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, essential oils for gut health 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 Does Smell 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.

essential oils for gut health
Citrus kiss got you smilin’?

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?

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, and they play a monumental role in our perception of things.

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.

Parts of the plant that get extracted for essential oils may include:

Many parts of a plant are used to
make essential oils
  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Seeds
  • Stems
  • Bark
  • Peels

Extraction is important because it causes the physical plant matter to release highly-volatile chemicals into the air. These chemicals 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 is responsible for its floral flavor. Meanwhile, A-Pinene is one of the primary essential oils that gives rosemary its fragrant aroma.

Research indicates the terpenes are responsible for many homeopathic remedies. It’s the volatile chemical compounds that make peppermint such a great digestive aid and lemon an all-natural astringent.

A meta-analysis dove into the relationship between humans and essential oils.

Researchers noted,

“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, different essential oils have various levels of terpenes in their genetic makeup. Therefore, some essential oils for gut health are more effective for certain GI problems than others. Here are some ways to use essential oils for gut health.

Using Essential Oils for Gut Health

There are many ways to use essential oils for gut 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. From there, you can put your diffuser on a timer to dictate how long you want to release these molecules into the atmosphere.

essential oils for gut health
Diffusers are effective ways to use essential oils

Now, you might wonder how this can boost your gut health. Inhaling essential oils 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 [2].

Scientists noted,

“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 [3]. 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
  • Sleep Cycles
  • Focus

Therefore, using essential oils for gut health can help many GI problems. That’s because our mind’s perception dictates many of the GI issues we feel. Our gut-brain-axis orchestrate all of this. Using essential oils can help hijack the gut-brain-axis, and hopefully, change the conversation going on between gut and brain. Let’s see which essential oils for gut health you should use.

Picking Essential Oils for Gut Health

Now that you know why essential oils for gut health can work, let’s get to the how. Here are some of the most popular essential oils for gut health. Before you do, let’s discuss some warnings.

Precautions When Buying Essential Oils

Like any product you ingest, please get the highest-quality essential oils possible. Do your due diligence and make sure that they implement:

essential oil safety
Be cautious of skin exposure

All essential oils should either say “food-grade” or “pharmaceutical-grade.” That way, you know the products have been rigorously tested. Please make sure they have lab reports posted online before purchasing any products. You have every right to see which active and inactive ingredients may have altered the formula.

Safety Issues with Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated. They can cause adverse skin reactions if they aren’t combined with a thicker oil (like avocado or sunflower oil) before applying to the skin.

In addition, some may be toxic for ingestion. For instance, swallowing tea tree oil can cause severe illness. However, some essential oils, like lavender, are great for baking. So, make sure you research if the essential oil is toxic to humans.

Lastly, whatever is toxic to humans may be even more toxic to animals. Our furbabies have a more sensitive system than us. So, some essential oils that are easy for our livers to filter can be fatal to little ones.

Make sure you diffuse essential oils in an animal-free room. Otherwise, stick to rubs, bathes, or tonics. You can also just inhale directly from the bottle.

Which Essential Oils for Gut Health Should I Use?

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 [4].

Results found,

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. 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 Oil for GERD

lemon oil
Life hands you lemons? Sniff them!

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 peppermint or spearmint.

Oregano Oil for Leaky Gut Syndrome

Oregano oil is a must for anyone considering essential oils for gut health. 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.

Oregano: Taste good, smell good, fell good

One analysis found that carvacrol helps fight off the growth of Staphylococcus aureus [5]. 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 [6]. 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 bacteria once it’s taken over the system. Therefore, using essential oils for gut health is a great preventative measure. Applying 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 [7].”

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 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 you as an adult. That’s because the primary terpene in ginger oil is gingerol.

A study examining this potent terpene stated that it had a “carminative effect [8].” That means that gingerol assists with gut motility. Therefore, using ginger oil will help you pass the painful gas as quickly as possible.

Thryve Probiotics Gut Health

Resources

[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 research33(2), 97–106. doi:10.5487/TR.2017.33.2.097 [2]

[2] Polin, Richard A., and David H. Rowitch. “Fetal and Neonatal Physiology.” ScienceDirect, 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780323352147/fetal-and-neonatal-physiology.

[3] Fama, R., & Sullivan, E. V. (2015). Thalamic structures and associated cognitive functions: Relations with age and aging. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews54, 29–37. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.03.008

[4] 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 & therapeutics47(6), 738–752. doi:10.1111/apt.14519

[5] 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.

[6] 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 international2016, 5436738. doi:10.1155/2016/5436738

[7] 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.

[8] 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/