Healing the Gut with Essential Oils

healing-the-gut-with-essential-oils

We've been hard on our digestive system for decades, and it's only getting worse. Not only does the food (and drink) we consume play a direct role, but lifestyle factors right down to how stressed we feel can dole out damage to the gut. We know that gut health can be promoted using essential oils, but what if the damage is already done? If you are an adult in our society, chances are, this applies to you!

As some of the most intriguing and powerful components of herbal material, essential oils can be used as a tool to help heal the damaged gut…

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Common Problems in the Gut

Sometimes, an individual's gut can be damaged without their knowledge. Perhaps the bacterial balance is off and the immune system is faltering. Maybe their emotions swing wildly, or cognitive function falters.

The gut is a command post for much of the body, with nervous system transmitters that rival the CNS in the brain and spinal cord. So even if you don't think you have gut problems – or you think you have unrelated issues – it's worth looking at your history, lifestyle, and dietary choices to consider whether you have damaged your gut in any way.

For everyone else, you know you have gut trouble because it manifests in uncomfortable, or often painful ways.

4 Gut Issues Affected by Essential Oils

Essential oils aren't always the perfect match for every gut health imbalance, but there are definite cases where their use is indicated and even preferred.

1) SIBO & Dysbiosis – The microbial balance in the gut can be shifted in many ways, usually categorized as dysbiosis. A particularly concerning form of dysbiosis is that of SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), which occurs when bacteria that should be in the colon are found in the small intestine. Both generalized dysbiosis and the more specific condition of SIBO are connected with other health concerns, including IBS and metabolic disorders. (1)

Essential oils are indicated for SIBO and other gut flora issues when the essential oil is able to exhibit symptom relief without damaging beneficial bacteria. In 2012, a study analyzing the development of a probiotic (beneficial bacteria in supplement form) found certain essential oils to work well with the formula, creating a synergistic effect of increased benefits. (2)

A few years before that, eight essential oils were analyzed for their effects on gut dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance). The findings included caraway, lavender, and bitter orange as stand-out examples of essential oils that would harmonize well with the beneficial bacteria in the body. (3) These studies demonstrate the excellent ability that these essential oils have to affect detrimental bacteria while remaining gentle on the body and beneficial strains. Further research for dosing and ideal treatment methods will be exciting to see!

2) IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome was once considered little more than a non-diagnosis – the blanket term given when doctors essentially had no idea what was going on. Now, we know that IBS not only affects more than 10% of the global population, but that fewer than 30% of those affected will ever make it to the doctor to even seek a diagnosis. (4) IBS is usually managed with diet and medication, but essential oils – especially in enteric coated capsules that can make it past the stomach – have been indicated for symptom control, as well.

Although more extensive studies are welcomed, an extensive review conducted in 2008 shows peppermint oil exhibiting significant improvement over placebo, alongside dietary fiber – both of which stood alongside antispasmodic medications in efficacy. (5) To ensure the oil reaches the intestines, enteric coated capsule preparations are indicated by studies.

3) GERD – While the “gut” is technically the intestines, we usually use it interchangeably with the digestive system as a whole. As such, health trouble can start as quickly as the esophagus and acid reflux or GERD. This combination problem is related to stomach acids (both too much and too little) as well as a faulty “flap” that should keep the acid out of the esophagus. Acid levels can be affected by lifestyle and diet, as well as bacteria.One way to approach GERD with essential oils is to use oils that protect the stomach and improve digestive processes.

Ginger fits the bill, in tandem with turmeric, as indicated in a study released in January 2015. (6) The researchers tested antioxidant levels in rats with and without turmeric and ginger essential oils. The oils seemed to increase antioxidant levels as well as reduce damage done to the stomach wall. Culinary preparations would make sense here, providing a digestive system boost to your regular mealtime.

