Study Links Essential Oils to Seizures in Adults

Essential oils
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A study published in Epilepsy Research finds evidence of certain essential oils, such as eucalyptus oil, causing seizures in adults.

Essential oils are known to have multiple beneficial properties. Headaches, sinusitis, aiding digestion, and increasing hair growth are just some of the ailments essential oils are used to treat. With the advent of coronavirus, more and more people have turned towards essential oils for smell training. But that’s not all. Recently essential oils have garnered a lot of attention for their role in aromatherapy and stress relief. Despite the benefits, essential oils can often be dangerous. As per findings of a new study, certain oils such as camphor and eucalyptus oil can cause seizures in individuals.

Both, eucalyptus oil and camphor, have pro-convulsant properties which means they can cause seizures. Although previous studies have reported these oils causing seizures in children, this is the first research to assess the link in adults.

There is literature linking essential oils and seizures, especially that of camphor and eucalyptus, and especially in the pediatric age group. But there are only a few case reports in adults.

Thomas Mathew, study author

The team of Indian neurologists recruited 350 patients from across four South Indian hospitals. The patients, both epileptic and non-epileptic, had presented to the hospital either due to their first episode of seizure or a breakthrough seizure. A breakthrough seizure is one that occurs in epileptics after a long period of no convulsions. The participants underwent monitoring for a period of four years. The researchers questioned the patients on their exposure to an essential oil, type pf seizure, duration of seizure, and antiepileptic drug therapy.

Eucalyptus and Camphor to Blame

Results showed that 55 patients had seizures due to inhalation, ingestion, or topical use of an essential oil. 40% of these patients had no history of seizures; thus, causing the researchers to label it as essential-oil induced. The remaining 60% had had seizures before so their seizures were labelled essential-oil provoked. Most commonly involved essential oils included eucalyptus and camphor.

Researchers followed them for a period of 1 to 3 years to monitor the recurrence of seizures. 94% of the epileptic patients did not report any seizures during the follow-up period. The non-epileptic patients received anti-seizure medication for two to four weeks and none reported a recurrence afterwards. Moreover, they remained seizure-free after avoiding exposure to essential oils.

The [essential oils] appear to be provoking these seizures but whether they are truly causative or associative must be clarified by further evidence from larger blinded studies

study authors

Authors of the study suggest taking a proper history, covering exposure to essential oils, in patients experiencing their first seizure. Identification of causative factors can help remove the reliance on antiepileptic drug therapy.


Mathew, Thomas, et al. “Essential Oil Related SEIZURES (Eors): A Multi-Center Prospective Study on Essential Oils and Seizures in Adults.” Epilepsy Research, vol. 173, 2021, p. 106626., doi:10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2021.106626.


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