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Shortcuts for Understanding Science: Finding Scientific Literature

Summary: doTERRA is an essential oil company that is driving the scientific exploration of essential oils. They are joined by many other scientists around the world who are also interested in understanding the potential benefits of these aromatic compounds. As a result, databases like Google Scholar, PubMed, and AromaticScience offer a plethora of essential oil scientific literature.


Since 1950, thousands of scientific research articles have been published on essential oils and their chemical constituents. Most of these studies were published after the year 2000. Through this recent explosion of scientific research, essential oils have shown potential as alternative and complementary health therapies. However, many of these studies are experimental in design rather than human clinical trials. This means that there is still further research to be done before the healthcare industry will openly discuss the benefits of essential oils.

Because of these limitations, many essential oil users and healthcare practitioners have shown increased interest in doing personal research to help them understand the properties of essential oils.† Unfortunately, there are several sources on the web containing information that is either misleading, false, or ill-supported by scientific findings. At doTERRA, we encourage the use of scientific research to validate the proper use of essential oils. We have put together a list of a few reliable sources that you can use to educate yourself on the biological activity of essential oils. †† Many studies housed on these databases provide an abstract but require a paid subscription to view the full text. However, there is still a vast selection of articles that are open to public.

Reliable Sources on Essential Oil Research

  1. PubMed
    PubMed is a free search tool that you can use to browse the MEDLINE database. Medline is an enormous compilation of research maintained by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). PubMed is the library of choice for most physicians and scientists looking to find research on any topic in healthcare. Two drawbacks to using PubMed are that some research articles aren’t included in the MEDLINE database, and that searches for essential oil research can often be cluttered by unrelated studies.
  2. Google Scholar
    Google Scholar is also a free search tool that you can use to find any research article on the internet. Like PubMed, one potential drawback is that your results may be cluttered with irrelevant articles.
  3. AromaticScience

    AromaticScience is a free database devoted specifically to essential oil research publications. This library includes search functionality, article abstracts, and links to full texts. Newly published essential oil research studies are posted to AromaticScience regularly.††† However, this site is not inclusive of all the research studies that have ever been done on essential oils. 

The Right Search Terms

The most crucial aspect of your quest to find relevant essential oil literature is to select specific search terms. You can search for articles by oil type, the plant botanical name, or chemical constituent. For example, if you are curious about the health benefits associated with copaiba oil, the search term you may use might be as simple as “copaiba oil” or “beta caryophyllene” (the primary constituent of copaiba oil). If you want to narrow your search to focus on copaiba’s benefits on joints, your search term might look like this: “copaiba” AND “joints”, including quotation marks around each search phrase. Using AND (capitalized) tells the search engine that you only want results that include both the phrase “copaiba oil” and the word “joints”. In place of AND, you can use the word OR or NOT to refine your search. Adding OR to your search term tells the database that you want all the results that contain either of your search terms. Including NOT between search terms can help you narrow your search to include one term but exclude the other.

Once you have decided on the best search terms, it will become much easier to find relevant literature. Next, let’s break down how to read and understand these publications so that you can quickly get the most out of the information presented to you.

Information from experimental research should never be used in place of or contradictory to indications from your healthcare provider.

†† These sources are intended for personal use and should not be used to promote or sell doTERRA products.

††† AromaticScience is affiliated with doTERRA, but is not intended to promote any particular brand of essential oils.

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