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How to Use Essential Oils for Gut Health
While homeopathic living seems to be on the rise, aromatherapy was one of the OGs in the all-natural movement. Many of us think of using essential oils in our baths to relax or adding them to our skin cream to rejuvenate skin cells. However, using essential oils to support the digestive tract is also growing in popularity. Let’s take a look at how essential oils work and why essential oils for gut health might be right for your daily routine.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are chemical compounds that are tucked away deep within the core of plant matter. In order to bottle essential oils, the plant matter must go through a process called extraction.
Many parts of a plant are used to make essential oils:
Extraction is important because it causes the physical plant matter to release highly-volatile chemicals into the air. These natural fragrance oils are terpenes, and they play a significant role in aromatherapy.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are a class of chemical compounds that give specific plants their associated scent. For instance, linalool in lavender essential oil is responsible for its floral flavor. Meanwhile, A-Pinene is one of the primary essential oils that gives rosemary its flagrantly piny aroma.
Research indicates the terpenes are responsible for many homeopathic remedies. It’s the volatile chemical compounds that make a couple drops of peppermint oil in water such an excellent aid for digestive issues. Terpenes are also why orange essential oil is an excellent all-natural ingredient in both a DIY cleaner and a DIY astringent.
A meta-analysis dove into the relationship between human cells and essential oils.
“Numerous studies have shown that essential oils derived from various plants have neuroprotective effects against neurodegenerative conditions in vivo and in vitro. Therefore, as a main component of plant essential oils, terpenes may be beneficial to human neuronal health 1.”– TOXICOL RES
Just as oranges have more Vitamin C than a beefsteak, a number of essential oils have varying levels of terpenes in their genetic makeup. Therefore, some essential oils for gut health are more effective for certain digestive complaints than others.
What do essential oils have to do with gut health?
Imagine peeling a fresh orange. Envision the mist that cascades off the peel and dances on your skin. Its zesty scent tickles your nostrils. All-in-all, this is a pleasant experience, and it’s probably one you can recall quite vividly.
Now, think of a horrible experience that evokes a sense of smell. Perhaps the aroma of a hospital when a loved one was sick? Maybe the scent of the corned beef hash that gave you food poisoning? How about that perfume or cologne that your ex wore all the time? Yeah, you’re emotional health just went up and down a roller coaster, huh?
Scent is one of our five senses, and it’s a powerful tool. The reason it has such a profound impact on us is due to our olfactory system.
This complex communication network is situated at the end of our nasal cavity. When scents enter our nostrils, the compounds that generate these smells stimulate receptors in our nose.
Based on these reactions, our mind interprets the message. As a result, we feel some type of way.
For those peeling an orange, you might feel giddy. Others smelling catalog samples of fragrances their exes used to don may feel tragic. All of these sensations are thanks to essential oils.
Our vagus nerve regulates our gut-brain-axis. Therefore, essential oils might be able to biohack your mental and digestive health!
Why the use of essential oils promotes a healthy gut
Now, you might wonder how this can boost your gut health? Having a big ol’ whiff of lemon essential oil through your nose is a lot like drinking a smoothie or eating a protein bar. You’re consuming chemical compounds that integrate with your bloodstream.
Also, the olfactory bulb offers direct lines of communication to the central nervous system. One analysis looked at how influential this part of our body truly is. In fact, inhaling essential oils can allow these terpenes to access areas of the central nervous system that most other molecules can’t reach 3.
“In mammals, the olfactory system is the only sensory system in which peripheral information is directly sent to the cortex, bypassing the sensory thalamus. Therefore, it has been proposed that the olfactory bulb combines the functions of a peripheral sensory system and the thalamus.”– FETAL AND NEONATAL PHYSIOLOGY
Our thalamus is a significant region of our brain 4. This part of our central nervous system influences many factors that may cause GI problems.
The thalamus plays a role in:
- Pain Perception
- Temperature regulation
- Touch sensation
- Consciousness regulation
- Sleep cycles
How to use essential oils for gut health
The health benefits of essential oils are astounding. These plant-based compounds can prop up your immune system, ease unhealthy gut symptoms, and provide a marvelous fragrance! Here are some of the most common ways to incorporate these powerful extracts into your wellness routine.
There are many ways to use essential oils for good health in your everyday life. The easiest method is to put essential oils into a diffuser. These devices are simple to use. Just pour in some water and then add a couple of drops of essential oils.
