The therapeutic benefits of essential oils are well-known and respected. Essential oils have been used by many cultures throughout human history, including the Chinese, Greeks, and Egyptians. Traditional medicine has made use of essential oils for thousands of years, and modern science has finally started to explain the ‘why’ behind some of the benefits that have been known throughout history.
Aromatherapy can help to improve both physical and mental wellbeing, and essential oils can be used for massage treatments, and in some cases can be taken orally as a nutritional supplement too.Essential oils can work in many different ways, including helping with weight loss.
Our olfactory system interacts with the hippocampus and the amygdala, two key areas of the brain which are responsible for memory and emotion. When we inhale essential oils, those parts of the brain are stimulated, and this can alter our mental state. It can help us sleep better, calm anxiety, reduce blood pressure, and curb cravings.
One study into the effects of scents on chocolate cravings found that women who inhaled a ‘fresh’ scent reported reduced chocolate cravings, while sweet scents increased cravings.1 There have been other studies conducted on food cravings in general, and satiety, and into the power of scents to combat cravings in general. Olfactory stimulation is a powerful thing, and it can even help to combat nicotine cravings, let alone cravings for food! 2
Experiencing fewer cravings, and being able to say ‘no’ to them when they happen is an important part of losing weight, but there are other ways that essential oils can help too. Some essential oils promote fat burning, and some provide a modest boost to your metabolism. Both of these are small gains – you won’t be able to just sniff some bergamot and then eat whatever you want, for example, but the small edge that they can give you could be the difference between seeing the scale move one week, or plateauing.
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Grapefruit oil and cypress have both been found to be useful for burning abdominal fat. One study into those oils found that when women massaged a blend of those oils into their abdomens, they lost more fat than a control group that used grapeseed oil. In addition, the participants using the essential oil blend reported better body image.3
If you want to promote fat burning with essential oils, then there are several oils that could be useful, including:
Lavender essential oil is useful for weight loss because it helps to reduce stress and improve sleep quality. People who are suffering from insomnia often find it harder to lose weight because they are more tired and stressed, they use less energy throughout the day, and they have less mental energy and therefore less willpower. Lavender’s impact on the nervous system is well documented. The essential oil can help to stabilize moods, reduce anxiety, and even perform as an analgesic.4
Bergamot can help with fat loss too, and it has also been found to help with dyslipidemia. People who are overweight are often at an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Bergamot has been found to be helpful when it comes to lowering the presence of harmful lipids in the bloodstream.5
Cinnamon has been found to help reduce cravings, improve satiety, and also help to reduce insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common in the western world, and people who are overweight are often at risk of this condition, in part because they are more likely to suffer from insulin resistance. Someone who is insulin resistant will find that their fat cells do not release energy as readily, and therefore they are more likely to feel tired and hungry when on a calorie deficit, and they will find that they struggle to lose weight because of this. Cinnamon has been found to improve insulin sensitivity, which makes it a useful short-term solution for someone looking to improve their overall metabolic response with weight loss.6
Peppermint has been found to be a good appetite suppressant7, and it is a useful option for people who are struggling with food cravings, but who do not want to take stimulants such as caffeine or ephedrine to reduce their appetites.7 It is thought that peppermint oil works by stimulating the part of the brain that experiences cravings, and, in essence, ‘distracting’ the brain from the craving so that the user has the chance to get distracted and then goes off and does something else, instead of wanting to eat.
How to Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are incredibly versatile and there are many ways that they can be used. Using essential oils as a massage treatment can offer the double benefit of having a massage (relaxing muscles and improving circulation), alongside the skin-moisturizing and antioxidant properties that some oils have, and the other appetite or metabolism boosting properties as well.
Some oils work best when inhaled. For example, one way to beat cravings is to carry a tissue that has had a few dabs of peppermint oil put on it and to then inhale the peppermint oil whenever cravings strike. Taking three or four breaths of peppermint oil can often help to stave off cravings, and if you do so a few minutes before a meal you may find that you eat less overall.
Another good option for beating cravings and boosting fat loss is to use an aromatherapy diffuser with a blend of essential oils. Use a mild smelling carrier oil, and then a few drops of each of the active ingredients.
A blend of equal parts peppermint, lemon, and grapefruit can help to reduce cravings and boost fat burning, and the scents go well together too, creating something that is fruity but cooling.
For something more relaxing, try lavender, basil, grapefruit, juniper, and cypress. This blend will help to calm you down and reduce stress, while also boosting your metabolism and helping to reduce hunger pangs. If you are one of those people who believes that they eat healthily, but still struggle to lose weight, this blend may help you. It could be that your main meals are indeed healthy, but that it is your portion sizes that are undoing all your hard work, or that it is mindless snacking that is causing weight gain.
You can make a similar blend with eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender, cypress, and wintergreen. Try different balances until you find the perfect recipe. Eucalyptus is quite understated, so you will usually want slightly more of that compared to the peppermint and lavender. This is a good option for people who are stress-snackers. If you can normally eat well, but gain weight if things are hard at work or if you have exams coming up at college, then this could be the answer for you. It will help to reduce that stressed out feeling and help you to keep making good food decisions even when you have things on your mind.
Exactly how strong you make the essential oil blends will depend on the way that you are delivering them. If you are using a reed diffuser, then you will need a lot of the carrier oil, and 10-15 drops of each of the other oils, at most, since reed diffusers tend to release the aroma quite quickly. If you are using an electronic diffuser then you can make the blend a little stronger since it is slow release.
For dry evaporation on a cotton ball or a tissue, you can apply the essential oils directly, but you need no more than three or four drops of the oil in total. The same is true for massage oils since you will be applying the oil directly to your skin. You need to mix it in with a carrier oil, and need only a low concentration. Be sure to do a spot test of your essential oils before giving yourself a full massage, to ensure that you are not sensitive to the oils in question. In addition, if you ever buy an oil from a different supplier, do a quick test, just in case the oil comes from a slightly different variety of plant.
Weight Loss Takes Time
There is an often repeated statistic that 95 percent of people who go on a diet regain the weight that they had lost. Many people say that only 5% of diets succeed because of this. That’s not really true. Yes, the vast majority of people who go on a diet do regain weight, but they do so because they came off the diet. Essential oils can help with that because they support you in sustaining healthy habits.
It took time to get to the weight you were when you started your diet, and it will take time to lose that weight and get back to a weight that you want to be. Once you’re there, it is important that you do not fall back into unhealthy habits. When you start a new diet, your goal should be to find a way of eating that you can sustain for the long term. When you reach your ideal weight you want to keep following your diet, but perhaps very slightly increase your calorie intake so that you are eating at maintenance levels.
That’s why you don’t want to deprive yourself. Few people can say that they will ‘never eat cake for the rest of their lives’, but it is possible to eat cake in moderation. Instead of making blanket rules that wipe out all food groups, aim to find a new lifestyle that means you can enjoy the things that you want, from time to time. It could be that you will do better on a long-term diet if you can reduce stress and exercise more. Again, a good blend of essential oils can help with this, giving you the zen and energy that you need for a more active lifestyle.
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