By far, the most powerful way to lose weight is through a healthy diet and lifestyle. But, that’s still a challenging process and one that takes time and constant effort.
As a result, anything that makes weight loss a little easier is highly desirable.
With that in mind, can essential oils help weight loss? The simple answer is yes – and some types of essential oil are particularly powerful.
This post highlights some of the theory behind essential oils and weight loss, along with the best essential oils for you to use.
Now, I’m not saying that any essential oil can revolutionize weight loss and make you drop pounds overnight. But, they can lower some of the challenges with losing weight. Besides, with all the other advantages of essential oils, why not give them a try?
How Can Essential Oils Help Weight Loss?
At first glance, the idea of using essential oils for losing weight may seem odd. After all, you don’t consume essential oils in the same way as food and drink. Instead, most essential oil benefits are associated with the aroma of the oils or with their use on the skin.
Yet, it is clear that essential oils can have significant benefits. This is easy to see by looking at examples like lemon, peppermint, tea tree and frankincense essential oils. There are also many different benefits, such as treating the symptoms of a cold and improving concentration.
Those benefits operate through multiple different mechanisms, some of which are also relevant to weight loss. So then, when it comes to losing weight with essential oils, there are a few different areas to consider.
Essential oils do contain many compounds from their original source. So, if the initial plant has weight loss implications – the essential oil has some of the same benefits.
A key example of this is citrus fruit. Their skin contains a number of important compounds, including limonene (which is particularly prevalent in lemons). This compound alone has been linked to weight loss benefits (1) and other natural chemicals have this potential as well (2,3).
In a similar way, grapefruit oil is often associated with weight loss, partly because grapefruits themselves are. There is also an enzyme in grapefruit that is often linked to fat burning, although the research isn’t conclusive (4).
There are many other similar examples as well.
Now, you can get compounds from plants by including them in your diet. This is one reason why lemon water is popular and was even responsible for the grapefruit diet fad.
Yet, there are some benefits to the essential oil approach.
For one thing, essential oils are more concentrated. They can also contain nutrients from the whole plant, such as lemon peel, which you don’t typically eat.
There are also some plants that we don’t include in our diet regularly and spices where it is difficult to get the quantities that you need. For example, cinnamon and ginger are both connected to health benefits, including weight loss. These can be easily included in the diet – but getting sufficient quantities without supplements is a different story.
Using the essential oils can help you get the benefits from these various plants, without having to overwhelm your cooking.
This also includes oils like frankincense, spikenard and many others – where the underlying ingredient would never be a part of your diet.
Because the emphasis here is on compounds, simply smelling or diffusing essential oils often won’t be enough. Instead, many people (including Dr. Axe) recommend putting small amounts of the oil on your skin, so that you can absorb it.
There are some additional considerations when doing so and Wellness Mama discusses some of the risks involved with essential oils, along with safe ways to use them.
As well as thinking about the compounds present in essential oils, we also have to consider the overall impacts that they have on health.
Some of these include the ability to lower inflammation and to reduce blood sugar (such as in the case of cinnamon and cinnamon oil). This type of effect can indirectly help with weight loss, partly by making the body more efficient overall.
Essential oils have also been linked to some more direct impacts.
These include the potential to increase metabolism and improve digestion. Both outcomes affect how your body responds to food and can make it much easier to lose weight.
Another mechanism is simply decreasing stress. This is a key benefit of many essential oils, especially as aroma plays a powerful role in how we feel. Research even shows that scents can cause changes in our blood chemistry that directly impacts mood and levels of stress (5).
For many people, stress can cause weight gain or it can make weight loss much more difficult. One reason is that stress has biological impacts, many of which you’re not aware of.
This includes how stress can increase inflammation and various hormones, including those that control hunger and weight loss (6).
Additionally, stress indirectly affects many of our behaviors. For example, people often eat junk food as a way to reduce stress.
Sleep is also negatively affected by stress. And, getting less sleep will often make weight loss that much harder, while also increasing the risk of bad decisions.
All of these patterns mean that stress can majorly sabotage weight loss efforts – even if you’re not consciously aware that you’re stressed. So, any method of reducing stress is worth trying and there can be no doubt that essential oils help in this area.
Other Behavioral Impacts
Reducing stress is a powerful behavioral way that essential oils can promote weight loss. But, it isn’t the only mechanism.
For example, essential oils can also promote energy and alertness. The site Zen Oils offers a list of different oils that help with energy. The various essential oils can also be used in combination with one another.
Boosting energy is important because we tend to make bad food decisions when we’re tired. For that matter, tired people often turn to food or sugary drinks to wake themselves up – which is horrible for weight loss.
