Essential Oil Safety

Test your knowledge of essential oil safety based on research and evidence.

While essential oils are natural it doesn’t mean that they are inherently safe. Anything that has a therapeutic effect can also cause an unintended reaction. What determines whether you have a positive therapeutic result or unintended result is largely based on the exposure (dose and time) and method of use.

This short quiz is intended to help you discover a few of the reasonable cautions that should be followed to reduce the risk of an unintended result when using essential oils. To learn more and have a resource to guide you see one of Dr. Johnson’s books: http://authorscott.com/shop.

Which of the following essential oils contain enough 1,8-cineole to avoid use in children under the age of 3?

 
 
 
 
 

Which constituent in wintergreen is similar to aspirin making it important to avoid in children under age 12, particularly when feverish or sick with a viral illness?

 
 
 
 
 

Which of the following essential oils should be used cautiously or avoided when a person is taking an anticoagulant drug like warfarin?

 
 
 
 
 

This essential oil produces antidepressant effects via the monoamine oxidase (MAO) pathway, which suggests that it may interact with other antidepressants that work on the same MAO pathway.

 
 
 
 
 

Which of these essential oils has been shown in research to interact with antibiotics and antifungals?

 
 
 
 
 

What essential oil contains alantolactone, which is known to cause skin irritation when applied topically?

 
 
 
 
 

Which of these essential oils should be avoided or used very cautiously by people with epilepsy?

 
 
 
 
 

Which of these essential oils increases the risk of photosensitivity when applied topically and exposed to UV rays?

 
 
 
 
 

Which of the following essential oils may interact with caffeine?

 
 
 
 
 

Which book or books by Dr. Johnson contain(s) essential oils cautions and potential drug interactions?

 
 
 
 
 


This one habit could take years off your appearance

Most everyone wants to maintain their youthful appearance for as long as possible. So much so that the average American woman reportedly spends about $8 per day on facial care products. A variety of natural skin care products do indeed improve your skin’s appearance, but what if there was a cost-free habit that could promote healthier skin?

The visible signs of aging

Anyone who looks in a mirror regularly knows that there are certain signs of aging — wrinkles, crow’s feet, sagging — that appear as the years advance. These changes in the skin’s appearance are due to modifications to the layers of the skin. A thickening of the outer layer (stratum corneum) of the skin combined with a thinning of the deeper layers of the skin (due to collagen and fibrin loss) produce the tell-tale signs of aging.

Fine lines, dark spots, and drooping that occur as a result of aging — independent of sun exposure — have been accepted as inevitable. Potentially harmful plastic surgery was viewed as one of the few viable ways to reverse these age-related skin changes.

Exercise: The ‘Fountain of Youth’

Most studies focus on the benefits of cardiovascular (endurance) exercise to the heart, lungs, overall health, and even mood.  Scientists at McMaster University set out to determine if youthful skin could be maintained — or even reversed — by something as simple as aerobic exercise. The first arm of the study included 29 male and female volunteers aged 20 to 84 that performed at least three hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week. These individuals were compared against a group that exercised less than one hour per week.

The second half of the trial focused on sedentary elderly (65 to 86 years old) adults that participated in an acute exercise trial. This arm of the trial was intended to limit factors — nutrition, lifestyles, and genetics — that may skew study results. Elderly participants started with 30 minutes of cycling at 65% of their maximum heart rate (HRmax). The training program progressively increased 5% HRmax every other week until 75% HRmax was achieved, at which point exercise duration was increased 5 minutes every other week, peaking at 75% HRmax and 45 minutes.

Skin samples were taken from the participant’s buttocks in areas not exposed to sun before and at the completion of the training program. After analyzing the skin samples, the scientists observed a decrease in the thickness of the stratum corneum. Indeed, men and women over the age of 40 that exercised frequently had significantly healthier skin that more closely matched the composition of adults in their 20s and 30s. Remarkably, this marked reduction in skin aging (10+ years reduction) held true even for those in their mature years (over age 65).

Get moving to improve your appearance

The results of the study clearly demonstrate that aerobic exercise protects against the visible signs of aging and promotes a more youthful skin composition. You may be thinking about more than calories expended, but how much younger your skin will look, the next time you are on that treadmill at the gym.

Three powerful benefits of the elite superfood: Moringa oleifera

Loaded with 90+ nutrients, Moringa oleifera (also known as the horseradish tree, drumstick tree, or miracle tree) is the most nutrient dense botanical ever discovered. Native to the lowland dry tropical forests south of the Himalayan region in Arabia and India, this remarkable tree has received a considerable amount of praise and extensively researched for its extensive health benefits. Moringa contains so many nutrients that it is used to address malnutrition in underprivileged areas of the world. (1,2,3) Multiple parts of the tree (leaves, pods, seed) are used for both food and medicinal purposes.

Blood sugar balance. Moringa contains beneficial phytocompounds that have been shown to increase insulin secretion and reduce fasting blood sugar in clinical studies. (4,5)

Reduce inflammation. Preclinical research–combined with clinical experience–demonstrates that moringa reduces inflammation.(6)

Help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Preliminary clinical research demonstrates that moringa positively modifies cholesterol levels. (7,8)

Daily consumption of this miracle tree provides cumulative benefits that improve human health. Millions of people can testify that moringa improves their overall well-being and the list of devotees is growing every day.