4) Nausea – Within the stomach, nausea is another common problem, associated with a number of ailments as a symptom ranging from unpleasant to debilitating. Anyone who has experience nausea knows that scent has a major effect on how you feel, in either a positive or negative manner. Inhaled essential oils are an excellent tool for managing nausea of nearly any cause.Backing this up with promising research, we see that peppermint and ginger work well together for alleviating nausea. (7) Refreshing citrus oils can also be beneficial, with lemon standing out as helpful for dreaded morning sickness nausea in pregnancy. (8) Aromasticks can be helpful to inhale the scent as needed, or simply open the bottle and enjoy the aroma in moments of queasiness.

Healing the Gut

We can't discuss gut health or healing remedies without discussing the importance of bacteria. Totaling more of our body composition by weight than our own cells, bacteria comprise a formidable ally or opponent, depending on the situation.

In a journal article describing the importance of gut flora, researchers detailed the “collective metabolic activity equal to a virtual organ within an organ,” created by bacterial populations in the body. (9)

If you're squirming in your seat at all of this talk of bacteria, you've probably internalized the “kills 99.9% of bacteria” line that keeps us from caring about our microscopic partners in health. More likely than not, you also have gut damage to heal.

Without restoring or protecting the bacterial balance in the gut, remedies and healing techniques will be ineffective or short lived or both. Fortunately, digestive-wellness essential oils are typically safe, and will presumably be used as part of an overall shift toward holistic wellness.

Be sure you don't discount the importance of gut health because it is responsible for a vast majority of your immune function! From a seminal 2008 report:

The gastrointestinal system plays a central role in immune system homeostasis. It is the main route of contact with the external environment and is overloaded every day with external stimuli, sometimes dangerous as pathogens (bacteria, protozoa, fungi, viruses) or toxic substances, in other cases very useful as food or commensal flora. The crucial position of the gastrointestinal system is testified by the huge amount of immune cells that reside within it. Indeed, gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is the prominent part of mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and represents almost 70% of the entire immune system; moreover, about 80% of plasma cells [mainly immunoglobulin A (IgA)-bearing cells] reside in GALT. GALT interacts strictly with gastrointestinal functions in a dynamic manner; for instance, by increasing intestinal permeability in replay to particular stimulations, or orientating the immune response towards luminal content, allowing either tolerance or elimination/degradation of luminal antigens, or sometimes provoking damage to the intestinal mucosa, such as in coeliac disease or food allergy. (source)

Healing the Gut with Essential Oils

While these oils carry evidence of benefit to overall gut health and can facilitate gut healing, do use caution when approaching disease states. As we all know, natural products are “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Essential oils are powerful and should be treated with the respect they deserve. If you have or suspect a disease or chronic ailment, seek a doctor and professional for advice.

With that out of the way, let's highlight some of the gut healing benefits of essential oils, as backed by science.

PeppermintLike its parent plant, peppermint essential oil is known for its digestive remedy capabilities. Peppermint has long been indicated for IBS via enteric-coated capsules. (10) This was revisited in 2013, with coriander and lemon balm mentioned for their effectiveness, as well. (11)

ThymeAn antimicrobial by day, gut healer by night, thyme is a superhero in the world of gut health. For SIBO, thymol and geraniol have been shown “effective in suppressing pathogens in the small intestine, with no concern for beneficial commensal colonic bacteria in the distal gut.” (12) Thymol, of course, is the major component of thyme, while geraniol is found in high concentrations in rose oil.

LavenderNot only have we seen lavender as effective against dysbiosis, but it is a well-reputed source of anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Additionally – perhaps not coincidentally – lavender has been one of the most effective anxyolitic (anti-anxiety) essential oils, tested as a commercial internal preparation. (13) Whether the anxiety was calmed due to improved gut health or it's just a convenient double purpose, lavender is a key component of nearly any healing protocol.

