lately I’ve had trouble catching my breath when I go to bed at night. I wasn’t sure what it was and it is very troublesome to me.

    I’ve been talking to my friends about possibly having asthma which made it difficult to breathe and I wasn’t sure what was triggering it. It was a strange experience. I was breathing long deep breaths and still not catching my breath. normally you don’t think about breathing and when you have to concentrate for every breath I was a herring concerned.

    Finally I got up one night and turned off my wifes oil diffuser. I opened the bedroom door and turned on the ceiling fan to bring in some fresh air finally after a little while my breathing normalized and a I was able to get to sleep.

    • Yes, there are essential oils that can and do trigger asthma attacks. That’d why you read about them and research and go into depth about what oils to properly use with your children around and which ones to not use at all. My friends mom has COPD so if he has pain, eucalyptus would not be one I would put in a blend for him because the scent alone can cause the problems. So, therefore, I’m actually going to school to become a certified aromatherapist. That way. I can learn about these safety guidelines and know which ones can and can not be used in any situation! I use them all the time. I have over 20 oils, I frankincense(pain during teething and sedative), lavender(calming. Sedative, pain) and bergamot(to lower a fwver thats under 102 degrees and for pain as well, because peppermints contraindications is not to use on children under 7 years old) and when they have a cough, just straight raw honey and it immediately helps! With all the above as well! 🙂 I don’t use eucalyptus around the kids because it can cause respiratory problems so I only diffuse that when they’re in their rooms sleeping and I make my own blends for my chest involving eucalyptus and peppermint along with some others and of course rosemary because it is great for blood circulation and getting rid of bruusing quickly when they fall and get a bump. Also tea tree oil for bug bites. The itch and to help with fighting against infection. Although, in recent study of my own, I have found that olive oil alone as helped a great deal with the inflammation because of its anti inflammatory properties and it’s helped stop the itch as well! So I’ll have to do more studies on that! But from my volunteers and my case studies who have same ailments, they seem to be helping and I’m very happy about that! Of course, if it’s a more serious problem like pneumonia, rsv etc. It’s not going to cure it, but my oils to help assist in feeling better while the antibiotics have done their job as well. 🙂

  16. Great article! This is actually one of my greatest fears for my asthmatic son. I see the rise of teachers, dentists, chiropractors and even pet store owners using essential oils in their public facilities and I cannot believe how many feel it is safe just because “they are natural”. I’ve seen message groups where the teachers talk about bringing the oils into the classroom, with an “ask not, deal with the consequences later” approach. I can understand how they may help some students focus or calm down, but they also carry a potential risk that shouldn’t be dismissed.

    • A quality pure oil is much better than those plug ins or candles that they use. I don’t go down the store isle that have cleaning supplies etc. because they mess with my breathing. If I come across an essential oil that possibly bothers me each time used, I make note of it and won’t use it anymore. That is kind of what Doctors do, try this, if it doesn’t work-we’ll try something else. Ask what these places are using and verify the quality. They may not be using oils at all or what they have, have impurities or additives in them. I stopped buying over-the-counter oils because of this. If my body tells me to not breath it, I get out of there! ? ?

  17. I’ve had asthma my whole life. I’m 52 now and had my first attack at 6 weeks old. My sister (who was 19 years older than I) developed asthma at 54 and died from it at 62, so believe me when I say, I take asthma VERY seriously. I take Singulair, Dulera, and Zyrtec every day. I use Xopanex in my rescue inhaler and nebulizer. I know every situation is different, but I have found that when I’m having an exacerbation, using peppermint oil, or a blend of oils, such as peppermint, eucalyptus, etc., in addition to my rescue inhaler or nebulizer, can really help open me up.

    But I would NEVER replace my asthma drugs with natural remedies. My sister did that because she didn’t have medical insurance and couldn’t afford her maintenance meds. She passed away in 2005 of an acute asthma attack that led to heart attack.

    I was glad to see your article. Oils have their place, but they don’t replace meds.

  18. I I had pneumonia in Feb. So I began using several essential oils for breathing etc.
    I just keep getting worse and worse and keep getting lung infection after lung infection.
    Now I have scar tissue and two nodules in my lung according to cat scan yesterday.
    my doctor asked me just this week if there’s anything that I have been doing different and I said no but I did not think about the oil until now and when I think about it my symptoms became worse. as I have been defusing them and rubbing them on my chest.
    as of right now I am stopping with the use of them.
    also coughing constantly with lots and lots of mucus and a lot wheezing and fatigue.
    I just bet that this is the reason I cannot get well it’s irritating my lungs.

    • Cheryl–thanks for reading. Without knowing more about your situation, I can’t comment on exactly what is going on, but I would bet that the oils aren’t helping. Hope you get feeling better soon!

    • oh my gosh! This happens to me as well! Mine started about 2 months ago. I woke up in the middle of the night and started coughing and mucus building up. My coughing got worse. My chest feels tight. I was admitted into emergency last week due cause i couldn’t breath properly. A chest x ray was done and i was told I have lung infection. When I went back for blood test result a few days ago, the doctor told me I have asthma. I don’t have history of asthma. I also didn’t think of my oil but my boyfriend reminded me today that ever since i got my essential oil and diffuser set 3 months ago, I have been complaining of chest problem. I diffuse during my sleep almost every night. Now I am going to stop using them and see how it goes. Sigh.

  19. Dr. Hayes, I greatly appreciate that you took the time to write this article. Your professional insight was encouraging for me. I am a person that is more inclined to use natural alternatives for providing relief from common issues and supporting my body’s systems. Despite that, I do not proceed with any recommended protocol or action without delving into deep research myself.
    I have recently began a new chapter in my study of wellness. The use of essential oils and their safety. I have a brother who is a severe asthmatic. Many times he has been hospitalized for this condition. My heart wrenches for him on the days when his medications seem to have no affect on his attacks. I decided to embark on a research mission to find out if essential oils would aggravate his condition, or support his respiratory function.
    I have read numerous articles and books about how essential oils are safe for people suffering from respiratory illnesses. But something in my gut keeps telling me otherwise. I am so thankful for your input. My major concern was that essential oils would cause the bronchial tubes in one’s lungs to constrict upon contact. Especially if that person has a condition that would create a sensitivity to VOCs. I am going to continue to research respiratory health, but I feel that I made the right choice by listening to my instinct. Thank you again!

  20. Thank you for this very good information. I do love my Oils but am sure to emphasize that it is for personal use. THank you again for your input and wake up call.

  21. My first contact with essential oils i was not told any dangers in reference to medicines i may be on and any interactions or any illness’ that they might be harmful to.

    I bought a difusser and 2 oils wild orange and joyful blends because they said it was helpful for depression and anxiety. I am on meds for bipolar and epilepsy. I also have chronic renal failure heart trouble. Am a chronic insomiac and take ambiem.

    In everything that was said in the information given me during the sales experience nothing was said about any medical problems and presciptions.

    They saud it could be injested and rubbd on the skin. With everything im reading most contradicts what the company rep from doterra told us.

    I am very confused and frankly scared. I have used it three times by dierections only and gave been very nauseated.

    Can u enlighten me to the use of essential oils? Some sites have said they r good for somethings but the truth is not always told. I have spent over $200 and would likr to decide if i should cancel my membership and recover ky money. I also bought this for my granddaughter so am concerned about her too.

    • Can’t help out there–that’s the major issue. There’s a lot of sales talk and not a lot of evidence about what they may actually do (or what harm they might cause). Sorry that you got into a mess; wish you the best.

    • I personally don’t give my money to them or the other big name company since I don’t care for how they conduct their business, not to mention the outrageous prices. There can be drug interactions with essential oils but I would first contact your doctor and see if s/he has information. A CERTIFIED aromatherapist can be very helpful as well but I would shop outside that company for an unbiased opinion. *Most* oils are OK for the average person but they are still potent chemicals and need to be treated with caution like any other medication. I also want to note that not all oils are safe for kids. It can be tough to find the correct information but it’s out there.

      • I wonder why it is only the essential oil companies following a network marketing business model that are assumed to be profit driven? Any essential oils company is profit-driven in my opinion, and well they should be. Profits are how businesses stay in business. To assume that the smaller wildcrafted and/or organic boutique essential oil companies are not in business for a profit is naive. A company can drive profits and support a worthy mission, promote stewardship, be transparent, AND be a network marketing company. Understanding the “why” behind a company is just as important as the business structure of the company.

        • I have looked into the two companies and it isnt just their business structure. I didnt want to get into a debate about that but want to address your comment. Gary Young will never have my business. He is unethical in more ways that I can describe and ill jist leAve it at that. DT has come a long way since the beginning and it looks like they are (forcefully) starting to promote safer usage and education for their reps, but until safety is their focus, they will never have my business either. I use companies that promote safety and refer people to their physician and an aromatherapist to figure out the best way to use oils in conjunction with medication for a healthy lifestyle.

  22. Indeed there is a lot of information and misinformation about Gary Young, Young Living and DoTerra. And no, we could debate that all day. But I can say this- as a licensed psychotherapist, certified wellness coach and certified aromatherapist who teaches therapists, coaches and practitioners the ethics of delivering Complimentary and Alternative Modalities (CAM) I can tell you I did the deep dive and researched Young Living left right and center before I decided to 1. use the product and 2. promote the product. Is the company perfect? Certainly not. No company is. All essential oil companies need to fall into compliance with the FDA in my opinion and YL is certainly taking the lead with us, demonstrating ethical delivery of information. At the end of the day I rest in knowing that I am offering an exceptional product that has changed my life and the life of many. AND I can deliver the product ethically and responsibly. I do appreciate your concerns though.

  23. Life has occasipnally been hell for me since a woman that sells essential oils joined the place where i have therapy for PTSD. It’s awful having asthma in NM. Even at an amercan ling association weekend someone was burning candles. I never attended anything the Amerin Lung Associaton did again because of that. The essential oil pusher is part owner of this place i go to once a week. I do not understand how a place that also takes blood prssure for some individuals,and other vitals, can get away with doing stuff like this.

  24. Dr. Hayes,
    Your commentary above seems to be very one-sided to me. It is wrong of you to compare Febreeze, an aresol mist of non-pure products to “freshen” up the air with a pure, medical grade, essential oil. I use and sell essential oils, however I never offer treatment or cure, or recommend treatments to people because that is far beyond my scope as a nurse, and you are very correct, I am not a doctor. I see the doctor when necessary, however I have done my research, and I “test” pure, medical grade oils on myself to avoid pharmeceuticals that have dangerous side effects. Alternative medicine and alternative treatments are not “witch doctor” remedies or built from “old wives” tales and such. I was taking a Parkinson medication for my restless legs which truly, when you look at the ingredients and side effects can be considered a dangerous medicine. I did not feel that the risks of this medication outweighed the benefits and that there had to be an “alternative” out there somewhere. This is when I really began the deep dive into educating myself on alternative therapies and essential oils. I stopped taking this medication (and this was at great risk, because I did not think I could live a quality life with RLS) and began using a combination of two essential oil blends. That was two years ago! I am not by any means cured and I still use the oils daily. On another note, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and put on Glucophage. Since that diagnosis I have used Young Living Essential Oils, nutritional supports, and protein poweders, combined with exercise and healthy nutrtional choices – which are mainly no processed foods, free range beef and chicken, and organically grown vegetables, and two essential oils applied daily. I am enjoying normal blood sugar and A1C levels today, as well as a much healthier size 10 from a size 18. I believe that there are alternative therapies for most illnesses that plague us today and it is not wrong for people to choose these therapies and try them out. I agree that we need to be very careful with our children, and we should risk their lives, ever, however that does not mean that using alternative methods is an absolute no and there is also no reason why these alternatives cannot be utilized to SUPPORT OR ENHANCE traditional medicine.. Since I am an adult I can make my own informed decision on my healthcare choices, and I would always encourage and help others to do their own research and to also understand that I cannot give them medical advice.

    • Thanks for your comments–I doubt we’re going to agree on this one. I would argue that essential oils are not “pure”–they are a mixture of chemicals that may or may not be beneficial, and may or may not be harmful. I’m not saying that oils don’t work for anything (although I’d bet good money that they’re not as beneficial as claimed). But they certainly may have some legitimate uses.

      In order to know if they help–or if they’re safe–we need to test them. And I’ve not seen any of the oil companies stepping forward to volunteer that. Why not? Because people are buying them now, and if those studies showed that they didn’t help, people would (hopefully) stop. It’s odd to me that people will spend so much on treatments that are not supported by any evidence at all. (It’s also a sobering reflection of their satisfaction with our medical system.)

      Another complicating factor is that many people (including you) adopt the use of EOs along with other lifestyle changes like healthy eating, exercise, or increased sleep–all of which have been proven to be effective for a variety of conditions. In these cases, the benefits often get attributed to the EOs, when people may do just as well without them.

      As far as alternative treatments being helpful, I would suggest that the terms “alternative” and “complementary” are essentially meaningless and distract from the real distinction–whether or not they actually work. I wrote more about that in a previous post.

      I do agree that you’re free to make your own choices regarding your healthcare, and wish you the best. I’m just trying to provide a rational approach to thinking about these topics–hopefully the decisions you make will work out well for you.

      Thanks again for reading.

      • Young Living oil is free of chemicals and solvents. I think oils get a bad rap because so many on the market are not pure. Their trademark is, “Seed to Seal”. From the time the seeds are planted, until the oils are sealed in the bottle, all through the harvesting, distillation, and even pest control, (which is done with their own EOs) no chemicals are added. Citronella is an incredible pest deterrent. Want to ward off mice, just diffuse some Purification.

        • This is totally wrong, your way off and need Educating, I’m almost feeling when I hear of Yl, Dt mostly YL oils I’m reminded of Amway..???? Its like a disease that keeps spreading………… then at the end, another plug…………. its all about sales. Your all sheep.

    • Your Diabetes did not change because of EO,You are type two which changing your diet and adding activity can keep you from medication and keep your a1c at a safe number.
      I believe there are many good things from EO, but sadly its not going to cure Diabetes type 1 OR two, or my son that has been Diabetic since the age of 5 would be cured !!! along with millions of diabetics….

  25. I use essential oils and I also agree with you. I came across your post because I Googled which essential oils are good for asthma. In my opinion, essential oils are good and work well for me for certain things. I have asthma and fibromyalgia. I use essential oils for help relaxing, sometimes it helps with the pain. I use a mixture to put on my sunburn. When I have a cold, I like to use the eucalyptus instead of vicks. When I have a headache, I like to try the oils first and then take Tylenol (although, most cases the oils work). I wanted to see what kind of oils would help with my asthma but I never expect the oils to replace my medicine. Yes, I have been able to cut back on some of my fibro meds but I don’t believe it is just because of the oils. I do think the oils have helped but I know its also because of all the research I’ve done, including listening to my doctor, I made some good changes in my life. I eat better, I have learned how to relax and calm down in stressful situations. Yes an oil may help me not have as many asthma attacks (even if its all in my mind) but it doesn’t replace my inhaler when I need it. I don’t grab the lavender instead of my inhaler.

    I trust my doctor. If he says I need a medicine I usually try to take it. I also don’t like to take a lot of medicine but he knows that. We are a team and work together. I’ve told him about what oils I use and for what, and if they work for me than that’s great. He still monitors me and he’s told me when he thinks its all in my head and that its not improving.

    I just wanted to say … not all essential oil users use them to replace medicine.

  26. I’m not a doctor, but I am an asthmatic.

    A few days ago, I had an all-day episode. I was out of my albuterol, so I just went to bed. Next day, the asthma started back up again a couple hours after waking. I took two drops of DoTerra peppermint essential oil on my tongue. Obviously, I couldn’t help but inhale the vapors. Within five minutes, the tightness in my chest and my difficulty in breathing were G.O.N.E.

    I hate to break it to you, doc, but this stuff works. I don’t need to have a bunch of letters behind my name, or have degrees and certifications on par with you. I don’tt need a bunch of scientific studies that pass YOUR criteria. I know from first hand, personal experience that essential oils work. Peppermint helped my asthma. I wouldn’t have it replace my albuterol, symbicort or singular, but it is a good tool to have in my arsenal.