In a similar way, essential oils can reduce your food consumption by lowering hunger cravings. Some sites suggest that peppermint oil is particularly good for this and can help to reduce overeating as well.
One other area to consider is emotions.
A person’s mood and their emotions are very relevant for weight loss, especially as so many people end up emotionally eating. On the other hand, improving your mood can often make weight loss easier and reduce the risk of emotional eating.
Essential oils are one way to do this, as they can certainly help people feel better. Research has also shown this impact, particularly for the scent of citrus (7) and also for vanilla (8).
The Best Essential Oils for Weight Loss
There are multiple ways that essential oils can support weight loss and some oils are more powerful than others. The options below are all key examples of oils commonly used for losing weight.
You may find others yourself over time but these particular oils are a perfect place to start. In each case, you can also click on the item name to find the oil online. The site Natural Living Ideas also hosts an interesting guide on the topic.
Lemon Oil: As mentioned previously, there are multiple compounds in lemons associated with weight loss – which is a key reason for turning to the oil. Additionally, lemon oil can help lower stress, improve the immune system and boost a person’s mood. All of those areas can make weight loss easier and reduce the risk of behaviors like stress eating.
Grapefruit Oil: The compounds in grapefruit oil are also relevant to weight loss, particularly grapefruit contains an enzyme that is associated with fat burning. Additionally, grapefruit is thought to help improve the metabolism, which could improve weight loss.
Cinnamon Oil: Cinnamon is well-known for health benefits, so it’s no surprise that cinnamon oil is significant for health and weight loss. In particular, it can help balance blood sugar levels, which is particularly relevant for people with diabetes.
Ginger Oil: Like cinnamon, ginger is strongly associated with health. For weight loss, it may help to lower inflammation and also sugar cravings. The impact on inflammation is especially relevant, as this can improve digestion and good digestion is paramount for weight loss.
Peppermint Oil: This oil is mostly strongly associated with appetite suppression and may also help improve digestive health. Just the smell of peppermint can help reduce cravings and lower how much people eat in a given meal. For some people, diffusing or smelling the oil before a meal can lower their food intake, while having it diffusing throughout the day may decrease interest in snacks.
Bergamont Oil: Bergamot is one of many essential oils associated with energy, partly because it has a citrus scent. It can also help people feel better emotionally, which can also help with weight loss.
Jasmine Oil: Research shows that jasmine oil can help to promote mood benefits and also raises alertness, both of which have indirect impacts on weight loss. But, more importantly, jasmine can also help people combat depressive thoughts (9). That last impact is strongly relevant for weight loss, as depression can contribute to weight gain in many people (10). However, it’s worth noting that jasmine oil is typically available in a floral blend, rather than on its own.
Essential oils act as a complementary technique for weight loss. This means they won’t revolutionize the process - but they can help.
So, what does this mean in practice?
For most people, you would still need to be following a healthy diet to begin with.
Likewise, you do need to be in a calorie deficit to achieve weight loss goals. But, the exact solution varies from one person to the next.
As Precision Nutrition highlights, there really isn’t a single best weight loss approach out there. Instead, it’s a matter of finding something effective that also meets your own needs. Our needs aren't all the same, so it's no surprise that the best weight loss technique varies as well.
And, despite all the diet fads and pills out there, finding a healthy long-term weight loss strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, techniques like intermittent fasting, ketosis, paleo or the Mediterranean diet all work well for some people and there are many resources to get you started.
It can also help if you take the time to figure out why you are struggling to lose weight. There are many potential reasons, including:
- Poor lifestyle
- Bad food choices
- Not enough protein
- Poor gut health
- Emotional eating
- A heavy reliance on carbs
- Too much sugar
- Excessive additives and/or processed food
If you can determine the key areas that make weight loss difficult for you – you’ll have the information you need to find solutions. And, the various essential oils in this post can all help with this goal.
These patterns also mean you should be wary about any weight loss claims. Some companies suggest that essential oils will offer radical health benefits and help you lose dramatic amounts of weight - which simply isn't true.
Yes, essential oils do have merits. And, some of their benefits have even been shown scientifically (particularly the ability to lift mood). But, for goals like weight loss, any effect is likely to be subtle. Essential oils are still a viable tool - just don't expect them to do all the work for you. At best, they'll help a little.
Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off?
Weight loss is a huge industry, with no shortage of hype. But, long-term weight loss doesn't come from a crash diet or a popular fad.
Instead, you need sustainable habits and healthy foods.
Check out my recommended weight loss products to see where you can get started
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