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7 Essential Oils That Promote Weight Loss

We know that essential oils treat a host of conditions from allergies to headache. There is some evidence that when these highly concentrated oils are inhaled, diffused, or rubbed on key body parts, they may also help reduce cravings, burn fat, increase energy, and promote weight loss. If you have a healthy diet and get regular exercise, some of these oils may help you shed pounds.

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Lemon oil

Just as lemon water can help with weight loss, lemon essential oil is among the best for weight loss. “Lemon essential oil supports detoxification, helping to cleanse toxins that build up inside the body,” explains Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, founder of, author of Eat Dirt and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition. “Detoxing will rejuvenate your body, increase your energy levels and improve fat digestion.” Plus, “it supports lymphatic drainage, ridding the body of wastes that can be leading to inflammation and other health issues that hinder your ability to lose weight.” To reap these benefits, diffuse five drops of lemon oil into the water of your humidifier.

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Lavender oil

When we are stressed out, we reach for our favorite fattening comfort foods—think chips, cookies, candy, and cake—and are less likely to hit the gym or get enough sleep. “If these are issues for you, using lavender oil can be a big help,” Axe says. Lavender promotes relaxation, eases tension, and supports restful sleep. It may also slash unhealthy cravings. “When we sniff delectable aromas we immediately salivate and want to satisfy those cravings—so inhaling essential oils such as lavender will relax you and will calm down those cravings,” adds fragrance expert Sue Phillips, president of Scenterprises LTD in New York City. Other ways to reap the benefits of lavender essential oil for weight loss include applying two to three drops to your temples, wrists, and the back of your neck before bedtime. There are other calming essential oils that help us get our zen on.

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Grapefruit Oil

The Grapefruit Diet was a big hit back in the day, and there may be some science behind this fad eating plan. Grapefruit—and grapefruit oil—contain fat-burning properties. “Grapefruit oil supports the breakdown of body fat by activating enzymes in the body,” Axe says. “It contains powerful compounds that support your metabolism and cleanse your lymphatic glands, allowing them to carry nutrients to your tissues.”

For weight loss, massaging grapefruit oil onto your stomach may reduce dangerous belly fat and waist circumference, according to researchers from Wonkwang Health Science College in Korea. What’s more, people who massaged the grapefruit oil on their stomachs during the study also felt better about their bodies, the study found. But not all essential oils are safe for skin. “You can also use grapefruit oil to reduce hunger cravings by adding one to two drops to a glass of water or applying two drops to your wrists or chest,” Axe says

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Holy basil oil

Some research suggests that holy basil oil may help regulate stress and anxiety. “When you produce too much of the stress hormone cortisol, you can experience weight gain and a number of other health effects,” Axe says. “Using holy basil oil will help to relieve emotional stress and anxiety, two factors that can contribute to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.” When it comes to choosing the best essential oil for weight loss, it’s about figuring out what is getting in the way of your efforts and removing that obstacle. Give it a try by adding one to two drops of the oil to a cup of warm water and drinking up.

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Ginger oil

Topping the list of essential oils for weight loss is ginger oil, which supports digestion, reduces inflammation, and eases sugar cravings, Axe says. (This is one of the reasons some restaurants offer ginger candies to guests and why ginger is a common treatment for nausea.) “Ginger oil also serves as a thermogenic agent, which means that it can help to burn fat and boost your metabolism.” Try adding two drops of ginger oil to a cup of warm water and drinking it as you would tea, or adding two to three drops to a warm water bath and soaking, or inhaling it directly from the bottle. Ginger has some other surprising health benefits too.

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Cinnamon oil

Cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels. “By balancing your blood sugar, cinnamon oil can reduce sugar cravings and overeating,” Axe says. It also prevents the fatigue and moodiness that get in the way of practicing healthy habits and sabotage weight loss efforts. Diffuse five drops of cinnamon oil in an at-home diffuser (such as Ellia) or combine five drops of cinnamon with one to two teaspoon of coconut oil and apply it to your wrists, chest, or abdomen.

When it comes to weight loss, some essential oils work even better together mixed with an oil base, says Yvette Sitten, founder of Aurora Alchemy in Auckland, New Zealand. “One of the best methods for body shaping, slimming, reduction in water bloating, and skin-firming is using essential oils within a body oil base (such as sweet almond & Vitamin E, which I use or olive or any other body oil),” she says.

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Peppermint oil

“Smelling peppermint oil may help curb appetite by affecting the area of the brain that makes you feel full,” says Phillips. In one study, people who smelled peppermint oil every two hours felt less hungry and consumed on average 2,800 fewer calories over a week (or around 300 a day) than their counterparts who didn’t smell the peppermint. That’s pretty significant!

And this isn’t the only research that shows inhaling mint alone or with other essential oils can take the bite out of cravings—especially those all-too-powerful chocolate ones. People who sniffed an essential oil blend of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, spearmint, and ocotea reported a reigning in of their cravings. By contrast, breathing in vanilla essential oil jump started the chocolate cravings. The findings appear in the October 2016 issue of Appetite, and study authors conclude that they “can be applied in contexts such as weight loss programs, therapy, and maintenance programs.”

Denise Mann, MS
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer whose articles regularly appear in Reader’s Digest. She has received numerous awards, including the Arthritis Foundation's Northeast Region Prize for Online Journalism; the Excellence in Women's Health Research Journalism Award; the Journalistic Achievement Award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; National Newsmaker of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast; a Bronze Award from The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors; and an honorable mention in the International Osteoporosis Foundation Journalism Awards. Mann received a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She lives in New York with her husband David; sons Teddy and Evan; and their miniature schnauzer, Perri Winkle Blu, and rescue chihuahua-pitbull, Thomas.