    And that’s just asthma and peppermint.. Don’t even get me talking about what other things other oils can do.

  27. Who regulates these essential oil companies? Who makes sure that what they’re selling is, in fact, 100% essential oil? Also, just because something is labeled as “natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Too much of a “natural” thing could be toxic or lethal (i.e. fat, sugar). Who makes sure to scientifically draw the line? To back up the statements with research? In the essential oil industry, apparently, no one.

  28. I have adult asthma since 2000. It has become increasingly worse over the last two years. I have started allergy shots which has helped somewhat. A friend had suggested the oil therapy which lead to researching your articals.
    I thank you for this information. I was hospitalized the times last year due to unexplained attacks. I was in the different places with no common factors. So understandbly I am seeking any avenue for a solution. But I am seeing the essential oils are not the way to go.

  29. I’ve used them both, when my son got steroids for his ashma n they didn’t help him, than I turned too my YL OILS, Not more than a day he was done coughing his pediatrician checkex him his lungs were clear n no wheezing I’m a YL user but I’m smart enough to know that his Dr. Knows best, using these oils have less side effects My son has many allergies allergies to milk allergies to pets allergies to wheat so I read alot about them, thieves is used in many hospital and schools, As always everyone should let there Dr. Knkw what they are using and for what!! By the way good read, enjoyed reading it

  30. First off I could care less if you don’t allow this on your comment page but wanted to send this to you anyway as I’m sure you will at least read it first before you discard it… To say that doctors always know best is ridiculous. I guess that means if you aren’t and indoctrinated doctor that you can’t possibly have enough intelligence to obtain knowledge without that certificate?? Well, now I’m laughing pretty hard… I found these ramblings of yours to be nothing more than ego boosted crap!! I do not sell essential oils either, just so you know. I am a very hollistic person and it has saved me more times than ANY doctor ever has. Doctors are taught that an asthmatic can never get off steroids. Guess what? That’s bologna!!! I did it and know many, many others that have as well. Not only with essential oils but by other means as well. And the spraying of fabreeze had nothing to do with any essential oil. That stuff is pure poison, full of terrible chemicals that I have no doubt would effect an asthmatic. All conventional doctors do is push pharmaceuticals that cause other life long illnesses and diseases…including the controversial vaccines. You kind of make me sick actually. So your doctorate really doesn’t mean anything to me. Maybe you should stick to what you do without a conscience and leave the hollistic world to those who are knowledgeable on the subject…clearly this isn’t you. And if you have any respect for yourself you should probably allow my comment to show here. You shouldn’t only be ok-ing the comments that pump up your ego even more.

    • Lorraine–sorry for making you sick. You are certainly free to have your own opinion (or read a different blog). But I’m afraid your understanding of what “doctors are taught” is misguided. The standard of care for asthma is to re-evaluate every 3 months at a minimum to make attempts to wean steroids, with the goal of eliminating them entirely. In fact, there are a lot of doctors out there who make efforts to eliminate any unnecessary medications, as these are sure to do more harm than good. There’s a difference between providing treatments that have been shown to be effective and “pushing pharmaceuticals.”

      My goal here is not to “pump up my ego,” or to sell products and make money. It’s simply to provide the most reliable information I can based on the best available evidence. And I do it with my conscience fully intact.

      If you choose to reply, please try to keep your comments a little more civil.

    • Wow… bitter much? It amuses me how you (not a doctor) know exactly what is said to doctors during their training. My daughter outgrew her asthma thank goodness but we were evaluated every 10 weeks until she was off the medications completely.

      As an adult, I have several long term health issues and I get reviewed every 3 months. My doctor is constantly evaluating the medications I am on, whether they are still helpful and whether we can lower the doses of any of them.

      Mentioning vaccines is interesting though… I take it you are one of those people who rely on the vaccinations of the ‘herd’ to protect you? Nevermind that you then become a risk to every baby too young to have been vaccinated? Simply because on very rare occasions someone has an adverse reaction? If that is the case, you are lucky. Because you have clearly never seen first hand the awful diseases that the vaccinations prevent. Particularly as those diseases killed in the thousands and had ‘side effects’ FAR more serious than the very occasional bad reactions we see today. I certainly know which one I would prefer! This was something I researched extensively before allowing my child to get vaccinated, and I never doubted that I made the right decision.

      I think you need to re-read the article. Nowhere did the author even hint at the suggestion he thought doctors always knew best. Nor did he suggest anywhere that those without a doctorate were incapable of being knowledgeable.

      I am not sure what got you out of bed on the wrong side on the day you decided to spew this off but you need to take a chill pill. Or smoke a chill oil. There is an awful lot of anger and hate in your post over some imagined slight… If you live your life like that you aren’t looking after yourself very holistically now, are you? Given that emotional wellbeing would be included in a holistic treatment.

      I think Doctors treat their patients far more holistically than you realise. My doctor has always spoken to me about my emotional well being alongside my physical health, the stresses in my life, and my diet and exercise. In my country, though, GP’s get 10 minutes with each patient. I wonder just how holistic YOU could be in that amount of time, whilst dealing with the problem they actually came to see you about?

      As for you positing that he shouldn’t be the one moderating comments, that really is laughable. You make it sound like he is playing God by making those decisions, yet you feel YOU have the right to dictate what he does with HIS blog… the same blog that YOU chose to come and read. That is rather hypocritical of you, is it not?

      I think if we are really discussing ego here… we should discuss yours. After all… you are the one that came into someone else’s house to tell him off for something he didn’t even do pmsl. If that isn’t an overinflated ego I don’t know what is!

  31. My wife has started diffusing essential oils, and it is wreaking havoc with my asthma. The lavender in particular almost instantly triggers an attack. Thank you for confirming that this really is a problem.

  32. I opened a bottle of lavendar essential oil and it threw me into a full blown asthma attack, anything scented makes me wheeze. Thats why I have been curious how some of these essential oil companys say to use them for asthma and other breathing difficulties. There needs to be warning labels on these essential oil products stating my cause breathing difficulties to sensitive individuals.

  33. I am a little confused by how your story of a boy that reacted to a man-made chemical air freshener indicates that essential oils, which are all natural, are not good for asthma.

    My 8-year-old daughter has mild asthma that consists primarily of a nighttime cough that is usually triggered by seasonal allergies or a respiratory infection. We have recently started using essential oils and I have found that the only thing that seems to help with the cough is a spoonful of raw honey with a couple of drops of lemon oil. I have also diffused lavender, On Guard, and Breathe blends. After reading that some people have reactions to inhaling lavender, I will likely stop that, but I will continue to use the other oils because they have done far more for her than any medication she has ever taken, including albuterol and montelukast.

    I don’t see how you can write an article indicating that essential oils are bad by citing a situation in which essential oils were not even used. That’s just bad science.

  34. What do you think of a pediatrician that recommends essencial oils over a flu shot for an asthmatic 3 year old? Seems a little fishy to me. My sister’s pediatrician told her to diffuse oils instead of giving her son the flu shot.

    My family practitioner told me to give my boys the flu shot and not the live mist. Of course I did not ask about oils because my husband has so many allergies to different things such as my perfume, body sprays and body washes, I’m scared to death to try it. My boys have allergies.u

    • I wish more pediatricians were this smart and open-minded. It also depends on which brand of oils the doctor recommended. I would say if they recommended Young Living or DoTerra, then that doctor is a keeper!!!

  35. Can I just say that “Febreze” is NOT an essential oil? It is totally synthetic. It is harmful on many levels for everyone, asthmatic or otherwise. As horrible as that story is, it has no relevance whatsoever to essential oil use for children with asthma. I have a child with asthma and I am also an aromatherapist. I am sorry that this article appeared in my search for information about wise use of essential oils for children suffering with bronchial issues.

  36. 66 year old grandmothers can do stupid things like try an aromatherapy diffuser with three drops of eucalyptus oil for the allergy/asthma she struggles with. That would be me. I slept with the tiny diffuser spouting out its cool steam laced with tiny drops of oil, until I woke up at 3:00 barely able to catch my breath. I could not stop coughing until I threw open my window (28 degrees outdoors, I was reluctant!) and breathed just fresh air. I couldn’t agree with you more about cautious use of the essential oils! Thank you for your well written and informative response to the Facebook declaration. I still am choking all day today, violently and without any apparent provocation. Certainly doing better than last night, and I have thrown away the diffuser, and the window is wide open again tonight. Phew. Thank you, Thank you! Ruth

  37. I enjoyed reading your article and it was very informative, I just began using essential oils and they worked very well in getting rid of headaches. A problem that causes me to loose about 3 weeks of work per year. I’m considering using the essential oils in a diffuser to help with breathing problems due to asthma because I have severe asthma and I was hoping that adding them to my medication would help me breath better. In fact, I was hoping that I could at some point replace my medications Symbicorte, Xopanex, Albuteral, Singular and Allegra with essential oils. After reading you post, I’m thinking I probably want to reconsider that and talk to my Asthma Doctor about taking so many medications to treat this issue.

  38. Thank you for an excellent article. It’s refreshing to think there may be a doctor out there that actually cares for the patient. We sure can’t find one. Your comment section is hard to use! Great article! I, my daughter and granddaughter have asthma. We can’t get treatment for the little one.

  39. As a life-long asthmatic of 52 years now, I have always shivered when I hear people saying this new herb discovery or that diet change, etc., cures asthma. Nothing has EVER cured my asthma. ! For a long time, I was pretty bad about not taking my maintenance regimen because it made me feel bad, and as most asthmatics do, I felt I knew when I really needed my meds because I was so used to the condition. But my sister died of asthma at age 62 in 2005. She did not have medical insurance and couldn’t afford the expensive meds. She turned to alternative treatments that she just swore by…yet she died of the disease. It was a huge, huge wake up call for me. I’ve been religious about taking my maintenance meds ever since. I use Singulair and Dulera every day and have a Xopanex rescue inhaler that is never out of my purse, and I have Xopanex for my nebulizer.

    All that said, I have found relief when I needed just a little more help after I’ve used my inhaler and nebulizer by using one of the essential oil blends that contains peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon grass, etc. I would never use an essential oil in place of my meds…what a terrifying thought! And I realize that some people’s asthma might be aggravated by such scents. I am a teacher, and I get so frustrated at parents of asthmatics who send their kids to school with essential oils, but not an inhaler! Additionally, I’ve walked into another teacher’s classroom and had an instant asthma attack because of a scent that she had in her diffuser. I’ve gone to the emergency room because of a cleaner that an unknowing janitor used in my room prior to my being in there.

    Asthma is no joke. It isn’t something wimpy kids have and it isn’t something that gets cured, though I realize for some it improves and even goes away for some lucky people. People who insist that alternative treatments are just as effective are encouraging others to make potentially deadly decisions.

    • I am so, so sorry to hear about your sister. That must have been incredibly difficult to deal with. I am pleased, however, that her death was able to do a little good in getting you to take your prescribed medications. I understand that sometimes it is tough taking meds that have side effects. I am on morphine that still makes me incredibly itchy after being on it for 3 years. I have scratched myself raw in places but know I need it to function. I wish you the best.

  40. I had been using albuterol for years and still carry some in my backpack. I have exercise induced asthma, so I cough a lot when I run and my chest tightens up. I decided to try essential oils. I apply a blend on my chest before I exercise and I haven’t had trouble with the tightening of my chest, although initially I do cough then it goes away. The oils are definitely good to use, but i think we should always have a back up or something we know works quickly just in case there is an asthma attack.

  41. I wanted to add a comment because I cannot find any articles at all about what I experienced tonight. My only experience with essential oils has been to add them to bath products. However, today I spent the day in an unventilated room full of children where some moms were diffusing something called Thieves Oil in an effort to kill germs. Within 2 minutes, my nose, throat and lungs were burning and my eyes were watering. Thankfully, they were willing to turn the diffuser off, but the burn never did subside (probably because of the ventilation issues). I do not have asthma, but I can’t even imagine how a kid with asthma would have felt in that room. Hours later, after inhaling steam, using a saline nasal spray, and drinking copious amounts of water, I am still experiencing symptoms. How can something that can cause such a serious reaction in an otherwise healthy adult be used so cavalierly?

  42. Great article. I was just picking out NASA recommended plants for my house (I have asthma). Right below the list were essential oils to purify the house. Then I found your article.
    Thank you.

  43. Thank you for posting this and confirming my thoughts about asthma and essential oils. For years, before I was diagnosed with asthma as an adult, lavender would bother me. Now lavender and many other smells can send me into an immediate asthma attack. Many people don’t think I am serious about lavender and I have had numerous people at my previous job disregard the no-perfume policy and bring lavender because it helps you to relax. One time at a office training I had a serious asthma attack and then they realized I wasn’t joking about being allergic to lavender. Recently while out of the country I had two severe ones and ended up having to change my plans. We figured out it was the deisel exhaust from the motorbikes, was in Cambodia, and even with masks everytime I went out I had an asthma attack. A friend tried to get me to use some essential oils and I immediately said no because of this very reason. Thanks for posting this informative article.

  44. Thanks for The information.

    However, some parents and ppl on Fb shared the info possibly because the CDC posted, on their Facebook page, that parents should NOT fill a prescription from their child’s pediatrician if they have bronchitis, dose throat etc because they’re usually viral infections.

    Data on ppl with ADHD being more prone to abusing substances is incorrect. Too often that type of information is gathered by social science scholars and medical doctors that lack a psychology background. Ppl displaying symptoms of ADHD can be dually diagnosed or misdiagnosed. ADHD and bipolar disorder share many characteristics. While the ADHD population can have members of its group abuse drugs like members of any group, the group with the highest incident of drug use are those diagnosed or showing symptoms of bipolarity. A number of studies have shown that ppl diagnosed with ADHD are LESS likely to abuse drugs if they are given the correct dose of prescribed stimulants.

    Frankincense and myrrh oil have been shown by medical research to help with tumors and skin infections. I for one used it to treat a form of eczema-a friend with the same condition has used the prescribed steroid med and still struggles with the problem; 28th her hands and feet getting blistered and peeling away, my thyroglossal cyst-it reduces its size based on the imaging evidence, and on a baker’s cyst-it gathered the infection and got the cyst ready for aspiration. I have also used it to thin my father’s blood when the INR reading is not within therapeutic tang by massaging him with it. Of course he’s still on blood thinners. I can’t use it when he’s in therapeutic range. Surprisingly, coconut oil helps with that as well.

    In re asthma and essential oils… thanks for the info. I put some, maybe too much, in the nebulizer and went to town coughing.

    I appreciate the info.

  45. Forgive me if I missed something. . But you said the grandmother sprayed febreeze which sent the child to ER. Febreeze is not an essential oil.

  46. As a mother of an asthmatic child, I can tell you first hand that Clary Sage oil shuts down my son’s asthma attacks faster than the horrible steroid-filled inhalers that his pediatrician prescribed. We used prescription treatments so I have direct comparison. His PFT showed normal using the oils AND his lung strength improved significantly. I was and am a skeptic on these as well, but proof was in the results time and time again. I’d suggest opening the mind and consider that there really are other ways to heal besides a man-made medicine that has a side effect list longer than my arm. There’s a place for both types of treatments as long as everyone stays open. It’s dangerous to have tunnel vision; I would have missed out on a wonderful treatment, which is scary.

    • Diane–thanks for your comments. My mind is open–I’m not saying that essential oils don’t work at all. In fact, I’m pretty convinced that there are some conditions that they may truly help. In truth, though, there are very few side effects for asthma medications (and they are frequently life-saving). Different people have different asthma triggers, so what bother one may not bother another.

      The most important thing to remember is that any treatment–even “natural” ones–that has potential good effects also has potential bad ones. And if people want to use alternative treatments for serious medical conditions, someone needs to prove that they are safe and effective.

      While being closed-minded to new treatments is dangerous, there are serious hazards with being too open-minded as well. And just because something was made by a plant instead of a lab doesn’t make it safe.


