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6 Ways to Use Essential Oils for Diabetes Management

Diabetes Management (1)

In this article, you'll learn about:

  1. Diabetes and the Body
  2. Aromatherapy and Diabetes
  3. 6 Ways to Use Essential Oils for Diabetes Management

Diabetes is one of the more widespread metabolic, chronic illnesses of our time. It's estimated that around 10% of the population is diagnosed with diabetes, while another 8 million people likely have it without being diagnosed. (1)

Although there isn't a defined cure, diabetes can be managed with diet and lifestyle and, often, medication. One way to boost your diabetes management is with essential oils, used in various ways to improve insulin sensitivity, manage body composition, and improve overall digestive wellness.

Diabetes and the Body

For a refresher on what diabetes is and how it works in the body, we can look to the American Diabetes Association for their summary of the more common variation of diabetes, type 2:

If you have type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn't able to keep up and can't make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels. (2)

On the other hand, type 1 diabetes is genetic and behaves differently:

In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. (3)

It's important to have an understanding of the disease itself before we adjust our habits and supplemental efforts in response. For example, if you are using an essential oil with the goal of improving insulin sensitivity on most days, understanding that exercise can have a similar and even more potent result will help you make safe choices and avoid bottoming out. On the other hand, if you are a type 1 diabetic, no amount of insulin sensitivity will correct a lack of insulin.

Diabetes can have very serious and life-threatening complications, from poor wound healing to cardiovascular events. Never adjust your medications without the guidance of your physician, and if you suspect you may be diabetic, schedule a consult with your doctor right away.

Aromatherapy & Diabetes

Most of us are already familiar with substances that are beneficial for insulin sensitivity, with powdered cinnamon topping the list of kitchen remedies to help deal with blood sugar and diabetes. Aromatherapy has even more to offer – with some oils appearing to benefit the insulin response and others working to ease the symptoms that diabetes can cause.

For diabetes and essential oils, the key is to think outside of the box. (4) If you are working toward weight loss to relieve the severity of your diabetes, then diffusing essential oils that energize and potentially benefit weight loss might be the way to go. If you're trying to help a wound heal while diabetes hinders the process, an antiseptic and healing oil in a topical formula could do the trick.

Essential oils are best used as integrative components of our wellness routines. For the diabetic who now focuses their lifestyle toward managing both the causes and symptoms of the disease, having such a versatile toolkit can be a lifeline.

Here are some of the most useful oils for diabetes.

6 Ways to Use Essential Oils for Diabetes Management

1. Culinary Cinnamon Essential Oil

Probably the most researched botanical product for diabetes relief, cinnamon in general refers to a group of trees whose leaves or inner bark are distilled for its essential oil or the bark harvested as a spice. There are multiple varieties of the Cinnamom tree, including C. cassia, which we usually refer to as simply cassia when used for its essential oil.

The most heavily researched “angle” for cinnamon and diabetes is that of the powdered spice, with a great deal of focus placed on it for pancreatic support, glucose lowering, weight loss, and general diabetes prevention and management. (5)

Research is moving through the best applications and preparations, though, and essential oils have made their appearance in the literature. In 2013, an evaluation of cinnamon leaf essential oil found that “all tested doses of [cinnamon essential oil] significantly lowered fasting blood glucose and fructosamine.” (6) The researchers pointed to pancreatic support as the likely mechanism leading to the blood sugar benefits.

We don't have an exact directive from studies and research to tell us how to maximize cinnamon's potential for diabetic wellness, but we can glean some helpful tidbits:

  • Internal use seems to be the most effective.
  • Cinnamon in all forms appears to lower blood sugar.
  • A little dab'll do!

Takeaway: Cinnamon essential oil may join the diabetic's arsenal of culinary weapons against glucose. One or two drops for an entire day is a safe and sufficient amount – dilute it into a lipid and include it in recipes. Remember, cinnamon is a strong oil and can be an irritant if not used properly.

Be sure to monitor your blood sugar carefully when using cinnamon in any form, and consult with your doctor before adjusting medication. Your body might just respond a little TOO well to cinnamon's strengths!

