(KUTV) — Monika Menke suffered from debilitating pain driven by migraines, fibromyalgia, and auto immune diseases.
At one point, the pain became too much.
"You just get to a point where you just get tired of everything," Menke said.
Out of sheer desperation, she tried essential oils and finally started feeling some relief, and slowly started weaning herself off of medications.
"I don't use any more prescription medication," she said. "So that's a huge deal for me."
Millions of people worldwide apparently feel the same way.
Essential oils is a 5-billion dollar industry, according to a spokesperson for doTERRA, an essential oils company based in Pleasant Grove.
"It's a growing industry because people are really looking for solutions. They're looking for overall ways to supplement their health and wellness," said Missy Larsen, VP of Corporate Communications for doTERRA.
But, some doctors have concerns.
Dr. Corrine Welt, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine with the University of Utah cites two studies where six prepubescent boys exposed to essential oils grew breasts, a condition called gynecomastia.
"They were all exposed to some sort of concentrated lavender oil, either through shampoo, soap, or oil on the skin," said Dr. Welt.
When the boys stopped using the oils, the breast tissue disappeared completely.
"So it seemed quite clear that the exposure caused the breast tissue development," Dr. Welt said.
Dr. Welt also worries about how these oils can affect a developing fetus.
"I think if you are exposing a small child or a pregnant woman to oils that potentially have endocrine-disrupting effects, those are the types of patients we would worry the most about," she said.
Even though these oils can be all-natural and extracted straight from plants, they can still have implications on people's health.
"These are not different from any other types of chemicals," Welt said. "They are organic compounds. They're concentrated quite highly."
Researchers at doTERRA agree.
"We do have to be cautious about how we use those, because they are highly concentrated," said Cody Beaumont, director of analytical services and quality control at doTERRA.
Beaumont also says essential oils should not be used instead of western medicine, but rather in conjunction with your doctor.
"They're the ones who are most going to understand and know what somebody is going through from a physical perspective," Beaumont said.
With so much information out there, Beaumont says people are taking a more hands-on approach to their wellness.
"They want to be more involved in how to do that, and essential oils are a good space to keep up the health and wellness of anybody who needs some help," said Beaumont.
Monika Menke and her husband, Marc, have talked to their doctors about using essential oils.
"He's just like, 'It's working for you. Let's just keep doing it if it's working,'" Monika said.
And even though it's working for the Menkes now, Marc says he was skeptical at first.
"That was me five years ago," he said. "But then when she found doTERRA and started using the oils, I watched her and couldn't believe the change in her."
"These oils have changed my life," said Monika. "I'm able to do things I haven't been able to do before."
But some doctors worry users of essential oils could see some negative effects after long-term use.
"I think bigger studies are needed before we completely dismiss this as a completely safe product," said Dr. Welt.