Food cravings can be a tricky thing, and there are a wide variety of factors that trigger hunger. This includes hormonal fluctuations, lack of sleep, stress, and exhaustion, among many others.
But for anyone looking to lose weight, suppress an overactive appetite, or control eating triggered by stress, essential oils can be a practical, effective solution. Researchers have discovered that certain aromas affect the area of the brain that impacts satiety, controlling feelings of fullness.
Multiple studies have shown that essential oils are an effective way of keeping hunger pangs at bay. They can prevent overeating and suppress appetite, making you feel fuller longer and reducing the desire to eat.1
Science Behind Essential Oils and Appetite
So, how do essential oils work? According to research by Dr. Alan Hirsch, our sense of smell and our appetites are closely connected—more than 90 percent of taste is smell.
This is due to the fact that the nose is directly connected to the hypothalamus, the center of the brain that determines fullness. Because essential oils pass through the blood-brain barrier, they have the potential to interact with the hypothalamus. As a result, the release of hormones that regulate hunger is controlled.
That means that once we smell a satisfying scent like grapefruit or peppermint
, it sends a signal to our brain that our appetite is satisfied, even if we haven’t eaten a bite.2
Hirsch’s research through the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Institute of Chicago determined that certain scents crushed the desire to eat. The results ultimately showed that the more individuals relied on aromatherapy to control their appetite, the more weight they lost.
According to Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., author of Alternative Medicine Magazine’s Definitive Guide to Weight Loss
essential oils affect the body through aromatic use or application to the skin, where they interact with the central nervous system, impacting hormones and controlling cravings.3
While many essential oils control stress or encourage restful sleep
, there are some that have shown to be more effective than others at controlling appetite.
Before beginning any weight loss regimen, be sure to consult a healthcare professional.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil
impacts the part of the hypothalamus that controls feelings of satiety, encouraging the release of hormones that suppress appetite, especially leptin, while suppressing the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.4
A 2007 study found that the scent of peppermint impacted the appetite of study participants so significantly that they consumed thousands of calories fewer than usual.
Professor Bryan Raudenbush has also said that peppermint essential oil helps control anxiety, which prevented subjects from stress-eating.5
A 2008 study found that the menthol in peppermint impacts how food smells and tastes. This prevents food cravings and curbs overeating.
Peppermint oil can be used in a room diffuser or a personal essential oil diffuser
, or Mountain
MONQ. Alternatively, it can be applied topically after diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut
, almond, or jojoba oil.
Holy Basil Essential Oil
Stress plays an important role in weight gain. Anxiety causes the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which drives cravings for sugar and carbohydrates.
Holy basil essential oil
can relieve stress
and anxiety because it contains high levels of the terpene linalool
. Linalool acts as an adaptogen
, controlling the release of cortisol. In fact, holy basil has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a way to control appetite.6
Adding a drop or two of holy basil essential oil to a glass of water before meals can help reduce stress and control anxiety-related food cravings caused by swings in blood sugar levels.
Grapefruit Essential Oil
Grapefruit essential oil is a natural appetite suppressant. It helps activate enzymes in the saliva that can promote weight loss by breaking down body fat.
It is effective because it contains a substance called nootkatone. This is a sesquiterpene and ketone that activates the enzyme AMPK. AMPK controls the way our bodies use energy. Grapefruit essential oil also acts as a diuretic, encouraging the loss of excess water weight.
A 2005 study found that test subjects who were given grapefruit essential oil for 15-minute sessions three times a week reported a reduced urge to eat.
For maximum benefits, grapefruit essential oil can be used aromatically, applied topically, or taken internally with a few drops in water.
Cinnamon Essential Oil
is an excellent essential oil for controlling appetite because it helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels, which play an important role in feelings of hunger.
It is effective because it contains cinnamaldehyde, a compound that makes the body’s cells more receptive to insulin, so they are more likely to take in glucose for energy, reducing its levels in the blood.
When blood sugar levels are under control, cravings for sugar are also reduced.