      • I continue to follow this conversation, perhaps because I WANT essential oils to be the silver bullet, but also because I had a horrible choking reaction to many things other folks inhale without obvious harm (I often feel like a canary in a mine), including the smell of chocolate, and diffused essential oils. There may be a difference of response for asthmatics between chest rubs, inhaling, etc., and certainly between triggers. Folks should share these parts of their experience. Also since the letters tend to be just unstudied personal experience without reference to vacuuming, other foods, stresses, pets, siblings, etc.; one can only wonder.
        It horrifies me the number of people that apparently try medicating their own children (perhaps never having been in a situation of being unable to breath themselves…) without apparent reference to doctors, or at least someone with serious training in alternative therapies and training in western medicine. Really? Do any of us want to deal with possible not happy endings to our little experiments with our babies?

    • Diane I am happy to hear clary sage was a wonderful addition to treatment! I am a sketptic as well. I will note one thing that alarmed me on your post – the steroid treatment is not for an attack. It is an preventive. But I do see your point, as the albuterol inhaler does have a propellant, and i have been worried about the additives there. So just wanted to make sure you are not confusing the two types of inhalers! I took hope to have my son off the steroid inhalers because long term is not best for them.

      But It is wonderful if an oil has improved his PFT. I am currently looking for an miracle on our PFT. so far only seeing oils clear the sinuses much as vicks vapor rub (camphor) .

      Good luck in the continues improvement of your son!

  47. I agree. I am an essential oil user and have a 9 year old with asthma. I actually found your blog on google while looking up reviews about another miracle essential oil. I admit i use them in place of son cleaning supplies, like lemon. I also use camphor to decongest my sinus when needed. or diffuse some lavendar or vanilla to make the house smell good. however my son has been allergy tested and he has no response to allergens except the enviromental type such as smoke and normal triggers. We still have inhalers for asthma. I am careful of the essential oils I use. always ask if any changes in him. You are opened my eyes up to be extra careful if I try anything new. however I never see us dropping modern medicine for the essential oil craze. Although I am a user of both.

  48. Excellent commentary and well-written article, Dr. Hayes. I’ve had asthma since I was 2 years old and now am 65. I could not agree with you more. I find it incomprehensible some will place their health in the hands of people with no medical training in favor of treatment with no track record of curative power. Your article artfully says what I have been trying to all along: If it [EO] is that good, then we’d all be taking it.

  49. Thank you..gor stating the obvious to us asthma sufferers. We attended our grandsons Christmas Concert in a all community where everyone is “into” essential oils. We were ill for three days after. The stench, from every combo of essential oils was dreadful..all of them thinking they are saving the world from Big Pharm, but 6 nights of a home party to sell theses Essential Oils in a pyramid scheme does not make you an expert,

  50. Dr. Hayes,

    As an asthmatic I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying reading the information and thoughts of asthma sufferers from all over in this column. I have noted previously my reaction to eucalyptus oil drops in a distiller (wondered if I would every breathe properly again at the time…). But I find the story of Febreze and the child especially compelling, even though we all know Febreze is not an essential oil, it is a particulate matter introduced artificially into the environment. Not unlike diesel oil smoke (being a pollutant), by the way. It just smells nicer.

    However!! ON my quest to learn to breath normally as much as possible I abandoned dryer sheets, and since there is nothing else new I have done, I have to credit myself with a stroke of brilliance. I like dryer sheets! I love the smell! But for more years than I can count I have been tired and having to push myself from task to task all day long. And NO MORE! I am amazed. I feel like exercising, I have started getting more involved in my activities and interests, and I am not perpetually tired.

    Gosh! Could it be the fragrance in dryer sheets, that must be similar to Febreze? I know this is a thread on essential oils (which I avoid completely now) but there are so many other chemicals and oils (yes, remember diesel?) that sensitive people cannot breathe. And dryer sheets now tops my list of things to avoid.

    All the best, Ruth

  51. Fabreeze is NOT an essential oil. It does not surprise me at all that that would trigger his asthma. It is literally spraying his sheets with toxins and artificial fragrance. That would certainly trigger my asthma. I see a lot of mis information and dangerous practices when it comes to EO use and children, but I also find that used properly EOs can help with some conditions. But when you base your conclusion that EOs are not safe around a story of a grandmother using fabreeze you are undermining yourself. Fabreeze is not the same thing as essential oils. At all.

  52. I recently attended a function where an infant was given the essential oil “Breathe” combined with with distilled water in a nebulizer, administered with a face mask. The child had a cold, and they used it to help “open the airways.” I am still in shock that they think this is okay. I have searched the internet to find some credible sites about the dangers of this, but have not found many. Do you know the side effects of such treatment, long term and short term? Thanks

    • No, I don’t–and nobody else does, either. Which is why it’s a really, really bad idea. There’s no evidence to show that nebulized EOs (which terrifies me, by the way) will help a child in any way–and a lot of reasons to think it might make things worse.

  53. “Another complicating factor is that many people (including you) adopt the use of EOs along with other lifestyle changes like healthy eating, exercise, or increased sleep–all of which have been proven to be effective for a variety of conditions. In these cases, the benefits often get attributed to the EOs, when people may do just as well without them.”
    ER nurse (17 years) and now a school nurse here… love what you wrote. Maybe lifestyle changes are the biggest return on investment of EO’s. So glad I found your blog. There are so many “mommy blogs” spreading misinformation about serious pediatric health topics. We need more common sense and fact based information around here in the interwebs. 🙂

  54. My son has asthma and we use everyday medicines for control
    As well as E.O. mostly we use oils for his allergies. We have found most triggers but not the one he has at night. We took everything out of his room but his bed ( its allergy proof) and still nights are bad. Acupuncture has helped some…I wish there was more testing on E.O. but my son will always follow his doctors plan BC she truly has his best interest in mind. She even suggested emotions could trigger his attacks…he’s shy and is a worrier like an old man. The news can make him worry about life. Thank you for all of your helpful information.

  55. Hello. I am new to essential oils. I decided to diffuse 3 drops of peppermint oil in a diffuser with water and within 30 min my breathing was shallow, and I could feel my chest tightening. My heart rate shot to over 160. Myself, and my 2 kids (5 and 3) suffer from asthma. We get brochitus and my 5 yr old gets pneumonia anytime he gets out in colder weather etc. I’m interested in your perspective that oils can induce more breathing problems that help them… in relation to asthma. We use albuterol primarily and it works wonders. Shall I not diffuse RC? I haven’t yet. Curious your thoughts and recommendations. Thank you.

    • Just to clarify… I have only diffused twice. One time was theives… (didn’t seem to have a problem). And the other time was peppermint. BIG REACTION which has caused me to research much more. A natuopathic Dr in my family thought I was possibly detoxing, that the peppermint was drawing out an ailment. I am very cautious now and have done away with peppermint for now. Not sure how I feel about diffusing RC or any other which how aggressive our lung conditions worsen. Would love to hear any positives or negatives. Thx.

      • I’ll be nice because the ND is a family member…but that sounds like crap. Lung detox isn’t a thing. If something makes it hard for you to breathe, it may be a sign that you should stop using it rather than try to push through for some supposed benefit. I’d talk to your doctor before you try any more alternative treatments. And if your doctor recommends things that make it hard for you to breathe, I’d find a new doctor.

    • Brenda–I can’t give specific medical advice, but in any instance where you think something (a medicine, essential oil, or other treatment) is making your symptoms worse instead of better, it’s usually best to stop using it and talk to your doctor. As I said above, there’s no evidence that EOs are helpful for asthma, and there are certainly reasons to think it might make things worse. Albuterol, on the other hand (as well as controller medications)…those can save lives.

  56. Hello Chad,
    I found your Blog today and was relieved to find an actual MD who could confirm the “trigger effect” of some essential oils on Asthma.
    I have suffered from Asthmatic Bronchitis for over 45 years, I am allergic to cat/dog/hot air/dust/perfume/scents and also had a long term exposure to environmental pollution (wood dust).
    After years on heavy Asthma meds, I relocated to a warm ocean environment, avoided all allergens and was off meds for the last 5 years.
    I had one major episode a year ago after exposure to a heavy perfume and ended up in the ER for several hours with a lung infection.
    Healthy for one year, I entered a yoga studio last Monday evening for a Restorarive yoga class. At the end as we lay in relaxation, the instructor massaged the back of my neck (without my permission) with some combo of essential oils. On my drive home, my throat began to burn, that night I awoke coughing and congested. The allergic reaction grew gradually and on the third day I had a major Asthma attack and was unable to breathe. Off to the urgent care for several hours, Nebulizer, Prednisone and Arithromycin for the lung infection that I now have.
    I am seeing more and more of the introduction of essential oils in yoga studios which I find intrusive. Not everyone finds these oils beneficial and in my case they can be deadly. Also, some of these studios are in the sales and marketing of the oil lines and I don’t appreciate the pressure of having a product forced on me.
    In India, where yoga originated, the teacher/studio policy is to arrive showered with no fragrance so as not to offend others in the room.
    Essential oils can be deadly and should be handled with care.

  57. It is my opinion that your viewpoint would be more helpful if it appeared to be coming from a place of awareness of the voluminous scientific research available on essential oils and their compounds’ effects on disease related processes as well as physical symptoms, such as tumor development, seizure incidence, fever duration, microbial activity, hormone and neurotransmitter production and utilization, blood viscosity, immune and inflammation markers, etc. Admittedly, I am not planning to go gather sources for this comment, opening myself to one off negation of the validity of any of these areas of essential oil effect. Nevertheless, I encourage you and any interested followers to look at the activity of the compounds in essential oils and the existing research in the field, including the work of many highly regarded university research centers in the US, and abroad. I find especially interesting the antimicrobial, anti tumor, and anti-inflammatory components. Although most in vivo research to date is animal based, it will be very useful and exciting to see the pursuit of these questions in more human studies some day, As animal outcomes in tested measures in many studies are very promising, often with very positive outcomes and low incidence of negative side events. Which is generally the opposite of isolated pharmaceuticals in my experience and opinion. but then again, my perspective is admittedly skewed, as I very nearly lost both my father and my sister to side effects of properly prescribed antimicrobial and psychotropic drugs, and have suffered serious side effects from many prescriptions and medical procedures as well.

  58. Hello,my name is Darlene and I just commented on your article and forgot to mention that I also used prednisone like it was going out of style…

  59. I’m 27 and have 48% lung function. I’ve never smoked and excercise regularly. I’ve been following doctor’s advice to the letter since I was two years old. I’m out of breath every single day, even when sitting down. The steroid inhaler I take every day makes me feel weak, the steroids I take after an attack make me feel suicidal. The doctor has said that my lungs must be so bad because my asthma has been badly managed but I guess that’s because I’ve been doing exactly as I’m told by various doctors who change up my inhaler each time to receive a nice bonus. I wouldn’t hesitate in saying that listening to doctors has not helped me and I feel weaker than ever due to the immunity destroying steroids. Essential oils / complementary therapy is not supposed to used as an alternative to modern medicine, but let me tell you – they certainly help me feel better. I’ve been using them for a couple of months and my symptoms have been reduced greatly. I have combined this with trying to strengthen my lungs with blowing up a balloon a few times a day. If I improve further over the next few months I’m going to try reducing my use of my inhaler with hope to phase it out long term. Why isn’t more funding available for research? I know in extreme situations steroids are the only option but for day to day management of a chronic illness I have found natural remedies and a diet rich in unprocessed food has helped me so much. Surely you must agree that a healthier, stronger body is much more prepared to deal with condition?

  60. Thank you for this article. I suffer from migraines and recently discovered some good and bad about essential oils. The peppermint oil makes my migraines disappear. My 8 year old son suffers from serious asthma and food allergies. The peppermint oil also works for his headaches when applied topically, but diffusing the oil really makes his allergies flare up. It gets so bad that he needs both an Allegra and his inhaler.

    Though EOs are all the rage and very popular right now, I plan to be VERY cautious with them in the future. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter and WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE that in no way should oils be used in lieu of proper medication, especially when we are talking about asthma and the hinders cs of broker breathing.

  61. I agree with your caution and anxiety about people harming themselves replacing traditional medicine with oils. But I have a personal experience to share. Last year, my sister gave us a box of 24 glass roller balls filled with various EO blends. I had not used oils before even though my aunt is a naturopath and swears by them always urging us to try it.
    So, my adopted daughter from China came to us three years ago with uncontrolled asthma. She has severe ataxia and is unable to use an inhaled medication. In her first two years home she had four ER trips for respiratory distress bordering on arrest. The doctors couldn’t help us more than to prescribe Pulmacort, albuterol and prednisone.
    We thought we’d try the EO blend my sister had made. Since using it as part if her daily routine, she has not had one attack. Her allergist was skeptical of why, but agreed that she had significant increased lung function since last year. They even wrote a letter so that she could resume P.E. which she had been excused from due to numerous attacks at school.
    We ran out of the oil a week ago and yesterday I noticed a audible wheeze. I haven’t heard that sound in a year. I asked if she felt ill and she said, “No, but it feels like someone is pushing on my chest.”
    We dusted off and started up her nebulizer today. I can say this…I will be getting another bottle of oil ASAP.
    Trying something does not mean replacing something. People need to be smart. Oils are not a miracle cure, but for our family, it has made a difference for our daughter.

  62. THANK YOU!! I have an 18 yr old daughter who has had asthma since the first week of her existence. Getting her safely to adulthood has been both a challenge and an EDUCATION. She would not be here today if we had not teamed up with all the skilled medical professionals that we have had the priveledge to meet. I have to admit that the allure of “natural organic” treatments is tempting. I have always worried about the long term effects of the array of medications she has been on over the years. I have actually weighed it in my mind, “unknown long term effects vs breathing right now”. I have placed trust in the medical professionals to use what they have spent hundreds of hours learning to keep my daughter as healthy as she can be. Why would ANY parent try something on their precious child that is unproven?

  63. I was given a gift of a basic scent of essential oils, and although I like using them, for common purposes, I have been concerned about inhaling them as I am asthmatic, and I also have and asthmatic grandchild living with me. Thank you for this information. After reading your comments, I will be sure that he does not breathe any of these oils.

  64. Thank you so much for writing this. I got so many suggestions to use EOs on my 15 month old who has asthma. His episodes last for days even w/ albuterol and prednisone treatments. I’m just praying that the EOs didn’t make it worse. Should have done more reading instead of listening to others. Thank you again.

  65. This article is a must read for all those who are practicing in alternative fields.
    I am a licensed massage therapist, a certified foot reflexologist(I used the technique as a super foot massage, NOT a cure), and certified aromatherapist. We were trained to never look at what we do as a ‘cure’, but rather as a way to complement what the client is doing medically. Massage and ROM exercises are extremely helpful in most conditions. Some need very, very gentle work. Others can have more intense work. A good therapist should know.
    As for aromatherapy, I discontinued using it very early on. I used ‘quality’ oils. Even diluted, they are very strong. Several people had allergic reactions(never talked about in the course I took). What was talked about in our training follows: There is no one size fits all with oils. The active compounds in the oils are numerous. Some oils have natural sedatives and a client should never drive home alone without knowing how it will affect them. Some are stimulants. Some are abortives. Some raise your heart rate. Some can lower it. Some help some people and are poison to others. Where am I going with this? There have not been enough enough regulated studies to know the facts…how much to use and on whom. While I have some oils I personally love, I am allergic to others(all over rash, headaches), and I never wear them in the company of my severely allergic brother. He could die! Many people have reactions to the mint family, geranium, lavender,
    lemongrass, among others. If they should try them, it should be with caution and just the tiniest amounts until they know for sure.

    • Thank you for this article, Dr., and thank you for this reply, Judith. Many people really have no idea how “natural things” can effect us. As much as I dislike the idea of more government control and regulations, the nutritional industry is one I believe needs to be regulated. I work in health care and have seen and heard some downright frightening advice from people selling nutritional and EO’s. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “It’s all natural, so it can’t hurt you.” Hello, Nightshade is natural. So are Fox Gloves.

