July 15, 2022

Essential oils and epilepsy – pros and cons

Lifestyle & Wellness

Some people use essential oils for seizures. But is it safe? Read our blog to learn about safety, risks and possible benefits of essential oils and seizure management.

People have been using essential oils for seizure for thousands of years. For example, in ancient Persia, lavender oil was sometimes used by doctors to treat epilepsy. One of the reasons that purple is the color of epilepsy is due to the fact that lavender (a plant with purple flowers) was used to treat seizures before modern medicine.

Today there are over 90 essential oils which can easily be bought in health stores and online. These products claim to provide various benefits for people’s health. Essential oils can be applied to the skin or are inhaled – a type of alternative medicine called aromatherapy.

At present, there is relatively little research into the potential benefits of essential oils for seizures. Nevertheless, some people with epilepsy feel they benefit from using these oils, or are curious to try them. Here's what we know about the potential pros and cons with essential oils and seizures.

More reading: Are there any foods to avoid with epilepsy?

Woman with epilepsy smelling essential oils

Always talk with your doctor first

If you are thinking of using essential oils for seizure management, you should always speak with your doctor before taking any new treatments. Essential oils should not replace your anti-epilepsy medication, because there’s a high risk of having a breakthrough seizure.

Possible benefits of essential oils for seizures

Because there’s little definitive evidence about essential oils and seizures, we can’t say for sure if they’re helpful or not when managing epilepsy.

One possible benefit of essential oils is that they can help people feel relaxed. Since stress is a major cause of epileptic seizures, smelling these pleasant aromas, or receiving massages with them, could help reduce stress.

It could go further. One study in the UK found that when people with epilepsy received aromatherapy massages with certain essential oils, they could later smell that oil and this seemed to help prevent seizures. This was just one study in 2003, however, much more research is needed to be confident of this treatment.  

Another review article from 2019 found that there were potential benefits to using essential oils for epilepsy, and that some of them reduce excitability in brain cells. It should be noted that the study was funded by a company that produces essential oils. This doesn't mean the findings are untrue, but a lot more research needs to be done before we know for sure that essential oils definitely help control seizures.

A list of essential oils and ingredients that may have anticonvulsant properties include:

  • Norwegian angelica
  • Bitter orange
  • Fennel oil
  • Verbena
  • Acorus
  • Dill
  • Caraway
  • Lemongrass
  • Lavender
  • Clove
  • And many more

Finally, Epidiolex, a brand of CBD (marijuana) oil was approved by the FDA to treat certain kinds of childhood epilepsy. Read more about CBD oil and seizures here.

Some essential oils are not good for seizures

Although most essential oils are believed to be harmless for people with epilepsy, there are certain essential oils that could be seizure triggers. The following essential oils are not good for seizures and should be avoided if you have epilepsy:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Fennel
  • Hyssop
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savin
  • Tansy
  • Thuja
  • Turpentine
  • Wormwood

Related: Are their vitamins that help with epilepsy?

Weighing up the pros and cons of using essential oils for seizures

Although there are a number of essential oils that can cause seizures, most of these products are harmless, and may even benefit people with epilepsy. If you are interested in essential oils and seizure treatment, speak with your doctor first, so they can double check that the oil is safe for you to use.