Cinnamon also contains linalool, a monoterpene that eases stress, which could help control stress-eating.
Ginger Essential Oil
also helps reduce food cravings by controlling inflammation, which plays a role in digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
A 2013 study in India found that ginger essential oil is packed with antioxidants. This helps reduce inflammation and improves the digestive system so more nutrients can be absorbed. This reduces cravings triggered by a lack of nutrients.
Ginger oil also helps burn fat and boost metabolism.
Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot essential oil
, compressed from the peel of an Italian citrus fruit, helps alleviate stress
, which is ideal for those of us who turn to food when symptoms of anxiety strike.
A 2015 study found that bergamot helped reduce the elevated heart rate and high cortisol levels associated with stress.
Additionally, bergamot essential oil contains high levels of stress-reducing limonene
, which also helps suppress appetite.
Bergamot essential oil can be used aromatically in a room diffuser
or a personal essential oil diffuser like Sleepy
, or Ocean
MONQ. For added relaxation, place a few drops of bergamot essential oil in a warm bath.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is another essential oil that helps relieve stress and anxiety, creating a sense of calm. Without the release of cortisol, stress-eating can be diminished.
A 2010 study appearing in the journal International Clinical Pharmacology found that lavender oil
was almost as effective at controlling stress as lorazepam, a benzodiazepine7
Lavender also calms cravings and improve sleep quality. This is important because those who sleep less are more likely to eat more, according to a 2012 study. A lack of sleep encourages the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, reduces the satiety hormone leptin, and elevates cortisol.
Lavender essential oil can be used aromatically
in a diffuser or applied directly to pulse points to sniff as needed.
Wild Orange Essential Oil
The aroma of wild orange oil
is believed to control feelings of anxiety, making it an excellent way to reduce stress levels.
The wild orange oil contains two compounds that help control stress: linalool
, which work in synergy to alleviate anxiety. Myrcene can cross the blood-brain barrier, where it impacts the "feel-good" neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
Also in the orange family, bitter orange essential oil acts as an appetite suppressant by acting as a thermogenic agent. It encourages the body to burn fat stores rather than glucose, which enhances feelings of fullness.
Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel essential oil
helps suppress appetite in several different ways. You can find fennel essential oil in our Happy personal essential oil diffuser.
First, fennel seed contains melatonin, a hormone that helps control sleep cycles, so we get enough sleep
and levels of the hunger hormones ghrelin are suppressed.
In animal studies, the aroma of fennel essential oil encouraged the consumption of fewer calories while improving digestion. This helps ensure that more nutrients are taken in.
Additionally, fennel oil can help suppress appetite when a few drops are added to a glass of water before meals or applied topically to the wrists.
Citronella Essential Oil
While citronella essential oil is perhaps best known for keeping away mosquitos
, a 2015 study found that the oil also naturally suppressed the appetites of individuals on a high-fat diet.
One group simply followed the diet, while the other group did this while taking advantage of the aromatic benefits of citronella. Researchers found that individuals using citronella essential oil ate significantly less.
How To Use Essential Oils Most Effectively
While each of the ten oils we’ve profiled can help control appetite, interchanging oils can ensure optimal benefits. You can find a few of these essential oils in MONQ's relieve blend
Aromatherapy for appetite suppression is most effective if you smell the oils for at least five minutes prior to meals.
Some other oils to consider adding to your regimen include ylang-ylang
and patchouli essential oils
, both of which create a sense of calm; lemon
and lime oils
, which contains the same compounds as grapefruit and sweet orange to soothe stress and activate the suppression of hunger hormones.
Losing weight is not as simple as using some essential oils. It requires close attention to diet, as well as exercise. The essential oils highlighted above may help you on your weight loss journey.
Photo credits: @michaelhardridge, Fecundapstock/shutterstock.com, NikolayLitov/shutterstock.com, CKBangkokPhotography/shutterstock.com, @purelykaylie, zetat/shutterstock.com, @consuelomorcillo, PosiNote/shutterstock.com