      A few years back, I witnessed a person who sold vitamin supplements tell my elderly Aunt, who was an insulin dependent Diabetic and who had suffered several strokes that if she started taking their products, she wouldn’t need her insulin anymore. And she believed him. I am just glad I was there to stop her from buying the stuff or who knows what might have happened.

      • I totally agree. Melatonin is a prime example. As far as I am aware, it is the only hormone you can buy without a prescription (legally of course). It is sold classed as a ‘food supplement’ and is therefore MUCH less evaluated than other medications and subject to far less controls. Because of that, you never know exactly how many mg of the hormone is in a 3mg tablet. This can be incredibly dangerous, and better regulation would help prevent issues like it.

  66. I have a terrible time breathing when I smell essential oils and my daughter has to use an inhaler when she us exposed to the oils.They also give me a terrible headache heart palpitations.

  67. Hi Dr. Hayes!

    Thanks for your comments! I am a licensed massage therspist in the state of Ohio. Also, I have a lot of allergies to many things. I appreciate all of your points and I agree. There is a certain company that has made its way into our spa. About the time we started diffusing oils I started suffering severe congestion. Which led me to your article. Any further information on this topic you can share would be great! Also, I have been very concerned about elderly clients and the use of these oils and reactions to any drugs they may be taking.

  68. First thank you for this post, i have a bD reaction to some essential oils that tighten up my lungs almost immediately. I just recently got diagnosed with Asthma and I’m home now a month after my first hospital stay due to having bronchitis which flared my asthma. Anything you can recommend to help keep up immunities as well as asthma tips. Thanks again! Currently on Singular 10mg, Symbicort, and Albuterol rescue

  69. My son is 4 and had pneumonia when he was two. He had a cold and I used a humidifier in his room. while his pediatrician told me that humidifier did not cause the pneumonia, I’ve been paranoid ever since.
    He’s not yet in preschool and has never been in daycare. He seems to pick up all sorts of gooey noses and coughs and colds. He is medically healthy but when he gets coughs I still panic a bit and have been considering adding an essential oil diffuser to his room.
    We use one in the living room using basic scents; citrus, cinnamon, and occasionally a rose/patchouli mix that I love but my family calls too hippy.

    We have an appointment with his pediatrician in a few weeks and I plan to talk to her about this. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on this addition – if he is healthy, could the oils potentially make him worse?

  70. Thank you for posting this article. I have to agree with not treating asthma with essential oils. After a trip in Tahoe with a few friends who used Doxterra’s OnGuard during our stay, my daughter’s nose started bleeding after we came home from our trip. She never had a nosebleed before. Then she started coughing and runny nose. She has asthma. I went ahead and used the essential oil thinking it might help as it has helped my friends’ kids with their colds. I couldn’t figure out that it was the essential oil until I turned the diffuser on again after a doctor’s visit and my daughter’s nose started bleeding again. My son also has asthma but seems to be unaffected by the essential oil. My husband was also sensitive to scents and it started triggering his asthma. I have since then stopped using it altogether and posted an article that warns parents about the use of Essential oils in my Facebook page and our Moms’ group page. I used the albuterol which then helped my daughter. Luckily it didn’t turn into pneumonia. She also took antibiotics which helped her feel better. It’s very easy to buy into alternative medicine without reading all the scientific evidence that backs it up. I do believe in acupuncture which helped with my husband’s chronic pain and thought about treating my asthma with it.

  71. Essential oils, or any ” alternative” method of healing should be researched before use and only used in conjunction with what people now call traditional medicine. Before using, converse with your dr.! This Is important because even with research there may be a reaction ( it is all here to help not hinder health) may counteract or X out main medicine! I do numerous methods for me and mine, BUT when serious I call the dr….

  72. Dear Dr Hayes,
    Thank you for this article which I have just stumbled across while researching COPD (my husband was diagnosed some years ago). I totally understand what you are trying to convey. All too often, companies get away with luring people into false hope. In some cases (depending on personality), I am all for a placebo effect though in the case of untested “alternatives” we do not know if harm is being done. We live in Australia and no doubt the problem is throughout the western world where there is more disposable income for these huge industries to take advantage of.
    Kind regards, Glenda Galvin

  73. I I would note that in 15 minutes after say Singulair is introduced to the market every student in medical school know how it interacts on a cellular level , but in 3000 years they “don’t yet have enough information to know what conditions” Frankincense
    ” might treat (especially in children), and that they do have risks associated with them ” . I have a feeling when they do get this completed we will find that the risks of the big pharma perscriptions will more than dwarf that of the natural healing plant extracts and they are probably not even looking at the genetic impact of drugs designed to promote the need for them as much as their healing properties . My advise is nature first . I have not been to medical school but you can’t watch TV 10 minutes without these “professionals” running an add for something that might kill you or mutate your offspring , but will give you an erection . To balance out this raving review of anyone who has ever been to medical school or synthesized a drug as opposed to people who try to help people learn about the natural healing properties of plants .

    • Barri, I totally agree with you that the world would be a better place without commercials for prescription medications. I also agree that they shouldn’t be overused. But like you said, you didn’t go to medical school. You probably haven’t taken care of kids who have died from respiratory failure. It’s not pretty.

      Honestly, I don’t care whether a treatment was made in a lab or grew on a tree–as long is it’s been shown to be effective and safe (at least safe enough to justify its benefit). I’m not talking about Cialis here–I’m talking about life-saving treatments for children. Or, in many cases, treatments that keep children out of the hospital and allow them to live normal, active lives. Show me a plant with properties that can do that for a kid with severe asthma, and I’ll listen. Natural isn’t always better.

    • There are plenty of medicines made from natural ingredients around. A well known example is Aspirin, which is made from the bark of a Willow Tree. Or morphine made from the Poppy. The article explains rather concisely why more research isn’t going into essential oils.

      The natural healing properties of many plants and tree’s are very well documented and are, in fact, the base for many of the medications prescribed today. I mentioned this saying in my comment below but there is a saying I like on the issue: You know what they call alternative medicines that have been proven to work? Medicine. Nature plays a far bigger role in pharmaceuticals that you seem to believe. There is, in fact, thoroughly fascinating research going into the medicinal benefits of the algae that grow on sloths right now.

      Just because something no longer looks like a plant doesn’t mean the healing properties of said plant is lost.

      I am not a doctor, and I have never made drugs. But I am on a lot of medications, each of which I researched extensively before agreeing to take, including discussing natural alternatives with medical professionals beforehand. But there is a difference between a professional and someone that sounds knowledgeable… and I think that is where people often make mistakes.

  74. I can not believe you are a doctor. Essential oils are natural. They should be used by everyone. Of course there are times when u need Medicine but it should be a last resort. I don’t think anyone is trying to cure athsma and cancer with house hold chemicals and or fragrance plugins . most people use essential oils for a healthy all natural prevention methods so they can avoid ever having to use dangeous pharmaceuticals with lists of side effects.

    • Harsh, man. Agree that medicine should be used only when necessary, but the same goes for “natural” treatments–which can also have plenty of side effects. It’s interesting that some people who promote alternative medicine argue that a treatment should be used by everyone, while I try to use conventional medications only when necessary (but am still accused of pushing them). Healthy people don’t need to be treated. And sick people deserve treatments that work.

    • Yes… essential oils are natural. So is cancer. That doesn’t make it automatically good. Medicines are a last resort… they are there for when something won’t get better on it’s own, or for when something is making you too poorly to function properly. ‘Natural’ remedies should also be a last resort. Aspirin and morphine are made from plants. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily try them before using a synthetic medication.

      You say you don’t believe anyone is trying to cure asthma with fragranced plug ins. You are entitled to that belief absolutely. But I am sorry to say you are wrong. Some people are genuinely trying to cure diseases with essential oils, as the article mentions above proves. And people listen to that sort of thing when it backs up what they want to hear.

      Essential oils and other natural remedies have their place. That place is not first in the queue for potentially life threatening conditions. And yep, these natural remedies help some people. But just like everything else in life, it can’t work for everyone, and for some they will have bad side effects.

      Even something as good for you as water can be harmful or even lethal if you drink too much of it.

      Please, please educate yourself a little. Side effects are by no means limited to prescribed pharmaceuticals. Everything has potential side effects. Too much air, for example, can make you poorly.

  75. Hi Chad
    I’ve a 5 yr old boy who was born at 34 weeks and a preemie
    He has grown in leaps and bounds but being 6 weeks early had left him with few issues, reflux and children’s asthma induced by a common cold
    He has shown signs that he maybe out growing asthma now with much less frequency on attacks on his body , however he has chronic nasal congestion and was given by his Dr a nasal spray to use daily and saline . He absolutely hates the nasal spray cause it irritates him and he says burns
    I’m looking into essential oils to help with congestion but now concerned after reading about giving oils to asthmatics . I would never take his health into my own hands, nor stop his daily inhaler of Flovent, can I supplement with an oil ?
    Thanks for your time

    • Rainy–thanks for your question. There is a small chance that one or more essential oils may help with his congestion. There’s probably a larger chance that they will make him worse. That’s the problem with them–there’s just no research to guide us as to which oils may be helpful or harmful, or what dose to use. There’s also no standardization in the concentration or contents, other than that they come from the same plant.

      I would recommend talking to his doctor about different nasal sprays or other solutions. Also, depending on the reason for the congestion, sinus rinses can be very helpful if you can convince him to give it a try.


  76. Tell me you don’t have any kickback from all the Pharma meds that you prescribed to your patients, then I will believe you! Medical Doctors have forgotten about the hypocritical oath they swore on becoming a doctor. I hope you be more open to alternate and natural cures in treating not the symptoms which you do but in getting to the root of getting rid of illnesses in the world through building up an excellent immune system and optimum nutrition the natural way.

    • I don’t get any kickbacks from pharma companies.

      Now that we got that out of the way, I’m totally open to alternative treatments–if they’re shown to be safe and effective. The vast majority of them are not. And the fact that a treatment is “natural” doesn’t mean that it’s safe. I’m also all for curing diseases instead of managing symptoms, when that’s possible. Sadly, it often isn’t.

    • Comments like this amuse me. I live in a country where the doctors don’t receive any incentives from any pharmaceutical companies (we have the NHS, not individual health insurances). And you will find the same medicines get used here.

      Despite what you may think… doctors don’t go into the profession for the money. They do it because they care and because they want to help people. Even the doctors that do get incentives to prescribe one product over another will only ever do so if it is in the best interests of the patient.

      And whilst cures are not possible for everything, every doctor I have ever encountered (and there have been a lot since I have several ‘incurable but manageable’ health issues) have tried to get to the bottom of each issue I have had. And only when they are positive they cannot go for an outright cure will they go down the palliative route.

      I am not at all naive to the ways of the world, and I have seen the worst it has to offer. But I have also seen the best of it. And there is a different between a healthy amount of skepticism that will protect you, and an unhealthy amount which will negatively impact your life. I think you are leaning towards the unhealthy end of the spectrum here.

      I read the article and it is pretty obvious he isn’t against essential oils. He is simply against the use of essential oils as cures for diseases over other, proven methods, particularly when it comes to our children. Which is important because children can become very poorly very quickly, and wasting a few days on an unproven ‘cure’ that could potentially make them worse can lead to a serious medical emergency that would otherwise have been avoided.

  77. While I am a huge supporter of essential oils, I have to say that lavender oil is a huge trigger for my respiratory system. Any time I diffuse lavender oil in the house, or put drop or two in my humidifier, I wake up with very sore lungs, and an uncontrollable cough for several hours. It has a serious “negative” affect on my breathing.

  78. Febreze is not even close to being an essential oil, it is a chemical filled liquid in a plastic bottle. And if there are essential oils in it, all the chemicals they added to it killed any positive qualities of the EOs. If you want to discredit Essential oil, use a story that is actually about your title. Unfortunately there will never be enough testing done because big pharma cannot claim what is grown naturally. I agree that if people are considering using essential oils they should do alot of research. My husband has asthma and no way would either of us stop his meds for an essential oil until we found that it worked. When I do bring in a new oil I introduce it slowly to him because he does have allergies . Just like conventional medicine you can be allergic . I use frankincense oil for my headaches and it works. I am not associated with any company and I’m not a doctor. I have been using EOs for about a year, and I am enjoying the results they are having in our life.

  79. Thank you! I am a pediatric nurse that happens to have an autistic child with chronic sinus disease and asthma. He has had 9 ear/sinus surgeries and is 7 years old. He has seen some amazing physicians and he also has some underlying immune system issues. While I appreciate the advice, I get told a lot to use essential oils. His pulminologist is against it and so am I. I use them for me and I think that alternative medicine is amazing. However, anything diffused can have horrible consequences for a child with a reactive airway disease. It’s the same reasoning behind not using Vicks vapor rub on him. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way.

  80. I have asthma from allergy it’s a cough. I bought an aroma diffuser this week thinking to put some nice oils in it. I turned it on at bedtime & they made me cough, the lavender I didn’t like & the second one I put was patchouli oil. It’s a good job I didn’t have it going all night as a few hours into my sleep I could feel myself coughing. I think people need to be careful as you don’t know what sort of reaction you are going to have .

  81. I have triad asthma (includes polyps and allergies); I’ve experienced relief using essential oils in numerous ways. Everyone needs to find the method that keeps them healthiest. 10 Years of Pharma meds have broken down my digestion from the steroids so I’ve moved away from them and use supplements and a strict diet to support my health. As a result I’m thriving and still learning new things.

  82. I have Rheumatoid , I went to a essential oil party, by the time I got home I was having an asthma attack. I have been sick all weekend. This oils can be dangerous. They need to be taken seriously, just like meds from a doctor. Their needs to be much stronger regulations on these oils!

  83. I’ve spent years getting my asthma under control. I grew-up without insurance, being treated by emergency room doctors. I’m now an adult with a good job and a great pulmonologist. All this to say, I have a pretty solid understanding of my chronic asthma and the environmental and medical ways to treat it and keep it under control. It is beyond irritating to have someone who has absolutely no medical training tell me I should try an oil instead of my medicine. It is especially frustrating when I hear the girls who sell the oils give people who may not know any better uneducated and dangerous advice.

  84. I am personally in nursing school as we speak. Today our instructor brought in essential oils and was letting the students take some home on soaked cotton balls. I stood off just talking with others and within five minutes I became extremely stuffy and my voice began to sound hoarse. By the time I walked out of the room my chest was really tight! I walked the halls waiting for class to end and I finally had to go back in and get my things so that I could go after my inhaler. By the time that I got to my car my throat was swollen and I could tell my O2 had decreased some. I done my emergency inhaler and stood outside a few minutes in the breeze. 2 hours and a breathing treatment later I am feeling better but have a headache now. I personally don’t know anything about these oils besides what I experienced today and it is enough to keep me away from them.


  85. My father in law is asthmatic & doesn’t like the smell of my essential oils. says it gives him a headache & he can’t breathe & that after I leave his house he can still smell it. So I stopped wearing them but he still says he can smell them. I have searched & I can’t find anything on this topic. Any thoughts or advice??

  86. Thank you for that very useful information . I have asthma and true to form , I was going to diffuse some essential oil when caution told me to double check .

    Can’t thank you enough for this ..

    Smoke , fumes and carpets trigger my attacks . Is there a way I could develop an immunity to those ?

  87. There is some science on essential oils to support respiratory health. Here are a few:

    [Effect of Volatile Oil of Radix Angelicae Sinensis on experimental asthma in rats]. –

    Lavender essential oil inhalation suppresses allergic airway inflammation and mucous cell hyperplasia in a murine model of asthma. –

    Investigation into the mechanism of action of essential oil of Pistacia integerrima for its antiasthmatic activity. –

    Chemical composition and mechanisms underlying the spasmolytic and bronchodilatory properties of the essential oil of Nepeta cataria L. –

    There is a lot more where this came from. Anyone can go to pubmed and do a search.

    Trying things like essential oils and herbs as a first line in something that isn’t immediately life-threatening will rarely hurt anything. They are cheaper, our bodies are more adapted to plant medicines, and there are rarely serious side effects, unlike with pharmaceutical drugs.

