Sure Important Oils Can Induce Seizures, Scientists Discover


Essential oils – extracts of plants that contain compounds that capture the “essence” of their scent – are found worldwide in over-the-counter medicine for the treatment of minor illnesses. Their use has also increased as part of the health and wellness movement of Western cultures in personal care products for aromatherapy, sleep aids, stress relief, and even childbirth.

In many cases, sellers make bold statements about the effectiveness and benefits of their oils but have little or no solid evidence to support them. This does not mean that all essential oils are harmful. For example, animal studies of peppermint have shown that it can aid digestion.

However, some of these oils can be very dangerous, including eucalyptus and camphor, which have pro-convulsive properties. This means they can trigger fits and convulsions by acting in the nervous system, which can be a serious problem for people with epilepsy. Even so, these oils are often found in products available for purchase, often without warning of possible side effects.

In a new study, a group of Indian neurologists found evidence that these oils may be responsible for seizures in a significant number of patients admitted to four different hospitals in southern India for seizures. After patients were instructed to avoid these oils, they saw a dramatic improvement in their condition.

The study is the largest essential oil-related seizure case study in adults to date, and one of the first to examine the effects of these oils on seizures in adults, not just children, previous research has found. Professor Thomas Mathew, director of the Department of Neurology at St. John’s Medical College Hospital in Bengaluru, India, and his colleagues published their results in Epilepsy Research on March 26th.

To check whether convulsive essential oils are involved in first-time or breakthrough seizures in patients with epilepsy and epilepsy syndrome, the team monitored four different hospitals. For four years, the researchers followed people who checked into their hospitals for their first or breakthrough seizure (a breakthrough seizure occurs after a person with epilepsy has not had a seizure for a long period of time). These patients were asked several questions, such as:

  • Descriptions of the seizure
  • Whether they had recently used essential oils
  • Any other medication they were taking

The results showed that out of 350 patients, 55 (15.7%) had seizures that may have been caused by the ingestion, inhalation, or topical application of essential oils. These oil-related seizures have been broken down into sub-categories:

  1. Oil-related seizures (EOPS), of which there were 33
  2. Oil Induced Seizures (EOIS), of which there were 22.

The team found that the most commonly affected oils were camphor and eucalyptus.

Certain essential oils can cause seizures, scientists have foundCamphor oil. (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Mathew and colleagues recommended that doctors inquire about exposure to these oils in patients with first-time seizures and those with breakthrough seizures. Possible side effects should be known in epilepsy and seizure patients.

While the study shows a strong correlation, the authors suggest that more research is needed before they know whether these essential oils are causative or linked to seizures. “The essential oils seem to provoke these seizures, but whether they are truly causal or associative needs further evidence from larger blinded studies,” the study’s authors concluded.

The team is currently studying the effects of these essential oils on various disorders and diseases. Their first results show that many people are addicted to the oils and use them for no good reason.