2. Blended Oils for Insulin Sensitivity

One of the most intriguing things about essential oils is the effect of synergy, which is the phenomenon in which combinations of oils work together to make even stronger effects. That's why we're so frequently making blends and formulas of oils rather than just using one here and another there. Teamwork makes the dream work, right?

One prominent study out of Georgetown in 2005 took note of the benefits of synergy when they studied essential oils and diabetes. Instead of isolating a single oil for their research, they experimented with blends of multiple oils that have been suggested as beneficial for diabetes. Oils named in the summary included (7):

  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

The blends were able to improve insulin sensitivity when taken internally, which can be replicated by including oil blends diluted into a carrier and consumed in capsules, drinks, and recipes.

As a side note, surely it's no accident that culinary herbs play a role in improving the way we digest and use food! God's medicine has been right there around our dinner plates all along!

Takeaway: As you discover oils that can be a) used internally and b) used to improve causes like insulin sensitivity or symptoms of any sort, experiment with blends! Pre-mix your dilution by adding a few drops each of the oils you'd like to blend into a 5 ml or 10 ml bottle of a carrier oil.

3. Melissa Essential Oil for Glucose Regulation

Like cinnamon, some herbs and their essential oil are simply regarded as anti-diabetic. Those are the words anyone with a diagnosis or pre-diagnosis of diabetes wants to hear! Let's fight this disease right at its core, where the body stops short of breaking down glucose into usable energy.

Like most early research, Melissa essential oil was tested on mice for precise tracking of its actions and potential benefits. Lab tests can first tell us the composition of oils, then how it is generally received in a body, and later how the human body responds in various circumstances.

The results of this study in particular were published in 2010 with exciting news. Of the mice that received a low-dose, heavily diluted amount of Melissa essential oil, markers of diabetes were reduced in multiple facets. Ultimately, the researchers concluded that Melissa administered at low concentrations is an efficient hypoglycaemic agent, probably due to enhanced glucose uptake and metabolism.”(8)

Once more, we see that it only takes minute amounts of these potent digestive health oils to make a potentially substantial difference for those battling blood sugar imbalances.

Takeaway: One drop is plenty, included in blends or diluted on its own for digestive assistance and potential glucose regulation. As with all hypoglycemic/anti-diabetic substances, be sure to monitor your levels carefully and work with your doctor closely.

4. Korean Pine for a New Scent with Strong Benefits

Moving away from the expected culinary herbs and their essential oil content, it seems you can still maintain anti-diabetic benefits while also branching out. Still very much in the foundational levels of research, Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) has also exhibited potential for diabetes relief.

In the same vein as the Christmas favorite and year ‘round healer fir essential oil, Korean pine essential oil comes from the needles of an evergreen pine tree. It's woodsy and grounding, the perfect addition to a blend of anti-diabetic oils we've looked at so far.

Researchers tackled this oil in 2013, very much in vitro, by injecting the oil into lab mice. The results were promising, with effects on the body that led to improved glucose levels. (9) We won't be injecting essential oils, of course, but this demonstrates the wide range of oil types that may be part of our anti-diabetes toolkit.

Takeaway: Don't feel restricted with your diabetes-fighting blends! Look for oils like Korean Pine to mix up your approach. If it can't be taken internally, enjoy diffusion or direct inhalation to begin to introduce the oil into your routine.

5. Essential Oils for Side Effects of Diabetes

This is where we really get to play with essential oils and the diabetic management lifestyle. Diabetes is so much more than how cookies or cakes are used by the body. Any time nutrient use is involved, the whole body is affected. Complications of diabetes can include:

  • Heart health
  • Oral health
  • Respiratory health
  • Skin health
  • Immune health

In other words, diabetes is a case study in the ways that each body system is intertwined with the others.

Using what we know about essential oils to boost these systems and potential complications, we can counter the effects of diabetes while managing the source of the issue with medication, diet, and lifestyle.