    I believe people should be able to choose for THEMSELVES which types of medicines to use. The more information out there, the better. Unfortunately, with the huge crackdown on natural medicines including essential oils, we are already seeing much less information available online. People must now turn to books, while they can still get them.

    • People DO choose for themselves which treatments to use…that’s why I attempt to provide the best possible information for them to use to make those decisions. And you’re right, anyone can go to PubMed and do a search (although they probably can’t access the studies). But interpreting the studies is something that actually requires some knowledge and training–there’s a lot of emphasis on this is medical school and residency training. One really important point is that mouse/rat studies and in vitro studies, like the ones you listed, very rarely pan out. These are first steps on the way to clinical trials, where the effects in humans (both positive and negative) could be measured.

      I’m not saying essential oils aren’t effective for anything–just that you shouldn’t hang your hat on animal studies. And until there’s some evidence from humans, it’s probably best to avoid unproven treatments that have a good chance of making symptoms worse.

      • Some studies are petri dish studies comparing different infectious bacteria to essential oil treatments. Some essential oils help biofilms to form. You are right to investigate studies, and I appreciate your view of mouse/rat experiments. Looking at Probiotics and studies on which ones help particular conditions is very interesting!

    • I take between 28 and 32 prescribed tablets daily. I have several health conditions and treatment for them has been complicated. I have tried alternative therapies with little success. Before prescribing a medication, my doctor explains to me about the med, its side effects, what my alternative options are, and what I could do if this med didn’t work. The same thing happens when I go in there and ask for a particular medication. She will always call me after I have been on the medication for a week or two to see how I am getting on and if there are any side effects.

      I am lucky enough to have a very good relationship with my GP. I have ALWAYS chosen what medications to take and I have refused medications in the past that I didn’t feel were right for me. I take a couple of hours to research each new medication before I take it, and both me and my doctor think carefully about any interactions that can happen while being on multiple medications.

      I am not sure if you have actually bothered trying to research anything recently, but the internet is bursting with information on pretty much everything. Seriously. Google knows everything. Information on every topic is now more easily accessible than ever before. I have just done a few basic searches on natural medicines.. and got millions upon millions of results.

      I am not sure what crack down you are on about but all I can say is you obviously didn’t look very hard… if at all. As for books… they are now more easily accessible than ever before. You can order them to be delivered to your home, read them online or on a mobile device, you can even have them read to you. You can gain access to most books in seconds and if you want to actually hold the book in your hands it usually only takes a few days for them to arrive.

      Also you seem to go on as if plant based medicines are separate from medicine. Many medications prescribed today either use plant extracts or are made from plants etc. Aspirin is one of the more widely known examples. It is derived from the bark of the Willow tree. One of the nicest drugs I am on is Morphine.. made from the Poppy. There are many other examples. A lot of prescribed medications are far more natural than some tend to believe! 🙂

  88. I found this article because I have been having asthma symptoms since using a diffuser. My asthma is normally very controlled yet every time I try to use the diffuser my sinuses swell and I can’t catch my breath. It feels like I have a weight on my chest. I have tried lavender and eucalyptus and both caused the same problem.

  89. You mention Montelukast. I take it at night (have for years) was that a negative or positive comment?
    I was given a diffuser and a box of essential oils by a friend; can I use any of the oils without harmful effects. I am on prednisone for polymyalgia rheumatica. I only used my emergency inhaler recently for bronchitis and asthma due to severe sand storms where I live.

  90. My daughter (whom is 14) has asthma, however it is extremely well controlled. She’s suffering from social anxiety and mild depression (diagnosed by our G.P. ) I am planning to give her an Indian Head massage and know that Frankincense is great for ‘grounding’ someone / calming , can I use this essential oil in a carrier oil on her? I have used it recently for my anxiety attacks and I found it really good. I have epilepsy and very well controlled asthma.

  91. I totally see your point. However, do not put chemical laden Fabreeze in the same category as essential oils….. Thanks!

  92. My husband just got out of the hospital after 10 days of treatment for pneumonia and sepsis. Could our newly acquired diffuser with “Essential Oils ” brand lavender have caused his illness.

  93. I have a question. I have a bicuspid aortic valve and have problems with heart palpatations, can certain oils agitate this and cause my heart rate to soar? The reason I ask is that a coworker is hell bent on flooding our office with these oils (but God forbid someone wear perfume) and when the aroma is strong, it seems as if I have been running a marathon.

  94. Thank you for such an informative article. I had actually come across that article before some time ago on a friends feed and it worried me then, enough for me to do my own research debunking it and pass it along to my friend, anyway.

    I love it when they use how long something has been around as an argument for its validity. Because essential oils have indeed been around for a long time, and yet an entire field of science devoted to curing disease was still created to cope with all the diseases these magic oils were not curing (including every example listed in that article). If we already had a cure that was working, why would that have been necessary.

    What is more, when essential oils are advised, they are advised under a ‘one cure works for everyone’ sort of philosophy. There is a reason why we have so many medications all treating the same things… different things work for different people. You can’t just put forth two oils as a cure and expect them to work for everyone. Medicine doesn’t work that way. But of course… this isn’t medicine.

    The upsetting thing is that people won’t do their own research.

    And before the haters come, I have an entire cabinet full of essential oils. I use them in everything including when I make my own makeup, in oil burners, in massages and in my baths. I love them. I like the way they can relax me or energise me or invigorate me. I like the way they can help with my sleep, and relax me of an evening. I like that I can create a warming balm to rub on my back to help with my paid from them, and I like that I can create tinctures with them to help with the nausea caused by the morphine I am on. I used them to create a menthol vapour/ rub to help my child when she has a cold. What I don’t do with them, however, is ‘cure’ myself. Or my child.

    There is a saying I rather like regarding the issue: Do you know what they call alternative medicines that have been proven to work? Medicine.

    • I meant a warming balm to help with my pain. I really shouldn’t try and type anything coherent at 4am.

  95. Thank you. I have children with asthma and I am sick of everyone telling me I’m killing my children by giving them meds. But not one of those are there when I’m holding my three ur old in my arms and he is gasping for air.

  96. A year later, I would like to know if EO are coming up more in your practice? I have replaced my prescribed x4 daily use of albuterol with doTerra’s Breathe EO for 3 yrs now. I use to get the tremmors from using Abuterol. Which is why I looked for an alternative. I only suffer from a mild case of asthma that usually leads to difficulty breathing &/or spontanious bloody noses.

    I only ask to see if i am a rare case, or somethibg you hear more frequently. Breathe has helped me through asthma attaks, i do keep an inhaler just in case, but it has to be expired by now.

  97. My friend’s son asthma was getting worse by the day, the doctors found that the triggers were dust and pets. She got rid of the cat, she removed the carpets and curtains, went to hardwood floors and got air filters and kept the house cleaner. Still, he needed the pump and to stay on medication. Then someone mentioned the oil diffuser and she tried it. He is now off his medication and hardly needs the pump. I personally have allergies to the sun and get very itchy in the Spring and Summer. I tried many creams, even prescriptions creams. Nothing really helped much. Then someone told me about Tea Tree oil and I tried. It worked wonderfully, lasts about 8 hrs then I have to reapply. Cheaper than my prescription cream. I understand your concerns. I tried the regular medication first but when that didn’t work I think there is nothing wrong with trying alternatives. PS: I don’t sell oils, I hate selling 🙂

  98. Great post. Teachers wanted to make the room smell “nice” down wind of a dairy by putting scented candles and spraying or plugging in “air fresheners”1/4 mile from a 5000 cow dairy /asthma trigger dust source/ across the street from walnut trees during harvest /dust
    so thick it looks like fog. This accentuated fall airnow pmi and ozone redflag days. Last summer a forest fires smoke hung raising pmi to astronomical levels. Why folks figure their pretty beats others breathing I will never know. A fourth grader at my kids school died between class and the office where they sent him on his own to beg the right to breath a puff on his dr prescribed inhaler. That school district finally allows children to keep rescue inhalers instead of asking permission to breath- wauting to be called on, dismissed, getting a note and pass written, walk across a 1000 plus pupil campus, walk into a crowded office, wait in line to have medicine requested.

  99. I am glad to have come across your blog. Thank you. I am 64 and was diagnosed with asthma as a young child in Indiana. Lots of symptoms as a child; a few attacks; weekly shots. In my mid twenties made a couple of ER visits while living in California. Then for the most part things seemed to be pretty dormant. I lived in Washington state for a time, returned to Indiana for a few years and have lived in Colorado for the last 31 years. The last 15 years has been an asthma roller coaster. My regular doctor does a pretty good job of adjusting my maintenance meds. I also did testing at National Jewish which confirmed what I already know about this constrictive airway disease. About 1 time per year I have to take Prednisone which I am taking now due to overload of some yet undetermined allergens and triggers. I was thinking maybe I should stop drinking coffee (recent habit) and whether I should stop using my tea tree oil shampoo which I love. I love it on my hair and it makes my skin feel great. I love the scent. It seems that with scents, especially, if I like them, they don’t seem to be a trigger. I rarely wear fragrance and stay clear of scented lotions. I can tell immediately if some scents are triggers. On some occasions I cannot smell what is bothering me. The article I read about oils seemed to be pro tea tree oil and another was pro coffee and orange juice (among other things). I thought the acidic nature of coffee and juice were perhaps doing more harm than good and thought I should eliminate them for a while. Right now there is a high exposure to pollens, smoke from fires, and I did some cleaning and fumigating that I should have left to someone else. It is windy and dry where I work with lots of native foliage so I generally stay indoors. At home the air conditioning is very helpful. We used to have a swamp cooler and that was awful for me. Our environment gets more toxic all the time so sometimes it is really challenging. I just want to eliminate any triggers I have control of. I am working through a process of elimination to see what recent behaviors have overloaded my system. I just appreciate your cautionary comments for what people read on the internet.

  100. I developed asthma 9 months ago after breathing mold and fiber glass from the central air conditioning of the building unit I used to live in. I was in hospital for 6 days and I haven’t been able to control it since then. I have been taking all the medicine you mentioned in the article above and I am pretty sure that without them, I would be dead by now. I have been trying eucalyptus essential oil to breathe better and it has helped me, but I am sure that treating asthma with only alternative medicine is quite impossible since it is a very very dangerous disease. I feel like I have a plastic bag on my head. I feel miserable because I haven’t been able to work out anymore and lead a normal life like before (now that I am in crisis).
    I understand your point of view in the article and I thank you for it. I like alternative medicine very much, but serious diseases like asthma have to be treated immediately and effectively.

  101. I prefer holistic options. It’s been my experience most Dr’s over prescribe medications for adults and children. These days, they will submit an Rx based on a phone call or an email, without any examination. I think a lot of medications are mimicing natrual occurences in some plant or root already here and I think more often than acknowlegded, something natural IS the answer. Asthma is a sensitive subject for me. I have had two friends lose their life, not even physically very far from their inhaler, and a young and vibrant cousin, who can’t move, or speak anymore, after only 8 minutes of a bad attack. So even though I don’t immunize, even though I have recovered from three major surgeries without bothering to fill my prescription for pain meds… I still see Dr’s as necessary. Google has everyone feeling so empowered with knowledge, it can get a bit dangerous. Be smart. It takes a REALLY REALLY long time to gain the credentials for a reason. I think it’s a good idea to use essential oils(discussing what’s ok with your Dr and research), and reflexology, regularly…. but to also have a current Rx for those situations that escalate. After surgeries, I took the antibiotics. Just be smart about it.

    • I’m one of the fools who bought Young Living for “safe” things like immune support and sleep aids. Then, the sales person (after I purchased) was boasting to me how the guy in charge of YL takes 7 drops of frankincense each day which brings him closer to God and the development of more products. Sheesh. I just bought from a company where the CEO might as well be smoking peyote on the reservation, if this boast is true. This does not give me confidence in the company, Oh contrar! I have not yet opened the box. I’ll open it when I have my next appointment with my real doc and see if anything is selvagable.

      • Well, the Hebrews and the Catholics have been using frankincense for centuries to help enhance their connection to God. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! (and I have!)

      • Frankincense is actually great for clearing the mind, which definitely helps with bringing one closer to God. I diffuse it during homeschooling. It does help with clearing the mind, I’ve noticed. To each his own.

  102. My board certified physician is also board certified in acupuncture. So she combines alternative medicines with medical school and I personally like that a lot. I do use essential oils as sleep aids and as immune supports. Does my use of essential oils concern my physician? Yes. Should essential oils concern her? Absolutely. I have enough medical knowledge through years of working in health care to be potentially dangerous to myself. But, I know this about myself. So, I’m cautious. I never use any oil without first doing a biomedical literature search to make certain that qualified alternative medicine peer reviewed practitioners state that it seems safe although more studies are needed. And, you will also not find me ever using St. John’s wort as an oil or supplement unless my doc prescribes it. And I would never use any oil for an allergic reaction or any other serious ailment without consulting my physician first. Would I ever use essential oils to treat a cancer? Don’t know. But I do know that if I am ever faced with that decision, I would only forgo the side effects of western medicine if I were prepared to choose death over those side effects. Because that is the reality of that choice. And, that might be ok. Right now in my life, probably not. I don’t know. I watched my youngest sister go through chemo. Her remission was longer than most have with her cancer and it was given to her through pharmaceuticals. Western medicine bought her a few years. The evangelism of the “committed” essential oil crowd scares me as does any extreme religion or stance. But, what I find most curious is this — pharmaceutical companies are billed as greedy. To some extent that is true. I think the shareholders could make less and we would all be ok. But, at $98 for a tiny bottle of essential oils, does the typical oil sales person not understand that they are also making money for someone other than their self? It’s not regulated and that, to me, is the largest concern. Water quality and chlorination are regulated? Why? So we don’t have outbreaks of typhoid and cholera. The problem is that regulated measures have given us a quality of life for so many generations that only the truly old old can remember what it was like before. Im not totally for or against western medicine. I’m not totally for or against alternative medicines. So, yes. I use oils for non-life threatening events. But, I’m hopefully smart about it. And, I realize that everything has a chemical structure, including essential oils.

  103. I got some essential oils to test out to see if it helps me with my anxiety. I thought to myself what if I’m just wasting my money and then I though oh well I waist money on candles and air fresheners that I have no idea whats in them. So at least I can make my own perfume or air freshener that is going to be healthier for me to breath in than the fake fragrances that we all use about everyday.

  104. Are you comparing essential oils to frebreze? Because the two couldn’t be more opposite… I understand you should never over use oils and to be cautious of which to use with certain diseases or pathologies and their side-effects, but maybe actually using an example of an essential oil harming someone with asthma or a certain disease would be make your case more valid. Using a story about frebreze that is loaded with chemicals already which will obviously trigger an attack. Yes this treatment is medically unproven but like its said below natural treatments like essential oils have been used for centuries. We weren’t put here on this planet to make prescription drugs we were put here with these resources GROWING at our fingertips…

    • I’m not saying that they are the same–tried to make that clear, but I am saying that there is potential for them both to have negative effects. The fact that humans have used something for centuries (before we understood anything about how the body works or the microbes that can make it sick) doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily beneficial. It doesn’t mean they’re bad either–just saying that it’s very possible to doing something the wrong way for a long time, and appealing to the wisdom of people who knew far less than we do isn’t the best argument. Examples: blood letting, gum lancing, and any number of treatments for “hysteria.”

    • Anthrax is natural and has been around for centuries too…. that doesn’t make it awesome. Chinese medicine has also been around for centuries… that doesn’t mean ivory cures erectile dysfunction.

      You said that we weren’t designed to make prescription drugs because we have the answers at our fingertips. I find that an interesting assertion because despite having these magic ‘cures’ we still needed to create an entire industry dedicated to curing things these ‘magic’ oils could not.