Cumin – A recent study on IBS symptoms and essential oil treatments evaluated a 2% preparation of cumin essential oil in 57 patients with IBS. At the end of the four week maximum trial, symptoms including pain, bloating, and elimination problems were significantly decreased. (14)

This, of course, is just a highlight of the digestive oils. Ginger stands out for nausea and initial digestive complaints. Citrus oils are gentle and effective for both digestion and peripheral issues, like anxiety and microbial concerns. If you're serious about rebuilding your gut, essential oils should be near the top of your toolbox, researched and ready to go.

DIY Protocol

Click HERE for my DIY gut health protocol:

Safety & Contraindications

Are you sure you're using essential oils safely and effectively? Are you confused by dilutions and conversions?

 Let me help take out the guesswork and download my FREE roller bottle guide HERE.

Essential Oil Roller Bottle Dilution Guide

When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety and, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in human clinical trials. This means that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.

Nonetheless, properly diluting your essential oils is fundamental to safety and effectiveness because they are highly concentrated plant compounds. To help you along your journey, I have a created an easy-to-use dilution guide that you can download for FREE to make sure that all of your topical applications are safe and effective for the entire family. 

CLICK HERE to download my free EO Roller Bottle Dilution Chart! 

As with as medicine and natural therapies, this is only a guide and be sure to discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.

Resources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099351/
  2. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/grp/2012/457150/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030464
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921083/
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2583392/
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24756059
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22784340
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22784340
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1500832/
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9430014
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24283351
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25500493
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26293583
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990147/


This post currently has 29 comments.

  1. Florence
    January 11, 2017

    Amazing article, thank you!

      Reply
  2. Florence
    January 1, 2017

    I saved your protocol. Thanks Dr. Z for taking to write this post!

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      January 2, 2017

      You’re welcome Florence!

      And don’t forget to join my free EO club so you can access ALL these articles and posts. 🙂

      http://drericz.com/eo-club-free

        Reply
  3. Ikarusz
    December 21, 2016

    Hi.
    I have excess stomach acid.
    What is good to use for excess stomach acid, gastritis and stomach ulcer?

    I was having problems with nausea lately and ginger oil did not help me.
    Is it safe to take peppermint oil, or other oil when you have problems with stomach?
    Maybe it is better to take ion capsule?

      Reply
    • Customer Support
      December 27, 2016

      My apologies, but Dr. Z is legally prohibited from giving medical advice over email or comments. He has, however, created a special Facebook group that can help as we have hundreds of members that are actively engaged in sharing testimonies of how they have overcome similar illnesses as yours. You can be part of it by joining his essential oil’s club here –> http://essentialoilsclub.info

        Reply
  4. Beth
    November 3, 2016

    Looking for EO to treat proctitis?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      November 20, 2016

      Hi Beth,

      My apologies, but I am limited by what I can and cannot say, and giving “medical advise” is definitely a no-no.

      But we do have way around the regulations!

      If you haven’t, please consider joining Dr. Z’s Essential Oils Club – we have lots of people that have joined and they share their tips and testimonials! http://essentialoilsclub.in

        Reply
  5. Ilana
    September 4, 2016

    Hello, can I use EO’s to detox from mold exposure? Should it be combined with other therapies?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      September 6, 2016

      Very good question!

      Although there aren’t any EOs that I have found that specifically help detox from mold exposure, the key is to boost the immune system.

      This should help –> http://drericz.com/immune-boosting-shot/

        Reply
  6. Andrea
    August 10, 2016

    I know this is off subject a bit, but would these same oils help the gut get back to normal after taking a powerful antibiotic to get rid of SIBO? I have friend who was given an antibiotic for SIBO and now she is having gut problems again.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      August 11, 2016

      Great question! EOs have actually been shown to help enhance the effectiveness of probiotics and enzyme supplementation. Loading up both of these with EOs in a capsule can help.