We can take this to its logical end and get creative with skin health and healing oils, oils for oral health, clear breathing oils, and antimicrobials. For a more specific look at how essential oils comprise complementary therapy, a systematic review had this to say about research that has been conducted:

Essential oils can be used to reduce the side effects of some complication (ulcer: loss of skin integrity) and to reduce that often take longer to resolve than in non diabetic patients. Essential oil[s] can also ameliorate the stress of the coping with a lifelong chronic condition such as diabetes. (10)

The applications are endless here. If you or a loved one are diabetic, learn all you can about the various uses of essential oils, and begin to incorporate them into your life. The healing, restorative, and preventative benefits can quickly become your most trusted ally.

Takeaway: Diabetes complications can occur throughout the body, and essential oils can help to counter these issues and support the body's intended processes. Look for anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and stress relieving oils as a start to your essential oil “medicine” cabinet.

6. Quality of Life Improvement for Kids with Diabetes

Lets not forget the kids who are impacted by diabetes. As a primarily genetic disorder, diabetes isn't about who ate too much cake as they got older. Kids are affected to the tune of thousands, and many of them spend their lives in and out of doctor's offices getting poked and prodded, not to mention those who receive daily injections.

Very recently, published in August 2015, researchers published findings on the use of essential oils to help relieve some of this stress and physical pain for kids with diabetes. Thankfully (and hardly surprising), markers for pain relief were noticeable thanks to diffused orange and lavender oils. (11)

Incidentally, these oils are notable for their anxiety-relieving properties, as well, which only contributes to quality of life for kids who are faced with more than their little lives should have to deal with.

Takeaway: Diffusion of oils can help with anxiety relief and even direct pain relief, and even the most gentle of oils can be potent for this purpose. Diffuse oils during times when painful or frustrating procedures are necessary, or place drops on a handkerchief or other personal inhaler to “sniff” when needed.

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Resources:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesfactsheet/
  2. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-2/?loc=db-slabnav#sthash.6fetM0NB.dpuf
  3. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-1/?loc=db-slabnav#sthash.xW6GjTEK.dpuf
  4. http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/14/3/124.full
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20513336
  6. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf401039z
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15715893
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20487577
  9. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1271/bbb.130254
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249697/
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26352081


This post currently has 28 comments.

  1. Michelle
    January 2, 2017

    I have a 6 year old son who has had diabetes for 3 years, he is type 1, which oils could I use, how much do I use and where do I put it?

    Thank you for your time
    Michelle

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      January 5, 2017

      Hi Michelle,

      There is virtually no research on Type 1 and EOs so I’m at a complete loss on how to respond.

      The key to reverse the autoimmune component, which can certainly be done if the right diet is implemented, coupled with lots of prayer and stopping all triggers. Definitely something your local functional medical practitioner can help you with.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. Praying for COMPLETE healing!

        Reply
  2. Tena
    October 6, 2016

    Hi Dr Z,
    Thank u for the article.
    Do u know if Clove, Thyme, Rosemary, n Ocotea EO help regulate/ease diabetes type 1 or 2? I hv aunt who suffers from diabetes. Is diabetes a cureable disease? If she has start injections for her diabetes b4 every meal, is EO going to do any good 4 her? Do the oils u mentioned herewith help with both types of diabetes? Your advice is appreciated. Pls help. Thanks much.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      October 6, 2016

      Hi Tena,

      The oils that I listed in this article are the only ones that I have seen researchers discuss.

      In my opinion, everyone disease is “curable.” It’s just a matter of finding what will work for you…

      Hope and pray your aunt finds the solution! 🙂

        Reply
    • Deborah
      October 16, 2016

      Hi, I would like to know, where can I purchase such oils, like Melissa?
      I click on link, after link and can’t find anything.
      Thanks, Deb

        Reply
  3. zabliza
    August 25, 2016

    Hi Dr Z,
    My father has diabetes and hypertension and he is on medications. He is always looking very tired in the afternoon. I feel poor for him that I want to introduce essential oils in his daily life as support to the current medications. Is it possible to do so? Will there be any adverse reactions when both are introduce? Thanks and regards.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      August 26, 2016