You can even mix and match some of our upcoming suggestions to create your own essential oil blend! From there, you can put your diffuser on a timer to dictate how long you want to release these molecules into the atmosphere.
One of the most common historical uses of essential oils was to create topicals for skin problems and digestive issues. Some essential oils are great for creating DIY topicals. Just add a few drops to a thicker carrier oil.
Common carrier oils include:
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Hemp Seed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- RoseHip oil
After integrating the essential oil blend well, apply the topical use mix directly to your skin. Rub into your stomach to smooth muscles of your intestines, chest to boost your immune system, or achy joints to experience the plants’ anti-inflammatory properties.
Draw a bath
Is there anything more relaxing than unwinding with a bubble bath full of lavender essential oil? Okay, maybe if you add a few peppermint tones to the bath. Alright, in this fantasy, a glass of prebiotic-rich wine for good bacteria will do, too!
Anyway, a bath allows you to soak in the health benefits of essential oils…literally. Your skin is very porous, and warm baths open these babies up for all the antibacterial and immune-boosting benefits of essential oils!
Internal use drink or food (with caution)
Very few essential oils are okay for internal use. They are highly concentrated and can become toxic substances or cause adverse reactions if they come into direct contact with skin or are consumed internally.
Make sure you research the essential oil before internal use. Always dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil and apply it to a small section of inconspicuous skin first to see if you have an allergic reaction.
What are the best essential oils for a healthy gut?
Don’t let all the warnings worry you. There are many benefits to using essential oils. One of the greatest is that they are an all-natural way of dealing with GI problems. Here’s how to use essential oils for gut health.
Peppermint oil for stomach pain
One of the most effective essential oils for stomach pain is peppermint oil. Menthol has shown to help ease stomach pains. That’s why many restaurants might give you a peppermint after dinner.
One study looking at menthol and gastrointestinal distress found that the terpene, menthol, helped alleviate spasms in the stomach 6.
“In vitro studies using guinea pig colon and rabbit jejunum smooth muscle suggest peppermint oil reverses acetylcholine induced contraction and antagonizes serotonin-induced contraction through calcium channel blockade.”– ALIMENT PHARMACOL THER
That analysis mentioned easing muscle tension in the jejunum within the intestinal tract. This essential part of our small intestine is responsible for the digestion of food and absorbing nutrients. So, if it’s blocked up, then, of course, we experience pain. Thankfully, the menthol in essential oils can calm the jejunum and make these contractions feel less severe.
Lemon balm oil for GERD
Acid reflux or GERD is caused when someone has a low pH in their gut biome. Lemon essential oil is naturally alkaline. Therefore, mixing some in with a glass of water can help balance out pH levels in your system.
Instead of opting for lemon juice for this remedy, stick with this better alternative. Essential oils don’t contain citric acid. Concentrated juices in grocery stores add this black mold-based product as a preservative.
Do note, that lemon essential oil may exasperate some cases of heartburn. Remember, we’re all unique! If that is the case, opt for a cooling essential oil like spearmint or peppermint oil.
Oregano oil for leaky gut syndrome
Oregano oil is a must for anyone considering essential oils for gut health, as it was one of the top antiviral foods. The oils of this herb contain a litany of useful terpenes for repairing a leaky gut . A powerful molecule found in oregano oil is carvacrol.
One analysis found that carvacrol helps fight off the growth of Staphylococcus aureus 7. This opportunistic bacteria can destroy beneficial intestinal flora, opening the door for Leaky Gut Syndrome to develop. In the study, 43% of mice who were given carvacrol saw their gut biome improve. That number is in comparison to the 50% of mice who were administered antibiotics.
Another study looked at how oregano oil prevented the growth of Escherichia coli. The analysis noted that keeping E. coli at bay helped prevent the growth of Leaky Gut Syndrome 8. That’s because oregano oil improved the tight junctions proteins responsible for keeping our gut lining sealed.
Clove oil for Candida overgrowth
Candida is the number one fungal infection. It is very hard to get rid of this fungi once it’s taken over the system. The antifungal properties of clove oil is a great preventative measure. Adding clove oil to your routine can also help you starve out these pathogenic stomach microbes.
Clove oil is rich in the terpene, eugenol. Aromatherapy circles tout eugenol for its potent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal capabilities. These antifungal qualities are clutch when you’re fighting off Candida overgrowth.
