Day 21: Essential Oils

Essential Oils

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This is Day 21 in the series: 31 days on Living with ADHD, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder: What We Have Tried, What Has Worked, What Hasn’t Worked, and Never Giving Up.   Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Usually the first two responses I get when I meet someone new and we progress enough in the relationship for me to attempt to explain Mr Rockstar’s issues is 1) Have you tried an Elimination Diet? and 2) Have you tried Essential Oils?  Those, hands down, are the most common suggestions I hear.  Everybody seems to know someone who has benefited from changing their diet and/or using essential oils.  You can read here about our elimination diet and I am going to post more about that tomorrow.  For today I want to talk about our experience using essential oils.



There are a couple major brands of essential oils and many smaller essential oil producers.  The major brands I am aware of are Young Living and doTerra.  So far I have mostly used doTerra oils.  I know moneysaving has used both of the major brands and you can read here her take on them.  I have a few Truly Delightful brand essential oils and Aura Cacia Essential Oils.

Comparing the doTerra Peppermint to Truly Delightful Peppermint, the doTerra is sweeter smelling while the Truly Delightful has a more earthy smell.  Does this mean doTerra is purer?  I have no idea.  DoTerra claims to have some of the highest purity on the market.  In any case it is interesting to note that they do smell different.

With doTerra (and Young Living too?) you can become a member.  This gives you a nice discount on the oils plus you can choose to sell them and make a side business out of it.  I am a member of doTerra because when I bought their family physician kit this spring I automatically became one.  I have been enjoying the discount and sometimes I get the free product of the month depending on my purchase size.  I am not planning to open up business to sell the oils (because really I don’t have the time) so I hope you can trust I am giving them an honest review.


The Oils

Let me just start by saying I am a skeptic with most things.  My natural tendency is to not believe until I have seen the results of a good double blind study with a large number of participants or unless I have first hand experience.  I like to think I am open minded to try new things just cautious about the results I expect.  In my work as an engineer I have seen too often when a change to the process is made to hopefully reduce/eliminate a defect people initially perceive the product as being better but pretty quickly the problem comes back.  Often we discover the change didn’t help at all or there was only a 10% improvement not the 90% improvement initially thought.  Keeping that in mind this is what my experience with essential oils has been.


Single Oils

Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit

Lemon is supposed to be great for detoxing.  It also is great for a sore throat.  I LOVE adding a drop of these oils to my water or tea.  For some reason I don’t like drinking plain water.  If I add a drop of one or more of these to my water the flavor is enough to make the water more interesting and refreshing to me.  If I have a sore throat I add a drop of lemon and a spoonful of honey to my tea.


Peppermint (Mentha piperita), a popular flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea, is also used to soothe an upset stomach or to aid digestion. Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, anxiety associated with depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and flatulence. It is also an ingredient in chest rubs, used to treat symptoms of the common cold. In test tubes, peppermint kills some types of bacteria, fungus, and viruses, suggesting it may have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Several studies support the use of peppermint for indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.” University of Maryland Medical Center

I dilute peppermint and apply to the kids backs and feet when they are running a fever.  I have also rubbed it on their tummies if they are constipated (and at least Miss Tomboy has said it “feels good”).  I use it on my temples when I have a headache or am just feeling tired.


A number of studies have reported that lavender essential oil may be beneficial in a variety of conditions, including insomnia, alopecia (hair loss), anxiety, stress, and postoperative pain. However, most of these studies have been small.” University of Maryland Medical Center

I agree lavender is calming.  I use a drop in the kids or my evening bath and diffuse it at night in the kids bedrooms.  One reason I love diffusing it is because I can take our travel diffuser when we are out of town.  The kids are sensitive to hotel room smell (aren’t we all?) and this helps them relax and go to sleep when we travel.  I also occasionally use lavender on minor cuts.

Lavender and Boys

There was one small report that Lavender (and possibly tea tree oil) might cause a hormonal imbalance in some boys causing breast growth.  When a friend pointed this out to me I was freaked out so I did some research.

Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of this debate.  “Lavender oil was implicated in gynecomastia, the abnormal development of breasts in young boys. Denver endocrinologist Clifford Bloch hypothesized the link after three boys presented with enlarged breasts. Subsequently, Derek Henley and Kenneth Korach of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., discovered in lavender and tea tree oil the presence of compounds which both suppress male hormones and mimic female hormones.”