      I agree that Febreeze is nothing like an essential oil, but I don’t feel that devalues the points Dr. Hayes has made on this post. It simply points out another thing to be cautious with around children. xx

  105. Hi, I came across this article while trying to find info on grapefruit EO interactions with Symbicort. My reason is I wanted to try the three day military diet as a jump start on weight loss. Yes, I know this isn’t necessarily a healthy diet to use often but I know I need to see some quick results to up my motivation. Anyway, I’m just going to assume the oil is a no-go with my Symbicort. My question now is, what is your opinion on the use of herbal teas (along with prescribed use of my inhaler) to help me in breathing & cutting down on coughing while recovering from a simple cold? Quite often I cough because of a “tickle” in my lungs. The tea in question is called Traditional Medicinal’s Breathe Easy. I’ve never been diagnosed with asthma or any other breathing problems.

    • Hiya, I just checked that company’s website and it says the following:
      I take a medication – could it interact with the herbs in your tea?

      We’re glad you’re exploring herbal teas, but you’re wise to be cautious. Some herbs are known to interact with prescription and over the counter medications. Please check the packaging of your tea for interactions and cautions, and if you’re taking medication, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor or pharmacist before using any herbal product.

      I have looked at the many ingredients in the tea you are looking at and I would be very cautious before taking it, especially since you are on prescription medication. It is tough to know how they will interact. My pharmacist stopped me buying a herbal sleeping aid because it would have interacted with my meds.

      I personally would avoid it, but if you want to learn more then speaking to your pharmacist may be a better idea than speaking to your doctor, they sometimes understand medicines and interactions a little better than the doctors since they only work with medicines.

      Good luck! And if you have had the cough for more than three weeks, you should get it checked out by a doctor. x

    • Oooh and one last thing about the diet… I would reconsider it. The way it is designed you would have small amounts of high fat foods… that is likely to leave yo feeling hungry and grouchy, aside from the fact it isn’t all that healthy. There are other diets that will offer quick initial results if that is what you need, but keep one thing in mind… diets can never work because they end. The only way to lose weight and keep it off is to change your lifestyle. Boring… I know. But true. You can see fairly quick results by making those changes, especially initially.

      I had an issue with drinking coke. I had no idea how bad it was until I switched it with water. Seriously I lost 3 stone in a year and that was the only thing I changed lol.

      Best of luck sweetie.

  106. I love this article and all of its direct impact on individuality. As a professor of nursing with COPD, asthma, and migraines I use this professional opinion article all the time in my courses; especially when students bring up the possibility of Florence walking around with Lavender oils burning in her lamp to heal the sick. Do not get me wrong as I strongly believe in the medicinal properties of holistic therapies and CAM versus prescription’s and OTC’s. I used aromatherapy and burned candles of all different scents in my house for years and years. I used to apply lavender to my sisters temples during her seizures, triggered by brain cancer, to calm her down.
    Now at the age of 56, I practically need to wear a mask in public to avoid smelling scents from at least 20 feet away because they have become my airway irritant. I can smell dryer sheets from anywhere in the neighborhood when I sit on my patio. Fragrances and scents make it difficult for me to breathe and instantly trigger a severe complex migraine. Going out in public has become a major undertaking. No matter what time of day, someone has dosed themselves with either cheap or expensive perfume and why? It’s Walmart for goodness sake.
    Why have we prohibited people from smoking in public places and not prohibited perfume?? I have to request fragrance free hotel rooms and walk in first to test the room. My husband has to put his deodorant on in his truck on his way to work. Plug-ins are now my worst enemy. When visiting family and friends that use them, the visit is short and I usually have to step outside for fresh air multiple times. I have even gotten good at seek and destroy; I find them and unplug them. My co-workers hate me because I complain about their shampoo and hairspray drifting through the hallway and into my office. I sat next to a student one night at an awards ceremony, her perfume was so strong that within 5 minutes my nose started bleeding. Maybe I should live in a bubble but am I alone here??
    Let’s keep saying how good oils, scents, and fragrances are. Let’s start using them more and more all over again. Let’s repeat history of a reactive nature only to discover more and more late onset lung and nerve disorders. Or let us not!
    Let us be cautious, conservative, and considerate. Cautious as to our knowledge and education of aroma’s and oils and as to where that knowledge comes from and use extreme caution when practicing on our children. Conservative as to how much is too much, reserve their use. Most of all have consideration for others. Just as no smoking in public places is considerate of the potential health hazards for other humans, the use of scents and fragrances in public places should also be recognized as hazardous. This is like a nurse wearing perfume giving a patient a breathing treatment, where is the common sense?
    Perhaps, those that have not had the experience of breathlessness, scintillating scotomas, stroke-like symptoms, and multiple hospitalizations may not recognize this as important, but it is to me. As a professional I will continue to educate the multitude on both the pros and the cons.

    • Please don’t compare toxic petrochemical fragrances from scented candles and perfumes to that of genuine essential oils. There is no comparison of their impact on the body whatsoever.

      • Just an FYI: There are elements to compare that may impact our bodies, so be sure to read the MSDS sheet for every essential oil. It can inform you about possible toxicity, environmental hazards to our drinking water during disposal, flammability, skin irritant risks, harmful if swallowed, dangers to the ozone layer, and what to do in case of decreased ventilation.

      • In this case, Julie, that is untrue. Both essential oils and other strong smells have exactly the same impact on this Lady. In her case, there is a very strong comparison.

    • I am sorry you have such a tough time of things, Dr. Deb! Living life so sensitive to smells must be incredibly difficult, and I empathise with you. I hope there is some way you can get your symptoms under control and I hope you are under a sympathetic and empathetic doctor who can help you try different things to help.

      I can understand your frustration regarding the use of scents in our everyday lives. However, I have to say that I don’t agree with banning scents in public places, or comparing it to smoking. It may be the same to you in terms of your reaction, but the difference is that smoking (even passively) is harmful to *everyone*. Reactions to smells like yours are comparatively rare, and most people have no reaction to the smells. I should mention that I am a smoker. I recognise it is a nasty habit, and I never smoke near others, even if I have guests in my home I go outside to smoke. And if I am outside and walking past someone I hold my breath until they are out of the way. I try my best to be considerate.

      I do, however, wear perfume. I treated myself to a really nice one, and it makes me feel special, and confident enough to go outside. I have severe anxiety that often makes leaving my home very difficult. Putting on my makeup and perfume is like a battle armour for me and makes leaving my home a little easier. It boosts my confidence when someone says I look or smell nice. And as a smoker, it is nice for people to smell something other than the smoke on me.

      I do agree with you about nurses wearing perfume while treating people with breathing difficulties, that makes sense to me, but unfortunately I don’t think you will have much luck banning scents in public.

      I really do wish you the best, and I hope there is some sort or regime out there that will make your life far easier. xx

      • Hayley,

        You are a sweetheart! It is rare to come across posts from people with emotional intelligence such as yourself! I hope Dr Deb’s oversensitive sense of smell can tone down too ? You are a blessing though…keep being you!

  107. I just have to say that this Dr. Doesn’t know everything. The reality is, I was born premature and a twin, my lungs collapsed 3 times and I had asthma all my life. Peppermint oil helps reduce inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Also extremely warm water also helps. I have found that several essential oils have helped reduce several issues me and my family have. Engineered medicine is rarely the answer and should only be sought as a last resort .

    • They may be beneficial–they may be harmful. Either way, they need to be proven before using them for serious illnesses.

      I’m the first to admit that I don’t know everything, but people selling essential oils don’t either.

  108. I was just looking into essential oils because my cat has asthma. The vet prescribed her steroids, but I was warned that if we give them to her continuously, the medications will most likely destroy her liver. That gave me the choice of my poor cat coughing & suffering asthma attacks or kill her liver. I don’t like either choice so I was just researching what else I could possibly try. So far, I haven’t done anything since I am still in the research stage.

  109. When I saw that Febreeze was used, my first thought was, “Of course, no wonder! It’s FULL of chemicals!”. My second was, “Wait, how is this supposed to apply to EOs?” Then I scrolled all the way through and it was never said anywhere that EOs were used. I’m not seeing a connection. Are you saying that Febreeze and essential oils are the same thing? If so, I cannot agree to that at all. Can you clarify? Thank you

  110. I’m 24 and have allergy induced asthma. I had been dealing with headaches that would not go away and a well eating friend gave me some lavender oil to try. Didn’t help the headache but it didn’t bother me. The more I used it I started to notice some wheezing and general tightness. I had to use my inhaler. I was told, after bringing this up, that it was because of toxins in my body and there was no way you could be allergic to the oil. I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Not saying oils are bad and should never be used, just remember the people selling oils are usually just that and don’t have a ton of medical knowledge and just base their opinions on what these oil companies tell them.

  111. I was on prednisone each time I had a severe asthma attack which was approx 6-8 times a year. Albuterol and prednisone raised my glucose numbers in a dramatic way and I felt damned if you do and damned if you don’t. They also made my heart race. I had quintuple bypass in 2014 so now it scares me when having to use asthma meds. A friend told me about essential oils in particular doTERRA Breathe respiratory blend that has
    Laurel Leaf, Eucalyptus Leaf, Peppermint Plant, Melaleuca Leaf, Lemon Peel, Ravensara Leaf, Cardamom Seed essential oils. I started to put one drop in the palm of my hand, cup my hands together and breathe in through mouth and nose once a day. I must say, it has been 3 months and I have not had to use my inhaler or nebulizer. If it keeps me from using my inhaler, it’s worth it to me. I do know when I am getting a bad one though and I won’t stop going to ER if need be. I think every one is different. I wonder if someone’s asthma is triggered by the essential oil plants if that could be adverse. Apparently, I’m not.

  112. I agree with you, essential oils are very beneficial but there needs to be a clear line drawn. I haven’t read the article you’re referencing, and I don’t plan on it. I tend to fact check and check credentials before I “like” and “share”. I wish other’s could do the same.

    Oh, and tbh I started reading your article ready to be offended by your over-medicated background lol. I’m just over here eating humble pie. Delicious.

  113. I appreciate this posting. As a Critical Care RRT, I get extremely frustrated with folks thinking that they can completely replace medications with oils or herbs for serious illness/disease.
    That being said… I do love my essential oils for muscle and mind relaxation, I truly to believe that they work for such things… They also seem to be helping with my rosacea. I do have to admit that I use the lavender and eucalyptus drops in some coconut oil as a chest rub at night (I have mild/moderate asthma) and I seem to sleep better (this could also just be that it relaxes me). HOWEVER, before my morning run, I STILL use my Albuterol MDI x3-4 puffs and won’t be replacing it with essential oils any time soon!!
    Thank you again for the posting. This is the first of yours that I have stumbled across and will be reading more.
    P.S. I agree, Tamaflu bites!

  114. Great info! But better yet it is balanced. I so appreciate that, from an MD especially.
    I run a diffuser at night with essential oils for my asthmatic child; it really does help her breathing.
    I would never withhold medicine from her, I do see however that she needs it far less.
    I do many practices though, dust and vacuum often, limit dairy because it thickens the mucus membranes, I still carry her inhaler with me in case she needs it.
    It’s about the whole person. Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest, Time with God (or whatever spiritual connection you have) and yes, sometimes medicine too.

  115. This is interesting and eye opening. I had been using a fan diffuser, and used a mix oil that was supposed to be a preventative for getting ill. I had some guests over, some of witch have Athsma, and/or allergies ( we live in Central CA so its not uncommon ) — I noticed that more than 3 people were coughing , and my athsmatic daughter had to leave the room. I began to think it was the essential oil diffuser and turned it off and opened the windows. It seemed to help . I cannot remember all the oils it contained but Eucalyptus was one of them. Since then Ive noticed even some scented ” Aromatherapy ” candels trigger my daughters athsma.
    Im really a fan of candles, oils & such so it hard to give up but my childs health is more important.
    Anyway, thats my imput. Its definately something to consider. Not saying they are bad for everyone, but not good for everyone either.

  116. My problem. I have been put on a nebuliser to help my condition. I went to hospital last year with chest infection they put me on nebuloser when treatment finished I passed out and spent two weeks hospital. Now I have one at home and it is making my breathing worse. Does this happen to anyone else. Thanks

  117. I’ve heard that there have been some experiments with asthma and hookworms. Has there been any headway with it?

  118. I am a regular essential oil user but would not risk replacing mainline treatment in high risk illnesses. I did see benefits for my young one for respiratory distress and control of infection through homeopathy. So much so he has in his 8 years have been on antibiotics only once.
    I believe in being responsible rather than proving a point and would like to continue using essential oils for my well being and pharma drugs for more severe illnesses. I am allergic to certain oils and so yes I am careful of applying them on myself and similarly on others without testing. So yes pretty much sensible use of pharma drugs and maintaining health through alternative approaches.

  119. Thank you for sharing this. I wish to share what happened to me 15 years ago. I love the smell of eucalyptus oil and I would dab a little on my handkerchief and it didn’t do anything to me but one day I bought a candle infused with eucalyptus oil and it caused my respiration to shut down whenever I lit the candle. Strangely I am not even asthmatic. Imagine if it had happened to a child.

  120. I am alergic to eucalyptus , I was interested in this product that us being advertised until I read that people can die or almost died from taking the eucalyptus. Scary.

  121. Well, HI!

    Lots of lively discussion here. Not a fan of MLM’s for a variety of reasons, but the quality of the products is not one of them.

    My daughter recently presented with an arrhythmia. Her asthma meds include montekulast and Asmanex, as well as Xoponex as a rarely used rescue. I looked into the idea that the meds could be causing the heart issue and saw some alarming stats on the first two drugs and grave outcomes of patients who presented with arrhythmia. YIKES. Now, I don’t know what kind of arrhythmia people had in those stats, or even if the meds caused it, but as her advocate, I felt the most vigilant thing to do was to suspend those for a while. So, no more of those until we at least know if the heart issue will resolve if she’s off them for a couple months.

    In the mean time, what to do? I was not encouraged reading about other steroid options.

    Well, I bought some Nasalcrom and we’re dosing heavy with that. And I put some Vicks and water in a wax melter in her room at night.

    She has previously seen relief when her lungs have felt “tight” by chewing strong mint gum, so I figured the mint with the eucalyptus was a pretty safe bet. So far, so good!

    Asthma and the meds for it often put people between a rock and a hard place looking for relief.

    And it is my experience that wherever there are people pressed with a malady, there is someone trying hard to sell them hope. Sometimes it’s a MLM company, or an EBook or even a pharmaceutical company. Any of them could be good money after bad or worse, create a whole new health problem.

    Thanks for your article and for all the people who personally suffer or are caregivers for those with asthma who have taken the time to give their personal experiences.

  122. As an aromatherapist I really welcomed your comments on the above and especially your case study. We are NOT doctors, and here, in in England, it is totally irresponsible for us not to take into consideration people who have even slight symptoms of ANY kind of respiratory illnesses/condition when carrying out a treatment. Please may I print this page for my fellow students and for our Teacher to use in class? I am currently studying for my Diploma in Aromatherapy at VTCT Level 4.

  123. My story: I suffered with a chronic sinus infection for nine years. I was prescribed over 70 rounds of antibiotics, one of which was a six week IV, and I had seven sinus surgeries. I was never without the sinus infection in that period of time. My first ENT doctor was excellent but after five years, told me that he was not able to help me. When I found a new Rhinologist, he introduced me to his father who is also a doctor. After doing a series of tests, he discovered that my immune system was no longer functioning, most likely due to the continual use of antibiotics and ordered necessary infusions to build my immune system back up. I had these treatments for eighteen months. I had my last sinus surgery at the seventeen month mark. I had been looking into the use of essential oils around this time and decided to try them in a diffuser at night. I researched several sites before deciding which essential oils were most commonly recommended for the symptoms I was dealing with for sinus infections. Since using the essential oils, I have had only one sinus infection in the past fifteen months and it was a very minor one which cleared up quickly. Not only that, but I have not been sick at all since I began using the oils. I also believe that my measure of success with essential oils was because it was in conjunction with the final sinus surgery and with my immune system being restored. I also began using essential oils for my particular asthma issues and they definitely help me with my symptoms. I would never advise anyone to use essential in place of necessary medication, but I know they have deinately aided in relieving my symptoms, and in fighting off some bacterial threats. I share my story in the hope that it may be helpful to this topic although it does not directly address childhood asthma.

