If you’re carrying unwanted weight, especially around your midsection, you’ve likely spent a lot of time thinking about what you put in your mouth. There’s certainly no shortage of food advice when it comes to weight issues. And yet, diet alone isn’t the answer for most people’s weight challenges. That’s one why the weight-loss community took notice when a team of researchers at the University of Palermo in Italy reviewed scientific studies and concluded that, when inhaled through the nose essential oils can help reduce body fat. “Smelling your way thin may sound too good to be true, but exciting new research shows that certain scents trigger weight loss,” confirms Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, a board-certified doctor of natural medicine and author of The Essential Oils Healing Deck. That’s right: It’s now possible to target body fat by using aromatic essential oils. Read on for the best essential oils for weight loss.
Essential oil basics
Many of us are familiar with the essential oils we can mix with carrier oils and apply to our skin like perfume and/or essential oil diffusers that make our homes smell nice. But what’s not so widely known is how effectively these scents also deliver powerful health benefits. (Click through to learn how essential oils improve focus, memory and more.)
In the most basic terms, essential oils are simply highly concentrated plant extracts. Imagine taking a lavender plant, drying it, then steaming it until its pure oil separates from the plant and becomes a vapor that can be collected.
Hundreds of essential oils have been identified, and each can affect our health in different ways, explains Schoffro Cook. Essential oils work on the body much like a game of “telephone,” where a message is passed from person to person down a line. First, receptors in the nose sense the special chemicals in a particular oil’s scent. Then the message is sent to the central nervous system, which then passes the message to the brain to instruct other systems of the body to take action. One message might be to boost metabolism, resulting in a breakdown of fats around the belly. Another message might be to regulate hunger hormones or improve digestion.
Essential oils for weight loss
Schoffro Cook says, “Most people are familiar with using essential oils for their bath and beauty benefits, but when it comes to health, essential oils are among the most powerful medicines available, helping assist in weight management.” Weight-loss expert Jorge Cruise, author of The Cruise Control Diet, agrees, adding: “Incorporating essential oils into your daily life can be a delightful way to whittle your waist.”
California entrepreneur Kristi Glowski is living proof of the slimming power of essential oils. After an injury made her gain 30 pounds, she dropped from a size 12 to a 6 thanks to making healthy changes, including using essential oils. She says, “I don’t have a muffin top anymore!”
The best essential oils for weight loss
Keep scrolling to learn more about which essential oils to use for weight loss and belly fat.
1. Peppermint Oil for weight loss
Amy Shah, MD, author of I’m So Effing Hungry, recommends peppermint essential oil to women trying to lose weight. She was impressed by research out of West Virginia and published in the journal Appetite. In the study, subjects who inhaled the scent of peppermint oil every 2 hours for 5 days ate 2,800 fewer calories over the week, compared to weeks when they didn’t smell the aroma. That difference is enough to lose close to a pound every week!
Adding a couple drops of peppermint oil to water can also improve your workouts to speed weight loss. Researchers reporting in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that peppermint water elevated athlete’s performance, allowing them to exercise longer without feeling fatigued.
And famous chef and TV personality Giada De Laurentiis, who somehow manages to enjoy lots of delicious Italian cooking while staying slim and trim, tells FIRST magazine she uses essential oils to stay healthy. “When I’m feeling congested, I use peppermint or lemon oil in a little diffuser for my sinuses.” (Click through to learn more ways Giada stays looking and feeling fabulous in her 50s.)
One to try: Majestic Pure 100% Pure Peppermint Essential Oil (buy on Amazon, $14.95 for 4 oz).
2. Clary Sage Oil to burn belly fat
As we all know, weight isn’t solely about our food intake — it’s also linked to our state of mind. Dr. Schoffro Cook says, “Clary sage is one of the best essential oils to balance brain hormones involved in mood regulation.” In fact, in one study, menopausal women who inhaled sage in reduced their stress hormones, the ones that can make us emotionally overeat and gain belly fat.