      Hello Zabliza,

      Without taking a full history and getting his Rx list, there’s no way to say. He really should contact his physician / pharmacist to make sure. 🙂

        Reply
  4. Bonnie
    August 1, 2016

    Hi, have you heard of using lemongrass eo to help lower fasting glucose? I heard another doctor mention it in an interview but cannot find any info on it. I was hoping your article would mention it. Thank you.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      August 9, 2016

      Hi Bonnie,

      I’ve seen research about the extract, but not the EO directly. 🙂

      A fresh leaf aqueous extract of Cymbopogon citratus administered in normal rats lowered the fasting plasma glucose and total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins and very low-density lipoprotein dose dependently while raising the plasma high-density lipoprotein level in the same dose-related fashion, but with no effect on the plasma triglyceride levels.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217679/
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24423518

        Reply
      • Bonnie
        August 12, 2016

        Thank you for the reply!

          Reply
  5. Alefiyah
    July 17, 2016

    Thank u Dr for ur valuable post.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 18, 2016

      Welcome! 🙂

        Reply
  6. Timothy W. Bethune
    July 10, 2016

    I will be doing a blog over the next few weeks on Essential Oils and would like permission to use content from your blog in my post. I believe it to be of great benefit to my readers.
    Thanks much
    Timothy W. Bethune

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 11, 2016

      Hi Timothy,

      Please send your request to Info@DrEricZ.com for a formal response.

      Thanks!

        Reply
  7. LiaLisa
    July 7, 2016

    My daughter is a very bad diabetic at 23 years old. Would this blend be better digested than absorbed on the skin? Also, can the Melissa be digested? Thank you for your input.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 9, 2016

      Hi Lisa,

      The answer to your question is debated. Topical, aromatic and internal use are all very effective, but is one more effective than the other? That’s hard to tell and really is a case-by-case situation. If taken internally, be sure to put in a capsule, if used topically, be sure to use a carrier oil. 🙂

      Yes, Melissa can be ingested if it’s a good therapeutic grade

        Reply
  8. Greg Betza
    May 14, 2016

    i have type 2 diabetes. i currently use a blend of cinnamon leaf; fenugreek; cumin; oregano; melissa oils to treat my condition/disease. I rub it on my abdomen and allow the oils to be absorbed by my skin. Is this a good way to use this blend?
    Also, I have tried to buy Korean Pine oil but I cannot locate it anywhere, even on the internet. The only oil I can find is Red Pine Needle oil which is Pinus Densiflora. Is this a comparable oil?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2016

      Hi Greg,

      The technique you use is widely accepted and I hope you find good results with it.

      Regarding Korean Pine vs. Red Pine Needle, the species are different and therefore have different chemical constituency. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen research about Pinus D. so I can’t say either way.

        Reply
    • Deb Casey
      April 23, 2017

      Greg Betza, What brand of fenugreek essential oil are you using and where do you find it?

      TIA,
      Deb

        Reply
      • Dr. Z
        April 23, 2017

        Hi Deb, this is a non-branded website. I would you encourage you and Greg to chat on a private forum like email or Facebook to discuss what companies y’all recommend. Otherwise, we’ll have to delete the comments. 🙂

          Reply
  9. Karyn
    May 5, 2016

    Any suggestions for diabetic nerve pain (feet). I’ve been trying to help a co-worker who suffers greatly from pins and needles poking her, especially at night.

      Reply
  10. Janice Brooks
    March 28, 2016

    Thank you Dr.Z plan to spread the word!!!!!!!!!!!

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      March 30, 2016

      You’re welcome! 🙂

        Reply
  11. Allison
    February 13, 2016

    I sure wish I had known of these when I was raising my child with type 1diabetes and when I was going through menopause…

      Reply
    • Chris
      March 28, 2016

      Thank you for this approachable and supportive publication. As I have a compromised digestive system, is there an alternative topical or diffused protocol for the offered formulations? Taking capsules is not an option for me. Thank you.

        Reply
      • Dr. Z
        April 1, 2016

        Hello Chris, safe (diluted) topical application and aromatherapy is also effective.

          Reply

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