Critics say of this study and the few boys identified with gynecomastia possibly due to lavender: “A 2007 report by Henley et al found that both lavender and tea tree oils had a weak in vitro estrogenic action. Lavender was suggested as the cause of three cases of prepubertal gynecomastia (breast growth) in boys, and tea tree was suggested in one case. The report was subsequently criticized on a number of grounds. For example it was pointed out that there was no evidence of either essential oil causing the gynecomastia in any of the four cases, and that in vitro estrogenic findings frequently do not extrapolate to a similar action in warm bodies ”  

Besides there being no evidence that essential oils caused the gynecomastia in the 4 boys there also is no information I can find of what purity oil the boys might have used.  It appears the oils they were exposed to and suspected as being the problem were found in shampoos and other personal hygiene products.  I doubt these have the same purity level as doTerra.  Also what other contaminants might have been in these products?  Finally if these products did cause the issue with the boys the dose of lavender had to be so small you would think there would be a lot more widespread cases reported of boys having issues.

In 2013 new research was done on the possible estrogenic action of lavender and tea tree oil.  “The new research, in which considerable quantities of lavender oil were used, found that there was no increase in uterine weight, and so no estrogenic action.”  You can read more about the study here.

I am pretty skeptical that lavender/tea tree oil causes gynecomastia in boys.  It just seems like weak data that the press went wild with.  Plus there is some data that refutes these claims.  To be on the safe side I am conservative about my application of these oils on the children.  I occasionally put one drop in their bath and occasionally treat a cut or other skin irritation with diluted lavender oil.  I mostly use lavender in the diffuser with the kids.

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca)

Melaleuca has been documented to kill many bacteria, viruses, and fungi on contact so it is excellent for cuts, wounds, burns, and anywhere that bacteria might be found. It has a historical use as an antiseptic for the face, skin disorders including acne, and dandruff.  It is effective to use at the onset of flu and cold

Tea Tree Oil works AMAZINGLY well for cold sores.  Trust me.  Not only is the cold sore gone in 24 hrs but the tea tree oil is numbing so it provides instant relief.  I also have found tea tree oil to help when I take it with a spoonful of honey at the first sign of a cold.

Oil Blends

These are oil blends put out by doTerra.  I know there are a lot more blends out there both by doTerra and other brands. 

In Tune

This is doTerra‘s blend for attention.  It is the one marketed for ADHD.  I bought the blend in a roller applicator.  Before Mr Rockstar’s reading lesson, which is his hardest, I ask him what letter he would like me to write on his foot.  I use the roller applicator to write a letter on both his feet then massage it in.  Often times if I forget to apply the oil he reminds me.

Psychologically I know it helps.  It is as is if once we have applied the oil doing his reading lesson is the necessary next step.  He has been programed to expect his reading lesson after applying the oil.  It is hard to separate out how much of it is pharmacological and how much is simply psychological.  I know it does seem to help him focus in the short term and he likes the smell.  Maybe if I experimented with applying it at other times of the day I could separate out how much of the benefit is as a sensory ritual and how much is just due to the oil.


I have asthma and severe allergies and I have used breathe when I am congested at night.  This works like vicks vapor rub without the petroleum….and may be cheaper and more effective.  I haven’t really researched.  I either rub it on my chest and feet or put it in the diffuser.

On Guard

On Guard is doTerra‘s immunity boosting blend.  This is one of my favorites.  If I am coming down with a bad cold I can dilute it and add a drop to my nasal irrigation and it really helps to prevent sinus infections.  It also comes as a beadlet (think breath mint) that I can take whenever I feel a sore throat coming on.

Some people apply this to their children’s feet before school to help boost their immunity while at school.  I want to try this but haven’t yet.  I also diffuse it in the house if one of us is sick to try and keep the rest of us healthy.

Serenity and Balance

These are great oils to diffuse when anyone is feeling down or in a bad mood!

My Essential Oil Summary

  1. My rule of thumb is if there has been a consensus for hundreds of years that a certain essential oil helps with a certain ailment then I probably believe it helps ….at least a little bit.  If however there is “new” use for a particular oil but there is no consensus (when I look across multiple websites) and no scientific data to back it up then I am highly skeptical.
  2. The ritual of rubbing an oil on your child’s feet (either OnGuard for immunity, InTune for concentration, or Lavender for soothing) as part of a daily ritual can be highly beneficial.  It adds to the sensory experience of the day plus it is a bonding time.
  3. Using essential oils at bedtime can be a great way to bring the smell of home with you when you travel.
  4. I personally have benefited from OnGuard and a couple other oils for immunity support to help fight off recurring sinus infections.
  5. Essential oils can be quite helpful to shift moods.  If you (or your kids) are having a bad day changing the smell of the house with an uplifting scent such as Balance can psychologically help lift you out of the bad mood.  I do feel like essential oils are more beneficial than commercial air fresheners (i.e. less chemical smells and possible side effects).
  6. Essential oils have helped with Mr Rockstar but it is not a silver bullet.

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