Clary sage is also a top essential oil for belly fat: In a South Korean study, women who inhaled this sweet, musky scent for just 5 minutes experienced reduced levels of the belly-fat–promoting stress hormone cortisol by as much as 36%! What’s more: Schoffro Cook adds, “Exposure to sage has been found to help regulate blood sugar in the same way as insulin, demonstrating its potential to assist with weight loss.”
One to try: Aphrosmile 100% pure clary sage (Buy on Amazon, $8.50 for .33 oz).
3. Anise Star Oil to boost metabolism
Anise star oil contains manganese, a mineral and antioxidant that boosts metabolism. It can also help regulate blood sugar, as seen in a 45-day study from of diabetic rats. Schoffro Cook suggests adding 5 drops of the essential oil to a 10-milliliter rollerball bottle, topped with a carrier oil, and rolling on the wrists or abdomen twice daily for a month, inhaling the scent each time you apply. Schoffro Cook cautions, “A lot of anise oil products on the market are synthetic fragrance oils with no healing properties.” To ensure you’re getting the slimming benefits of any oil, Cruise says: “Just make sure you’re using natural oils with no added synthetic compounds.” (Click through for more on the health benefits of star anise and tips on making a delicious tea with the fragrant spice.)
One to try: Mayan Secret Anise Star Oil (Buy on Amazon, $14.95 for 4 oz)
4. Grapefruit Oil dials down appetite
According to a 2005 animal study published in the journal Neuroscience Letters, inhaling the scent of grapefruit oil three times a week can reduce your food intake, and consequently, your body weight. What’s more, grapefruit is known to be motivating and refreshing, making a pure bottle ideal for sniffing just before a workout. (Click through to our sister publication to learn more about how grapefruit can help you lose weight and a grapefruit diet plan.)
One to try: Humco Natural Therapies Grapefruit Oil (Buy on Amazon, $11.99 for 2 oz)
5. Lemon Oil helps unclog the liver
Aromatherapists have turned to lemon essential oil for centuries to protect the liver, one of the largest and most powerful metabolism-controlling organs in the body. Schroffo Cook advises blending lemon oil with a carrier oil and massaging into the liver region (the upper right side of the torso) a few times daily for one month. How does it work? Plant compounds in the oil stimulate production of glutathione, the world’s most powerful antioxidant. Notes Mark Hyman, MD, “Glutathione plays an integral role in detoxing our systems and helping us lose weight and prevent disease.” (Click through to learn more about how glutathione benefits the body and mind) .
One to try: Handcraft lemon oil (Buy on Amazon, $29.99 for 4 oz)
6. Ginger Oil quells inflammation
Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. And dialing down inflammation is a surefire way to reduce fat and speed weight loss. Doctor of Natural Medicine Josh Axe revealed to Reader’s Digest that ginger oil, like this is tops for weight loss, thanks for its ability to ease sugar cravings, support digestion and reduce inflammation. “Ginger oil also serves as a thermogenic agent, which means that it can help to burn fat and boost your metabolism,” he said. To get the benefits, diluted ginger oil in a carrier oil and applied over any area where there is inflammation. (Click through for more health benefits of ginger.)
One to try: Nature’s Oil Certified Ginger Oil, (buy on Amazon, $12.57 for .33 oz)
Maximize benefits by using multiple essential oils
Many people don’t use essential oils individually. Instead they combine different oils into blends in the hope that they provide a synergistic affect. Proponents claim that when applied topically to skin during a massage or dabbed onto pressure points for sniffing, the perks of blended essential oils multiply. Indeed, in a six-week Korean study, women who performed abdominal self-massage daily with a blend of essential oils lost four times more belly fat than women who used an unscented oil.
What to know before you try essential oils for weight loss
Experts warn that some undiluted oils can burn sensitive skin and mucous membranes. Says Cruise: “If you’re going to dab or massage the oils into your skin or gargle with them, mix two drops of essential oil into 1⁄2 tsp. of a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil, to prevent injury. And don’t swallow oils unless directed by a certified aromatherapist or physician.”
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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