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“Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Do they Work ?”

Essential oils are found commercially as odorants in cosmetics, perfumes, soaps, detergents, and various other products ranging from insecticides to paints.  The term “essential” refers to the essence or fragrance of a plant rather than a necessary component of the oil or something biologically vital.  Essential oils are used in dental products and occasionally as flavoring in medicine.  Some well-known nonprescription products contain essential oils; for example, Vicks® VapoRub™ contains camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol.  The following are also considered essential oils: peppermint oil, Roman chamomile, clary sage, frankincense, lavender, mandarin, laurel, bergamot, tea tree oil, and ylang-ylang.  Penetration enhancers, often an oil (sometimes termed “carrier oil”), are mixed with essential oils to enhance absorption through the skin. Commonly used carrier oils include grapeseed, sweet almond, and sesame oils.  Essential oils also have been used as flavoring in food products.  Essential oils also are used in aromatherapy, where the oil is heated or added to bathwater, applied to the skin, and occasionally taken by mouth. Essential oils used for aromatherapy do not need FDA approval, and they cannot legally be promoted to prevent, treat, or cure disease.

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