        Reply
      • Dora Boukouris
        November 19, 2016

        Is there another oil other than Rose(can’t afford this one) that can help with Sibo along with Thyme? Geranium?? .. thank you, Dora

          Reply
        • Dr. Z
          November 20, 2016

          Hey Dora,

          Not according to the research, but that doesn’t mean that we can figure out something. 😉

          I think you’re on the right track with geranium…

            Reply
  7. Lani Osika
    July 1, 2016

    Finally a committed Doctor not trying to sell his product. Thank you for your help and advice. Most of all for remaining a humanitarian, teaching people is a calling.
    Thank you

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 4, 2016

      🙂

        Reply
  8. Christian S.
    May 28, 2016

    Dr. Z,

    Does diffusing essential oil like thyme kill beneficial gut bacteria due to its antimicrobial properties?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 28, 2016

      Hi Christian,

      The jury is still out on this, but most experts agree that EOs don’t harm probiotics (“good” bacteria) in the body.

        Reply
  9. Irene
    March 5, 2016

    Has anyone used EO for duodenum ulcer? Thanks, Irene

      Reply
  10. Steve
    January 30, 2016

    What EO protocol would you follow to help with leaky gut?

      Reply
  11. Farhaana
    November 18, 2015

    What is the best form to take EO? By air, topically or ingesting? Are there certain brands you prefer?

    Will these help with leaky gut and candida overgrowth?
    Thank you

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      November 30, 2015

      Hi Farhaana,

      I like all 3 applications for different reasons. Check out the interview I did w/ Dr. Axe to learn about leaky gut –> http://healthyoilsummit.com. If you register, you’ll get access to watch our interview for free. 🙂

      Lastly, the information published on my website is for educational purposes only, and I do not sell supplements & essential oils. To ensure that I continue to provide unbiased, evidence-based material I must remain “brand neutral,” and I cannot recommend specific companies to purchase products from. I trust that you understand. 🙂

        Reply
  12. nitza
    November 15, 2015

    Good Evening Dr. Z
    To this day I haven’t found a way to quiet my ear/head noises. I went through a hearing test and evaluation just to be told that everything is fine. My question is if all is fine, why these ear/head noises don’t go away? Any essential oil that I can use for this condition? Your newsletter is fantastic. God bless you.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      November 17, 2015

      Hi Nitza,

      First and foremost I recommend visiting an upper cervical chiropractor. Make sure they are trained in NUCCA, Atlas Orthogonal, Grostic or Knee-Chest technique. This can have an profound approach on tinnitus.

      Regarding EOs, there’s little to no research in this area, but you can find several suggested protocols on the internet usually recommending helichrysum, lavender, cypress, peppermint, rosemary and etc to be applied over the mastoid bone NOT in the ear canal.

        Reply
  13. Nola Wicks
    November 15, 2015

    I have found this article really interesting. Question: When taking things like peppermint, are herbal teas just as effective – or effective in any way – as the essential oil form? ie, drinking Peppermint tea to help with gut and IBS problems?
    Thank you.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      November 17, 2015

      Hi Nola,

      Peppermint oil is considerably more concentrated than the tea. Yes, peppermint tea is helpful, but 1 drop of oil is like 20+ cups of tea as some claim.

        Reply
    • Beckie C
      February 21, 2016

      I drank peppermint tea for a month to stop persistent diarrhea. Peppermint tea did little even when I drank 3 times per day. When I switched to one drop of peppermint oil in non-caf tea, my diarrhea cleared up. I started adding cloves bud oil to prevent gas that hurts my heart; Melissa oil to cure multiple gut infections; turmeric for whatever in my gut also ails my heart. Essential oils are less expensive when talking volume necessary to heal.

        Reply
      • Dr. Z
        February 21, 2016

        Love it! Thanks for sharing Beckie!!

          Reply
      • jan fletcher
        April 10, 2016

        thanks Becky ! “spirits of peppermint oil” by herb-pharm has also helped me so much (a tincture)..thanks for listing these oils that helped you also … peppermint oil tincture is so concentrated that one small drop in tea has helped me with my crohns-like problem

          Reply

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