Oils Bring Balance to the Body rather than Manipulating it
In part I of this series, I reviewed the negative effects of treating disease symptoms in isolation and the dangers of even properly prescribed medications. Furthermore, I also discussed that using supplements and essential oils as a substitute for the “pill-for-every-ill” medical approach has its pitfalls, even with a much higher safety profile.
Naturopathic medicine advocates that the best approach to optimal health is to individualize care and to avoid symptom suppression unless the cause of the disease is being addressed. The best “cure” is considered prevention. Wellness protocols should be tailored to specific biochemical makeups, predispositions, genetic variations, and lifestyle factors. Once these factors are addressed, the body can return to balance and prevention becomes the focus.
Supplements are best when considered in context with the individual’s needs; whereas, certain herbals and remedies have been safely used for centuries for supporting overall health.
One of my favorite tools that can be used by the general population to optimize wellness is essential oils. This is due to their multifactorial actions on the body’s biochemistry, physiology, and psychology. The oils bring about balance to the body rather than manipulating it. As they support the healing process, they also address many of the root causes. (Please see general guidelines and safe use of essential oils in my database.)
Autoimmunity and Essential Oils
Autoimmunity affects more people than cancer and encompasses over 80 different manifestations.1 Factors such as genetics, stress, chemicals, Western diet, microbes, and the microbiome all mediate pathology.1-6 The impact of an intact gastrointestinal tract, where most of immunity resides, has been a critical component in whether the triggering factors in combination with genetics will manifest in the body “attacking its own tissues.” 7-8
Below are various aspects of essential oils that describe how they can be used to address some of the causes of autoimmunity and influence the triggers.
Essential Oils for “Triggers” of Autoimmunity
Modulating the Stress Response
Among all the applications of aromatherapy, essential oils are especially well-known for their ability to calm the body and alleviate aspects of the stress response. Their relaxation benefits have been studied across many different clinical scenarios, including with children awaiting anxiously for the dental drill! Lavender’s soothing response is very respected internationally. In Germany, it is even prescribed for anxiety as the “drug” Silexan, which has been validated in several trials.9-10
Microbe-inhibiting while Microbiome Loving
Essential oils are well known for their strong antimicrobial effects. Furthermore, there is evidence that as they weed out the bad critters that can takeover our bellies, they promote digestion and feed and protect the “good” guy defenders in our gut.
Relieving Environmental Burdens
The toxic burden of everyday exposures has been linked to various health diseases, not just autoimmunity. Essential oils can be used as a substitute for chemicals found in personal care and household products. Furthermore, they can support the body in cleansing, both physically and emotionally.
Direct Immune Modulation
I’ve written on all the mechanisms that essential oils influence the immune response, even at the level of DNA! Several studies have also demonstrated direct impact on autoimmune models in vitro and in vivo. For example, Pterodon emarginatus essential oil was shown in a mouse study to ameliorate experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis through modulating Th1/Treg cell balance.11 Parsley essential oil was also shown to have immunomodulatory effects.12
Easing Discomfort of Symptoms
Essential oils have been used to manage discomfort, fatigue, and other symptoms in those with autoimmune disease.13-14 In a review on complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, aromatherapy was reported to be beneficial for relaxation, overall well-being, and provide relief of several symptoms. The authors wrote:13
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oil to improve health and well-being. In pain management, it has been commonly used. Aromatherapy in MS patients could be effective for some symptomatic relief, such as helping in sleep, relaxation, mobility of joints and muscle, and improvement in the feeling of well-being.13
I have written several articles on the use essential oils and their mechanisms regarding discomfort across many conditions. You can explore them here.
Using essential oils, along with lifestyle, can be beneficial in supporting the body’s overall wellness and immune response, while addressing the root causes of the imbalances. They are also one of the best tools for prevention of diseases due to their multifactorial effects. In this article, I specifically demonstrated their use in relationship to autoimmunity.
This makes essential oils solid allies to naturopathic and functional medicine’s approaches and philosophy. True healthcare is best achieved with protocols tailored to the unique individual and by implementing tools that can balance the body without suppressing symptoms.
- Campbell AW. Autoimmunity and the Gut. Autoimmune Diseases. 2014; (2014): 152428. doi:10.1155/2014/152428.
- Stojanovich L, Marisavljevich D. Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease [abstract]. Autoimmun Rev [online]. 2008 Jan;7(3):209-13. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18190880.
- Pollard KM, Hultman P, Kono DH. Toxicology of Autoimmune Diseases. Chemical research in toxicology. 2010;23(3):455-466. doi:10.1021/tx9003787.
- Brady D. Molecular Mimicry, the Hygiene Hypothesis, Stealth Infections and Other Examples of Disconnect between Medical Research and the Practice of Clinical Medicine in Autoimmune Disease. Open Journal of Rheumatology and Autoimmune Diseases. February 2013;3: 33-39 http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojra.2013.31007
- Danzer C, Mattner J. Impact of Microbes on Autoimmune Diseases. Archivum immunologiae et therapiae experimentalis. 2013;61(3):175-186. doi:10.1007/s00005-013-0216-3.
- Yurkovetskiy L, Pickard JM, Chervonsky AV. Microbiota and Autoimmunity: exploring new avenues. Cell host & microbe. 2015;17(5):548-552. doi:10.1016/j.chom.2015.04.010.
- Fasano A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Feb;42(1):71-8. doi: 10.1007/s12016-011-8291-x.
- Arrieta MC, Bistritz L, Meddings JB. Alterations in intestinal permeability. Gut. 2006;55(10):1512-1520. doi:10.1136/gut.2005.085373.
- Uehleke B, Schaper S, Dienel A, Schlaefke S, Stange R. Phase II trial on the effects of Silexan in patients with neurasthenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or somatization disorder. 2012 Jun 15;19(8-9):665-71. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2012.02.020.
- Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE, Volz HP, Möller HJ, Dienel A, Schläfke S.Silexan, an orally administered Lavandula oil preparation, is effective in the treatment of ‘subsyndromal’ anxiety disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2010 Sep;25(5):277-87. doi: 10.1097/YIC.0b013e32833b3242.
- Alberti TB, Marcon R1, Bicca MA, Raposo NR, Calixto JB, Dutra RC. Essential oil from Pterodon emarginatus seeds ameliorates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by modulating Th1/Treg cell balance. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Aug 8;155(1):485-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.05.044. Epub 2014 Jun 2.
- Yousofi A, Daneshmandi S, Soleimani N, Bagheri K, Karimi MH. Immunomodulatory effect of Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) essential oil on immune cells: mitogen-activated splenocytes and peritoneal macrophages. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2012 Apr;34(2):303-8. doi: 10.3109/08923973.2011.603338. Epub 2011 Aug 19.
- Namjooyan F, Ghanavati R, Majdinasab N, Jokari S, Janbozorgi M. Uses of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Multiple Sclerosis. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2014;4(3):145-152. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.136543.
- Zehra Gok Metin, Leyla Ozdemir. The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage and Reflexology on Pain and Fatigue in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pain Manag Nurs. 2016 Apr;17(2):140-9. Epub 2016 Apr 16. PMID: 27091583
Image Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_chamillewhite’>chamillewhite / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Sarah Lobisco, ND, is a graduate of the University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM). She is licensed in Vermont as a naturopathic doctor and holds a Bachelor of Psychology from State University of New York at Geneseo.
Dr. LoBisco is a speaker on integrative health, has several publications, and has earned her certification in functional medicine. Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training as a naturopathic doctor and functional medicine practitioner through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods.
Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her recent blog can be found at www.dr-lobisco.com.