An analysis on eugenol and Candida found,
“Carvacrol and eugenol were fungicidal in exponentially growing C. albicans. Interestingly, this fungicidal effect was accompanied by the release of substances absorbing at 280 nm. In an immunosuppressed rat model of oral candidiasis, carvacrol or eugenol treatment significantly (P < 0.05) reduced the number of colony counts sampled from the oral cavity of rats treated for eight consecutive days compared to untreated control rats 9.”– ORAL MICROBIOL IMMUNOL.
Clove oil also alleviates the presence of thrush in your mouth. Thrush is the most common side effect of Candida overgrowth.
Ginger oil for gas in stomach
One of the most embarrassing GI issues is having gas in the stomach. There are so many factors that may cause bloating or bubbles in our gut. Luckily, there are all-natural ways to pop that gas.
Just like ginger ale can alleviate an upset stomach on a sick day as a child, ginger oil can help older adults, too. Look, most ginger ale isn’t even part of the ginger family! You want the real deal because actual ginger contains the terpene, gingerol.
A study examining this potent terpene stated that it had a “carminative effect 10.” That means that gingerol assists with gut motility. Therefore, using ginger oil will help you pass the painful gas as quickly as possible, and may help prevent intestinal damage.
What to know about using essential oils for health problems
Essential oils are just a small part of a grander scheme to improve your intestinal microbiota. These potent plant molecules are an excellent way to support your immune system, mental health, and digestive tract. However, they are not a means to an end.
First, you should seek medical advice before making any changes to your wellness routine. Also, make sure you are using these potent chemicals properly. You don’t want to consume any essentials not intended for internal use.
Aromatherapy and DIY products are the perfect supplements for a better life. However, you still need to oculate your gut with beneficial bacteria and change your diet. We can help you achieve this goal with Ombre.
At Ombre, we figure out which gut bacteria are playing a vital role in your digestive problems. We let you know which foods are most likely causing your food sensitivities so you can avoid them. Then, we give you access to a database teeming with hundreds of recipes that provide your body with digestive enzymes to help your system, amino acids and healthy fats to repair your gut barrier, and prebiotics to give a little help to your healthy bacteria.
Lastly, we offer you a strain-specific probiotic recommendation. That way, you can diversify the gut bacteria in your stomach. Diversity is key for preventing issues, such as intestinal parasites and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). However, with our program and the use of essential oils, we can help you get your overall health back on track!
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- 1 Cho, K. S., Lim, Y. R., Lee, K., Lee, J., Lee, J. H., & Lee, I. S. (2017). Terpenes from Forests and Human Health. Toxicological research, 33(2), 97–106. doi:10.5487/TR.2017.33.2.097 2
- 2 García-Díaz, D. E., Aguilar-Baturoni, H. U., Guevara-Aguilar, R., & Wayner, M. J. (1984). Vagus nerve stimulation modifies the electrical activity of the olfactory bulb. Brain research bulletin, 12(5), 529–537. https://doi.org/10.1016/0361-9230(84)90168-0.
- 3Polin, Richard A., and David H. Rowitch. “Fetal and Neonatal Physiology.” ScienceDirect, 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780323352147/fetal-and-neonatal-physiology.
- 4 Fama, R., & Sullivan, E. V. (2015). Thalamic structures and associated cognitive functions: Relations with age and aging. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 54, 29–37. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.03.008 .
- 5 Chumpitazi, B. P., Kearns, G. L., & Shulman, R. J. (2018). Review article: the physiological effects and safety of peppermint oil and its efficacy in irritable bowel syndrome and other functional disorders. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 47(6), 738–752. doi:10.1111/apt.14519
- 6 Preuss, Harry G, et al. “Effects of Essential Oils and Monolaurin on Staphylococcus Aureus: In Vitro and In Vivo Studies.” Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20021093.
- 7 Zou, Y., Xiang, Q., Wang, J., Peng, J., & Wei, H. (2016). Oregano Essential Oil Improves Intestinal Morphology and Expression of Tight Junction Proteins Associated with Modulation of Selected Intestinal Bacteria and Immune Status in a Pig Model. BioMed research international, 2016, 5436738. doi:10.1155/2016/5436738.
- 8 Chami, N, et al. “Study of Anticandidal Activity of Carvacrol and Eugenol in Vitro and in Vivo.” Oral Microbiology and Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15720571.
- 9 Chami, N., Bennis, S., Chami, F., Aboussekhra, A., & Remmal, A. (2005). Study of anticandidal activity of carvacrol and eugenol in vitro and in vivo. Oral microbiology and immunology, 20(2), 106–111. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1399-302X.2004.00202.x.
- 10 Bode AM, Dong Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/