Please stop trying to sell me a $70 bottle of frankincense oil for "immune support."

Jaime Milan; Nutrition review by Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.
March 11, 2020
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Before I get 300 angry emails in my inbox, let me just say that I love essential oils. I diffuse them every day for a naturally clean-smelling home. I also like to rub a mixture of lavender and mint essential oils on my temples when I have a migraine. And while some essential oils have science-backed health benefits (for example: lavender may help ease anxiety and mint could improve IBS symptoms), there are some pretty bold claims going around regarding essential oils and coronavirus.

One essential oil purveyor, Herba Terra Organics, suggests forgoing alcohol-based hand sanitizer and making your own with essential oils and aloe vera. Their website says, "It seems like the truly safe and effective alternative is to make your own sanitizer for when you're on the go...all you need is [sic] three natural ingredients that are good for you and the planet: Aloe vera gel, eucalyptus and orange oils, which are very effective antimicrobial agents and very gentle on the skin."

Credit: Getty / Jamie Grill

While I'm sure their DIY hand sanitizer smells amazing, the CDC doesn't agree with their scientific assessment. The CDC's website says, "Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers." Translation: That DIY hand sanitizer isn't doing much for your health—or for preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Essential oil companies are making these bold claims and it's becoming such a widespread issue that the FDA had to issue warning letters to seven companies.

In the FDA's letters to these companies, the federal organization says they're taking measures to protect consumers from products that don't have approval or authorization to "mitigate, prevent, treat or diagnose COVID-19," and has requested that these companies immediately take down any content that makes these claims.

While it can be tempting to turn to essential oils or other natural products, there are certain things we know can help prevent the spread of coronavirus. First, wash your hands frequently (99% of us are doing it wrong, according to research—here's how to wash your hands correctly) and avoid touching your face. Second, stock up on healthy pantry staples in case you get stuck at home or need to self-quarantine. Lastly, take care of yourself! Eat healthy meals, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and try not to stress (and if you're stressed, it's totally fine to break out your essential oils—just don't expect them to kill any viruses).