DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - For decades, people have used homemade remedies for simple illnesses like cold, sore throat and indigestion. Now, several companies are marketing little bottles of essential oils as natural cure for ailments, from stress relief to weight loss.
Like any popular trend, they are also very controversial; especially when it comes to kids.
The companies claim the oils are distilled from plants and are safe to ingest. But, doctors say more research is needed before you put anything in your mouth.
"There is a little more evidence on certain uses for them that have been shown in test tube, animal and some adults," says Dr. Justin Smith, a pediatrician with Cook Children's.
"But in kids, that's where the evidence is still lacking," he said.
Jenny Bradford, a mother of two, not only uses essential oils but also writes about it in the Dallas Moms' blog.
"Some people do ingest them either in a capsule or mix them into things," she said. But Bradford is careful when it comes to having kids take it orally. She uses oils in diffusers for aroma and on roller balls to apply on skin.
"Lavender really helps them calm down," she said. She also uses a blended oil behind the ear to alleviate ear ache.
The National Cancer Institute says certain oils can be used on skin to act as an anti-bacterial or even help with inflammation. In cancer patients, oils used in aroma therapy can help with stress and anxiety.
Dr. Smith is cautious. "There may be one oil that works for a certain condition but it is not that all work for everything and I think that is the key," he said.
Last fall, the Food and Drug Administration warned two top essential oil companies about making broad health claim.
Dr. Smith says all parents using essential oils on their kids must tell the doctor about it. Jenny Bradford agrees.
But she says using oils should be up to each parent.
"It's like anything else that we make a decision for our children."
Essential oils are marketed as natural products, some side effects include skin irritation. Lavender and Tea Tree oils can have some hormone like effects. And citrus oils can prompt sun sensitivity.
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
for more features.