  124. Thank you for your article. I believe in using the right tool for the job. I wouldn’t use a chainsaw to cut a piece of paper and I wouldn’t use scissors to cut a piece of wood. My children’s doctor actually appreciates that I don’t come in the 1st day of a simple cold/mild fever, but use remedies and OTC until symptoms have been present long enough for her to know they need to be prescribed something. I’ve been fascinated with essential oils since I was 12 (I’m 32 now), and it scares the daylights out of me to hear what some are recommending people use essential oils for lately. I was at a “class” not too long ago where the “teacher” recommended soaking a tampon in (undiluted) tea tree oil for a yeast infection. She also suggested giving small children wintergreen to suck on because “it tastes good and makes their breath smell so nice!” I almost hyperventilated. I found this article (at 1am) when I googled “albuterol and diffusers”. See, my three year old had a cold recently and since he has asthma, the cough is lingering. Before bed we did his breathing treatment (albuterol and budesonide in a nebulizer) but now he is coughing again and I don’t want to go to sleep till it stops. Waking him for a breathing treatment now would mean a fight to the death, hence the bizzar idea of putting the albuteral in a diffuser. If he was older I would give him cough medicine, but he’s not. I do have the diffuser running now with a little bit of lavender and chamomile in the hopes of reducing any inflammation the coughing is causing (it’s helped in the past), but it is no substitute for a real breathing treatment. All I can do now is wait up and hope the episode resolves mostly on its own, as they usually do. I’m frightened about how much damage is going to be done, with these MLM reps who know nothing about these oils but are trying to earn an income selling them to people who also know nothing. It’s a very dangerous situation. I actually miss the days before essential oils were the ” it” thing and I was the odd one (My mom is an RN so my love of natural medicine was *so* weird to my family).

  125. I always use essential oils in conjunction with advised medication from a doctor.
    Essential Oils have improved many health conditions for me and my family but obviously to be used with common sense. I’m reading this now as my little girls does have asthma that has flared up and I am about to diffuse some oils for her – after giving her all of the recommended medication from her doctor that does also cause her some anxiety I am diffusing Eucalyptus & Bergamot. Thank you for your post. I always think it is extremely important to educate others when it comes to something as serious as Asthma.

  126. Thankfully there are many medical studies now being done with essential oils– specifically doterra– at institutions like Johns Hopkins and others. Hopefully the empirical research will separate guess and real relief for patients. The fabreeze is a non example since it Is NOT pure essential oil based… but of course, a good warning. Here’s hoping research speaks for itself

  127. I am trying to research essential oils and the effect on the lungs. I have a small vapor diffuser and my husband doesn’t think we should be breathing in the essential oil vapor, that it could harm our lungs. Of course the doTerra people tell you it’s safe but they are not going to tell you their product is toxic. I don’t buy from them anyway; the few I have are from Young Living and I just ordered Thieves. I’d like your opinion on the effects on the lungs.

  128. I stumbled upon your comments looking for asthma relief myself ( Im an Adult). I shared your comments to my own Facebook page because the oil craze seems to be growing.
    I agree with you that it should never be used in place of or even with prescribed medications. Thank you for putting that out there. I just hope it reaches people before any disasters.

  129. Thank you. I was looking into getting some to maybe help a little with my daughters asthma and her boyfriends CF (when hes over). After reading this i am glad i did not buy it. That is scary and im glad the boy is ok.

  130. I’m so glad to read this, but there are other hidden hazards. I was prescribed ProAir for a rescue inhaler when I was first diagnosed with asthma at age 68x about 18 months ago.

    ProAir contains ethenol (who never thought that was a good idea?) I have highly reactive airways, and the cure really was worse than the disease. An alert respiratory therapist figuredvitvou, but deeply inhaling ethanol as an asthma attack was intensifying put me in the hospital forba total of 17!days, including one of eight days’ duration.

    Changed to Ventolin and all that stopped. I don’t think many people realize that ProAirvcontains ethanol.

  131. What do you recommend for adults suffering from asthma? My husband suffers from it and it’s scary to see him not able to catch a breath. He goes to acupuncturists and herbalists, with minimal results

  132. As always ,theres only one answer pharmacuticals, there is a time and place for meds and also for oils. Oils have been used for hundreds of years to treat many ailments successfully,people and Dr’s need to educate themsleves with the ailment,the meds that can be used and the oils that might work or assist and use them with caution

  133. Having been a child who was frequently in and out of hospital for weeks at a time with compromised breathing that was terrifying for me, I have to say that any parent looking to experiment with their little one under the misguided notion it will help them, had better be well versed in soothing a frightened child who is unable to talk, feels as though someone is crushing the air out of them, and stopping them getting air in. They also need to accept responsibility for the life long complications of their actions. I am all for natural remedies where possible, I personally believe anti biotics are over issued however there are times where they are needed, there are times when mum does know best, but when it comes to children and respiratory deficit, no matter what the cause do not take unnecessary risks that may result in your 4 year old developing a life long condition as a complication in misguided experimentation often done under desperation to help your little one who is struggling. My mother never got over her guilt in her part of giving me a life sentence, when all she was trying to do was help. The fact she was a qualified nurse was her greatest shame because her training had urged her not to do it, but the mother was desperate and the heart ruled the head.

    • Well, that’s the problem: when a child is very sick and mainstream medicine seems unable to help, I can understand how parents would at least become a little curious about alternatives.

      But all the talk we have in the media about false news? It’s been true about alternative treatments for years–decades, really.

      • Yes Susan, I agree about the misguided news; it’s hard to know if it’s a false advertisement or legitimate. It’s important to me to read scientific studies about “natural remedies” (first word that came to mind was actually “spices”.)

  134. I work at an elementary school. A parent has decided to take their child off of their medication and, instead, have the school nurse rub their child’s feet with peppermint oils every day. Today was the first day. The child has a “doctor’s note” that says this must be done. I walked in to the room and immediately began having an asthma attack from the smell of the oils. I have NEVER had an asthma attack from smells before… but, believe me, it was THAT strong. So glad I had not only an inhaler with me, but an epi-pen and Benydryl. By the way, the child was not able to focus, did not listen to directions, could not complete a task… the list goes on, but hey….. doesn’t that oil work so much better than the meds?; but who am I to say… I’m just the employee who will suffer while the child ultimately suffers too.

  135. I came across this because I wanted to see if my experience was common. I am on disability for lung issues. I have asthma & COPD I also have a severe allergy to things like synthetic vanilla, Lysol spray, sandalwood, patchouli and may other smells. My throat starts to close, I cough, I can’t breath…. Normally I try the inhaler first, then the epi pen. Last night I went to a Christmas gathering, everyone knew about my allergy to vanilla, my friends are ever so cautious. BUT I decided to go at the last minute. Because I had changed purses I did not have my epi pen on me, I did not know it. I hugged someone with vanilla and I immediately went into an attack. I could not catch a full breath, I was coughing and wheezing. My inhaler was not working and I had no epi pen. I rubbed peppermint oil on my throat, chest, under my nose. Within seconds I was able to catch a breath, and in under 2 minutes I was able to breathe and talk again.
    I would never suggest to replace medication, but it worked for me last night. I am here today because of EO.

  136. I truly love this information you have here. Plus I totally agree with everything you have said. I am 50 yrs old and have asthma. It is great as long as my insurance company with full my Pulmicort medicine. I have friends who say oh just use your oils to heal yourself. Well I truly feel the oils may help with many symptoms but they will not replace my breathing medicine. People who say just use your oils, have NEVER had a major breathing problem. You know breathing is not overrated at all. LOL!! I tell my DR that to. Thanks for your point of view on this and the oils.

    • Have you tried going dairy or wheat free to see if your asthma lessens or goes away? I have food allergies and my chiropractor figured out why I was being treated for asthma when it was food allergies!

    • Strong smells can trigger my asthma. I spent an afternoon last Wednesday with friends in a botanical garden, including the tropical enclosure. The soul had a slightly pungent but not unpleasant smell. Flowers had delightful perfumes. Driving home, I got caught in two traffic jams– auto fumes.

      The next day I was I. The ER with the worst adthmyflare I’ve had. My lungs had gone silent because I couldn’t move enough air to generate a wheeze. All my chest muscles were working very hard. I’m lucky I didn’t end up in ICU.

      They tried an aggressive new protocol that stopped the asthma, but side effects kept me in another day. I go home tomorrow.

      Essential oils have strong smells and volition fumes, things that conceivably could have killed me this time. I’m not kidding when I say they can be very bad for an asthmatic. I know from personal experience. And, I do think we should be careful about what we recommend. With experiences like that one I just described, I might have been tempted to try something like this (fortunately I already knew about my extreme reaction to volatile chemicals and strong odors)’

  137. I do agree with you and this article. Although I personally feel essential oils are very helpful in preventive measures or minor issues ,they can’t treat everything or cure I should say. When there are more serious issues at hand there is nothing wrong with getting medical treatment. Science can also be good when used effectively. I’m In some cases essential oils and science can work together . I appreciate your article . @sheblogsinc

    • “More” serious? The last time ( early December) I was in the hospital for asthma (the sixth time I’d been admitted since May of 2016), the debate wasn’t whether I should be admitted but whether I should go to a general floor or ICU.

      If your asthma is mild, thank your lucky stars, but a person can have “mild” asthma and then have a major episode that could kill them.

      Everyone reacts differently to some extent. I’ve been laid up with an arm injury and have been in cars only rarely the last couple of weeks. All of a sudden my persistent, severe asthma looks intermittent and mild.

      If people use inhaled aromatics to treat their asthma, they should be prepared to pay for a trip to the ER and possibly a hospital stay. Everything is a risk/benefit and it’s different for different for different people, but I know essential oils would be a terrible thing for me.

  138. Hi there,
    You bring up some good points. I can tell you that Young Living does not promote diffussion of EO for asthma and has from what I recall, has warned to used aromatically for asthmatics with caution. For example, in a non acute situation like for well being, perhaps oils might be best applied to feet where not as easily inhaled. Young Living takes many precautions to ask independent distributors to be compliant with what they say when using their name. Of course, some make it harder for others.

    I do however feel that reflexology and essential oils in general have their place and would love to see more integration between the two worlds. Thanks!


  139. Thank you, Dr. Hayes, for a well written article. I have read dozens of the comments, although I couldn’t make it through all 230-plus. You have obviously sparked some controversy. Whether people agree with you or not, you have benefitted us by making us think about the subject. Hopefully rationally.

    If the ACA is overturned, many people will be forced to turn to ‘home remedies’ since they will not have access to health insurance. Many of these remedies can be effective, but if applied without knowledge, training, or even common sense can be–as you pointed out so succinctly–ineffective or very dangerous.

    For example, I have read several comments saying that people suffered breathing problems because they used an oil diffuser. If they were using “frangi-pangi patchouli love mist blend” well, yeah. Others mentioned the same diffusers helping them with asthma. Chances are that the people with positive results either researched the oils most likely to help them, or consulted with a naturopath, herbalist, or other medical professional not associated with an EO company.

    In these dangerous times for health care, I hope readers will take your article for what it is. That is simply to provide information and point out that there has not been enough research done on essential oils done in the U.S. to conclude that they are beneficial. I urge anyone reading this post to exercise caution when purchasing and using oils. Do research, find a local herbalist whom you trust. Check with your doctor if you trust them to be objective. And for heaven’s sake do NOT get involved with the essential oil outfits who have set up marketing schemes a la “Amway”. I just checked the website for one of these places, and they are charging $28 (plus shipping) for a 15 ml bottle of lavender oil. I happen to have a bottle of this oil that someone gifted to me, and can tell you that if this is pure oil, it came from the weirdest lavender plant in the world. This is a tremendous rip-off targeting the people who can least afford to pay these exorbitant prices.

    I am not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I sell oils or other medicinals. I harvest as much as possible from my own garden for home use, and consult with my doctor about any ‘holistic’ self-medication I might be considering. I am fortunate enough to have insurance and (for the first time in 50 years) a wonderful doctor. He usually laughs at some of my more weird self-medication schemes, but at least has an open mind when a few of them work.

    For those of you without insurance or a good doctor, you truly do have my empathy. I hope you will research your home remedies and use them with care. If there is any way for you to get insurance, please do. If you do not like or trust your MD, find one with whom you feel comfortable. Best to all.

  140. Good evening.

    I could’nt help it but to write a comment which I understand might be a little long and annoying but perhaps if you read it all it will make the point.

    I have just been searching for some information on the websites regarding essential oils and found two interesting ones. One explaining quite in a detail all the amazing benefits of essential oils (not quite the one you mentioned on FB though) and your one. I read both right to the end and there is something I want to say.

    Disregarding essential oils or any other alternative treatment as “just good enough to ease your mind or de-stress” is in my eyes disrespectful. You are right, I don’t know your blog and I won’t pretend I understand your (sounds like a stressful) experience from the medical backround. You might well be one of veeeery few doctors, medics, clinical staff that actually really cares not just about the health of their patients but also about how they get them to be healthy (meaning what are they going to put into their bodies and how much information especially about the side effects or long term effects they say to their parents).
    And if you are, then trust me, you really are the rare one! Good for you (and your patients)!

    But have you ever thought about why people these days believe so blindly to all the alternatives without even trying to find enough information about what product or treatment they are going to use? That the doctors and pharmaceutical industry perhaps “deserve” not to be trusted any more?? You said just go and find another doctor if you don’t trust your own. It is easy to say but extremely difficult to do. They simply will not discuss with you anything or look at you that you are a total idiot just by asking. If it happens (sadly for them) that you actually know even more than themselves about particular condition or treatment, they don’t know what to say. They have no arguments to stand the ground and no knowledge to explain why would the western medicine be any better then eastern or other alternative apart of simply that’s all they know. It really is sad. (I know this is the annoying bit for you but please stay with me for a few more lines).

    The luck of respect from the doctors, the lack of knowledge, the patronising and nasty side effects of the drugs simply make people to look else where. And there is a chance that you will get same effect with no side effects (if correctly use of course), why would you not do it???

    Obviously there is a difference between believing everything you read on internet and doing your homework! Exactly the same as you would know what research to trust and what not, it also applies to alternatives. You need to know where the info is coming from.
    Which gets us back to the story of the young boy and his two asthma attacks after inhaling a Febreze. Not sure how much research have you done on Febreze but it has nothing to do with essential oils in slightest. Its full of nasty chemicals and irritants and not even healthy people should be using it, especially when they are older or have young children. It has not a single one essential oil. It is well known that asthmatics can have breathing difficulties or even asthma attacks just by smelling something of a strong fragrance regardless if its natural or arteficial.

    And here we get to the point.
    I do agree with you that people should be careful with both – alternatives as well as drugs. You also don’t prescribe antibiotics for a cold or flu and so neither essential oils or any other alternative treatment is suitable for every condition and needs to be individually fitted to a person just like any other treatment should be. I do have to disagree with you that essential oils are not for asthmatics. In the opposite I would say they can really be very helpful! I am not trying to claim a miraculous healing, just simply saying there is a place in one’s life for them if you have asthma! Care is needed when it comes to young children, old people or pregnant women of course.
    I have asthma myself and nearly died of it as a child, so I “kind of “know what I am talking about. In my childhood Eucalyptus was the amazing essential oil that helped me greatly and I am happy my mum had the courage and the care to introduce it to me just like herbs and other alternatives that at the end all together made the difference, indeed when the classical medicine started to give up!

    As I said, with a great care and after you have done your homework! Now as an adult also with medical backround (by the way) I am testing and experimenting on my self together with another small group of same keen people to try to bring more information to the general public as well as educated medical stuff and get rid of the prejudices on both sides.

    Thank you for reading.


  141. Hi there. I honestly don’t know what to say. I know two things about essential oils. I know the peppermint essential oil has helped me 98 percent of my migraine headaches that I was having 24 hrs/7 days a week for 3 1/2 years. I have ansomnia and the Lavender has helped me so much. My question is do you believe anything as far certain essential oils are good for arthritis or actual asthma?

  142. Thanks Dr. Hayes, for this article!

    I am an inexperienced E.O. user, who has only dabbled in their usage, so, I am researching Essential Oils and creating a forum for those who want to learn more about the uses of E.O and herbal preparations. We are learning together. I do not sell them. I am researching about E. O. safety most earnestly! I feel that safety is the very first lesson to be learned by a new user of E.O. preparations!

    I am seeing that many have gone before us in learning what is dangerous in the usage of E. O.’s. These have been used for centuries, so there should be no need for animal cruelty or human experimentation. Anyone can find the dangers and just use common sense. Learn from the mistakes of others before using these yourselves, I say.

    I, myself, have a young family member who suffers from Asthma! I was tempted to recommend this remedy to him mother. Now, I know better and I hope to spread the word. I have shared this article on Facebook and Twitter. I follow you, Dr. Chad. I hope you have written more and I will look for more from you! Thanks again, Lynne

  143. I have mild asthma myself and while I do try to go “the natural route” as much as I can with myself, I do have to agree that certain essential oils seem to trigger worse breathing for me.

    Frankincense is fine, but I’ve had issues with a blend I just bought by Woolzies – Rosa Damascena blend, there’s citronella, geranium & two others I can’t recall blended in, the Rose is only 5% – I was surprised I reacted to it as I’ve bought straight pure rose essential oil before & I was fine so it must be one of the other oils in the blend… it didn’t give a straight-out asthma attack but a kind of sore throat/trachea feeling & like my breathing was faster & shallower than usual, but no wheezing, oddly enough. After washing it off the feeling was gone.. I’ve also had similar reactions to lavender EO.. Frankincense seems to do the complete opposite, it makes my airways feel very relaxed! Clove does almost the same thing.. now that I think about it clove & frankincense are considered ‘warm’ oils and lavender & citronella considered ‘cooling’ and I’ve had breathing issues from extremely cold air as well, so there may be a connection there! (for me at least)

    I should also mention that I’m Asperger’s (autism spectrum) and we are known to be highly sensitive to chemicals/fragrances, etc. I can’t spend too long in the detergent aisle or I get that sore throat/trachea feeling. But I agree with the posters who said Febreeze & essential oils are not one & the same! Please don’t compare the two!

    I also must mention that what’s helped me go from 2-3X/week inhaler use to “I can’t remember the last time I had to use it” is osteopathic adjustments – anything that improves the blood flow around the body is going to help the lungs of course too! I used to have terrible issues with tachycardia (and a bazillion other symptoms! thank you POTS!) and it’s 90% improved!

  144. A child almost died from Febreze, so essential oils are bad for asthma? I’m having trouble understanding the connection here.

    Febreze is NOT made from essential oils. Febreze, like many household cleaners, contains harsh chemicals that are known to cause respiratory problems and asthma. Febreze Linen & Sky, for example, receives a “D” rating from the Environment Working Group with “Moderate Concern” for “Asthma/Respiratory” issues: Unfortunately, most cleaning products on the market are not healthy for people or the environment. Some even contain known carcinogens. Check out EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning at

    Essential oils are extracted from plants and are heavily diluted with water when diffused. If the woman in your story would have mixed a few drops of lavender essential oil with water and then sprayed it on the child’s bed, he probably wouldn’t have had an allergic reaction. Many people use essential oil for fragrance and cleaning to avoid harsh, dangerous chemicals that are associated with serious health concerns.

    I agree that it is irresponsible and dangerous to use essential oils as medicine in place of a rescue inhaler for a child or adult with an asthma diagnosis. However, Febreze has nothing to do with essential oils. Equating dangerous household cleaners to essential oils is really misleading and, to use your word, irresponsible.

  145. essential oils are not volatile… although they are organic compounds. They are stable at room temperatures which is why the are dissolved in water before evaporated

  146. My 76 year old mom in law had double bypass heart surgery on January 12, 2017, came through surgery with flying colors. One week later she was admitted to rehab at a local hospital. She was doing well, then suddenly took a turn for the worse, and on January 21, 2017, she passed away. She began having difficulty breathing, and eventually couldn’t catch her breath at all and died. My question: she had a friend who did the oils, and without our knowledge, put an oil diffuser in her room while the patient was taking oxygen, and having respiratory therapy, could those oils have contributed to her breathing problems?

  147. I think this is a great article. My son has asthma and has several flare ups throughout the year. I would never replace his medication with essential oils. His inhalers and treatment from the hospital and doctors have saved his life on more than one account. I’m very thankful for them. However, I do use essential oils for myself and have found they work for so many things, from skin issues to anxiety. I would love to see more research on how both medicinal and all natural treatments could work together.

  148. Dr. Hayes,

    I agree with your article 100%. I am a 51 year old healthy female who contracted the flu 2 weeks ago. I developed severe chest congestion that was thick and green and I could not cough it up. It was getting a little hard to breathe and I was coughing a lot. Note I do not have asthma. This past Monday I really should have went back to the doctor as my coughing and chest sounded terrible. Instead of going and seeing if I should get on an antibiotic I had the stupid idea of trying essential oils which I know nothing about. I didn’t think once of someone being allergic to the oils just as we can be allergic to flowers, plants etc. My cousin knows a lot about these oils so I texted her about what could help me. My aunt who lives nearby bought some oils online and brought them over. My cousin said to mix coconut oil with 2 drops eucalyptis and 1 drop peppermint oil and rub it on my chest and bottom of my feet. Also there was this spray called “Thieves” that I sprayed on the bottom of my feet. She also sent me a recipe to mix honey with 1 drop orange oil, lemon oil, peppermint oil, and frankinscence and swallow it. I did this a couple times that day. Unfortunately I didn’t know what I was doing since never experimenting with these oils. Before going to bed I kinda went crazy with the oils because I wanted something to really loosen up the congestion and start me on the road to recovery. I mixed the honey and oils and swallowed again. I mixed the coconut oil with more than the recommended amount of oils trying to really pack a punch to my chest and rubbed it on my throat, chest and bottom of my feet. Also sprayed the “Thieves” on my feet (it’s a blend of a bunch of oils including cloves; it’s pretty strong). Early, early in the morning I woke up and my chest really hurt. Before using the oils my chest did not hurt at all, it was only a little hard to take a deep breath with no pain whatsoever. I imagine it felt like asthma; my son has asthma and I was acting like him when he had an asthma attack. Now every time I took a deep breath my lungs hurt and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. I went to the doctor the next day, Tuesday, and he did an x-ray of my lungs. My bronchial tubes showed up white because they were so inflamed. I was miserable in his office, I was so short of breath and weak and he said my lungs sounded pretty bad. He put me on a strong steroid, strong antibiotic and gave me an inhaler. He said I had bronchitis. By that night the congestion was remarkably better and has been getting better every day. The phlegm is finally getting loose and coming up. However, 4 days later, I still have some of the pain in my lungs and it can be hard to breathe at times. I think the oils did something to my lungs and I wish I had just went to the doctor Monday and stopped playing doctor for myself. People may not know what they are doing with these oils and if they could be allergic to them. Everyone should be extremely cautious especially with your children. Yes I’m sure I will get criticized for my overuse but people who use these oils act like you can do no wrong with them. I have another Aunt that I was consulting with and she told me all kinds of things to do with them and to use like 15 drops of each! My cousin even sprays the “Thieves” in her throat but the bottle only suggests to spray on surfaces like counter tops to disinfect them. It says nothing about the body. I’m glad I didn’t spray it in my throat! Keep up the information doctor, you may help somebody to avoid doing what I did.

  149. Hi…I lost interest in your article halfway through because you clearly are strongly against essential oil use, which is ok. But Frankincense lowers fevers and I put it on my husband’s toes yesterday when his sinus infection gave him the chills and the feeling of a fever coming on. There is a lot of knowledge out there and reading scientific studies is a good place to get solid information about essential oils. Some are effective against MRSA, but understanding biofilms and probiotics is part of the whole system. I’ve used Lemon Essential oil to treat a wart on my 7 yos finger. I’ve used baking soda in water to cure my urinary tract infections. When conventional medicine has NOT helped, but instead hurt, people (like myself) turn to alternatives. Substances made in nature are healing. Lavender helps alleviate shortness of
    breathe; I’ve seen it first hand.

  150. Thank you for your cautionary statements. I am a great proponent of essential oils (pure oils from organic sources that take care to keep oils from becoming contaminated), but it is helpful to be reminded that a person with asthma, for example, should not be carelessly exposed to the oils, particularly if they are prone to severe asthmatic or other responses. I am reminded by your article to suggest that someone who has not used oils before, start with them on their feet, or aromatically in a room or space they can easily escape, and that children should be exposed when they are not otherwise compromised, and to oils diluted in a carrier oil first. Great illustrations, solid points, thanks.

    • Thank you Dr. Hayes.

      I read your article as well as most of the comments, and would like to add my two cents. Most of the folks here have referred to Essential Oils in a general way. Some have also referred to aromatic oils, which are very concentrated, usually 100% and not meant for internal consumption. From my experience, there is a specific essential oil that is best to treat a specific condition.

      Right now, I am researching Oil of Oregano as a possible cure for several respiratory diseases, like Asthma and COPD. My wife and I both have these conditions. I have completed researching more than 25 websites on Oil of Oregano and noted all the pros and cons. And now I am about to gradually introduce it in our daily regimen, initially with external application, and gradually using for internal consumption.

      Fortunately, we have an excellent pulmonologist, who is very open to discussions on alternative medicine, including even mind body medicine! We are about to meet him shortly, and will involve him in the process of introducing Oil of Oregano in our lives..

      I am sure that if you can identify the specific EO for your condition, do all the research on the internet to find the benefits and side effects, and if possible involve your doctor in the discussion, these natural oils can be of great help in treating your condition. And as someone has remarked, and my doctor agrees, alopathy and naturopathy can coexist.

  151. Great article! I was diagnosed with reactive airway disease about 20 years ago. Since we’ve started diffusing essential oils in summer of 2016 this is 1st winter I can remember in our house since 1992 I haven’t needed my inhaler at night. Usually in past winters months I needed it most nights.

  152. it always bothers me that every person i have EVER met that sells or swears by oils tells me to use lavender and camameal to help with Asthma.
    when every asthma doctor i have ever seen has told me to stay away from those to as they are air way constrictors.
    now i have used peppermint and ecaliptis more in the winter to help love the smell, and notice it helps relax,
    i am so sick of people saying “here is this magic oil that will make everything ok, throw out all your meds.”

  153. Your very informative article was extremely useful to me. While I do attempt to find the least evasive treatment possible whenever I can, I also respect the opinions and suggestions of men like you who have spent a very long time learning about these things! Thank you for posting this! I was considering getting a diffuser to treat what was diagnosed as ” possible onset of COPD”. Truthfully, I have no symptoms. I just recently had a bad cold which is cleared up. No medication was recommended by my physician. Tx again for your frank article!!! I WILL NOT BE RE:POSTING ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS.

  154. Well said!! I like aromatherapy products, don’t get me wrong, but on the other hand, my GP has studied how to keep me alive a lot more than my local aromatherapist ever will. So if what isn’t good enough for myself, sure isn’t good enough for my children… FACT! ???

  155. I have asthma and in addition to my asthma meds – albuterol and Q-Var – I have a bedside diffuser in which I mist lavender and eucalyptus. The diffuser helps often, probably because it’s mist and I need that in my mountain home. Peppermint, which has been recommended as a good asthma EO sets me off on an asthma attack. Those who have blogs touting the great benefits of essential oils very seldom have any research references of any kind. I don’t trust the blogs. I trust my doctor, who listens.

  156. I ran across this article while looking for information on allergies to essential oils. I recently began diffusing essential oils and I think I may be allergic to them because me and my daughter are sneezing and coughing. I though these were symptoms of a cold but my symptoms improved when I left the home and immediately reappeared when I returned home (I was diffusing patchouli). The essential oils web site suggested that this reaction is my body detoxifying…sounded like bs to me. Long story short…thank you for writing your article…I unplugged my diffuser.

  157. I’m a fan of holistic and alternative remedies. However, I believe they need to be treated like any other medicine; with care, research, and supervision. When my dad had cancer, was an essential oil, herbal tea, or acupuncture going to cure him? No. Chemo had the best chance at that curr. However, lemon teas and candies helped his taste buds when chemo deadend them, eating lycopene rich foods helped him feel like he was doing all he could, and pleasant scents helped him focus on pleasant thoughts. It’s entirely possible that alternative remedies can help with a lot of things, but obviously not well or on their own. Otherwise, leprosy or the black plague would have never reached the pandemic levels the reached. I cannot stand when people talk about oils as a cure-all. An aid? Yes. A placebo effect? Quite possible. A reply for medicine that we’ve had to create because of centuries worth of oils not being a cure? Absolutely not. I agree it’s dangerous and irresponsible to push alternative medicine like this.

  158. I agree with the author on being cautions. The way I see it, there seems to be two major camps out there: the all natural holistic people and the medical people and they are always butting heads. I am of a third camp, not so popular, I try to maximize the benefit of both worlds. I have tried a variety of both types of solutions to different medical problems some were helped with natural means such as oils and teas when medicines had little or no affect, and some have only been helped with medical treatment. I think the author is just trying to say, don’t be stupid and it really is irresponsible to promote these oils as treatments to life threatening illnesses (they have not been proven). We have asthma problems at our house and we are willing to try almost anything to help, but we always keep a healthy supply of the most proven medications on hand. Too many people believe everything they read and forget to think and use common sense.

  159. Is it okay, in your opinion, to use a diffuser when our son with asthma is not actually in the home while it’s in use? Like when he’s playing outside or at school? Just wondering how much of a distance (time or otherwise) should be between diffuser use and a child with mild asthma?

  160. Thank you for your comments. I am also a crazy oil lady and it would never be prudent to use oils in place of a doctors care. They are great for many things and have given many people a greater well being.

  161. I’m concerned by people’s lack of open mindedness – this concern could save someone. I too use essential oils and have asthma. Tonight I diffused Theives and woke up from a sound sleep from a severe asthma attack. I’ve moved to another room and opened the windows and used my inhaler-I’m hoping it will get better. I googled this exact concern so obviously others have this real issue as well. We all react differently to foods, oils and medicines so let’s listen to each other and help each other-not make negative comments about “shutting down” someone who simply had a difference of experience or opinion.

  162. You wrote “Look, there’s a reason that doctors go to medical school, and it’s not so “Big Pharma” can set up direct deposit to our checking accounts. ”

    While I believe that was true several decades ago, once Big Pharma began subsidizing textbooks and university research, that changed the game and began a slow perversion of pure science.

    In today’s world it’s quite common for whole medical practices to be predicated on getting the patient to return as often as possible. The idea is to treat rather than heal. While that is not true for all physicians, it is far more common now than it was 30 years ago.

    As far as essential oils they do have a place in the home alongside garlic and Ceylon cinnamon tea. The blend marketed as Thieves Oil, although I make my own because their price is outrageous, has good disinfecting properties. Fresh garlic that has been crushed and allowed to sit for 15 minutes before drinking in water has very good antibiotic properties, so much so I use it when I start feeling a flu like chill coming on. Garlic stops the flu or colds or whatever flu-like pathogen I’ve been exposed to. I haven’t had a full blown cold/flu in decades. Finally, hot tea made from ground Ceylon cinnamon is a fast acting, albeit short lived (2-3 hours) pain reliever for arthritis. I don’t need “scientific experimentation” to tell me these things work because they do for me, every day of my life. They’re safe when used in moderation and in moderation there are no side effects.

    These will always be labeled as “snake oil” by anyone who makes money from pharmaceuticals. However, those of us with a solid education in science and reasoning skills clearly see that money is such a powerful persuader that it often trumps facts, and that “lack of scientific trials” supporting folk medicines will always be used to discredit anything that works but cannot be patented for profit.

    Science and medicine is no longer what it once was in the United States. It’s been perverted for profit and that’s slowly eroding confidence in Western medicine. Companies that are traded on any stock exchange should never be allowed to produce pharmaceuticals or food, because the welfare of humans will always come behind profits. Companies are entities in their own right and as such have a life of their own. Human health and nutrition should be livelihoods, something people take pride in creating, not something investors make profits from.


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