Discover the impressive nutritional profile of moringa in the PDF below.

Nutrients in Moringa

[1] Kasolo JN, Bimenya GS, Ojok L, et al. Phytochemicals and uses of Moringa oleifera leaves in Ugandan rural communities. J Med Plants Res. 2010;4:753-57

[2] Mahmood KT, Mugal T, Haq IU. Moringa oleifera: a natural gift-A review. Pharm Sci Res. 2010;2(11):775-81

[3] Zongo U, Zoungrana SL, Savadogo A, et al. Nutritional and Clinical Rehabilitation of Severely Malnourished Children with Moringa oleifera Lam. Leaf Powder in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Food Nutr Sci. 2013;4:991-7.

[4] Kushwaha S, Chawla P, Kochar A. Effect of supplementation of drumstick (Moringa oleifera) and amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) leaves powder on antioxidant profile and oxidative status among postmenopausal women. J Food Sci Tech. 2014 Nov;51(11):3364-9.

[5] Anthanont P, Lumlerdkij N, Akarasereenont P, et al. Moringa Oleifera Leaf Increases Insulin Secretion after Single Dose Administration: A Preliminary Study in Healthy Subjects. J Med Assoc Thai. 2016 Mar;99(3):308-13.

[6] Sulaiman MR, Zakaria ZA, Bujarimin AS, et al. Evaluation of Moringa oleifera Aqueous Extract for Antinociceptive and Anti-Inflammatory Activities in Animal Models. Pharm Biol. 2008;46(12):838-45.

[7] Kumari DJ. Hypoglycaemic effect of Moringa oleifera and Azadirachta indica in type 2 diabetes mellitus. The bioscan. 2010;5(2):211-4.

[8] Nambiar VS, Guin P, Parnami S, et al. Impact of antioxidants from drumstick leaves on the lipid profile of hyperlipidemics. J Herb Med Toxicol. 2010;4:165–172.

The Carrageenan Controversy: Harmful of Harmless?

Carrageenan is a common food and supplement additive extracted from red seaweed (Chondrus crispus) that has been a staple ingredient in many household products since the 1930s. It is added to a variety of products including foods (ice cream, jellies, nut milks, cottage cheese, etc.), baby formulas, and supplements to create a creamier texture, keep items fresh and stabilized, and to prevent ingredients from separating. Although it has been used for centuries in foods (as far back as 400 AD in Ireland), health-conscious consumers have raised concerns that it may be harmful.

Types of carrageenan

Before we explore the evidence of carrageenan’s potential health effects, it is important to understand that there is more than one type of carrageenan — degraded carrageenan and undegraded carrageenan. Degraded carrageenan is also called poligeenan, so for the rest of this blog, I will refer to degraded carrageenan as poligeenan and undegraded carrageenan as food-grade carrageenan. Food-grade carrageenan is naturally occurring; whereas, poligeenan is artificially formed by subjecting carrageenan to extensive acid hydrolysis at low pH and high temperatures for an extended period. The two forms also differ chemically in their molecular weight: food-grade carrageenan 200 to 800 kDa, poligeenan has been reduced to 10 to 20 kDa. Evidence also suggests that the two forms affect animals and human cells differently.

A major review of animal studies

Poligeenan is commonly used to develop intestinal inflammation in animal models. Food-grade carrageenan can also cause inflammation in the right concentration.  A major review, published in 2001, evaluated the possible harmful effects of carrageenan by assessing the results of about 45 animal studies. The review concluded that food-grade carrageenan may increase the risk of colon ulcerations and cancerous lesions in animals. However, it should be noted that the majority of included studies actually used poligeenan instead of food-grade carrageenan. Secondly, the study results demonstrate that while poligeenan can cause cancer when consumed alone and in high enough concentrations, food-grade carrageenan only accelerates cancer formation when it is taken with another carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance.

Another study that administered 0.5% to 2.0% poligeenan to monkeys found that these concentrations caused diarrhea, hemorrhage, and ulcerations, while food-grade carrageenan at 1.0% to 3.0% resulted in no changes to the colon. Higher levels of food-grade carrageenan (5.0%) were required to produce colon changes — epithelial cell loss, diarrhea, and increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) — in rats. This study also found that cancer proliferating cells returned to levels before food-grade carrageenan was introduced after it was discontinued (28-day recovery period), but rats administered poligeenan still had high levels of proliferating cells after discontinuation. Contradictory evidence that used the same 5.0% concentration of food-grade carrageenan concluded that it only produced colon ulcers in guinea pigs and not rats or hamsters. Another 90-day study found no colon ulcerations or lesions in rats administered food-grade carrageenan.

Limitations of applying animal studies to humans

A number of limitations exist that limit the applicability of these animal studies findings. Many of these limitations were pointed out in a 2014 review published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology. The current evidence suggests that food-grade carrageenan effects species differently, making it incorrect to apply the animal studies to humans. Many of the studies also added the food-grade carrageenan to the animal’s water instead of their food, which increases the severity of symptoms it causes. The levels of food-grade carrageenan administered to animals are also far higher than the typical 0.01% to 1.0% levels added to processed foods and consumed in a typical diet (1.4 to 3 grams per day for a 165 pound human). Studies demonstrating adverse colon effects administered about 0.2 to 15 grams per kilogram of body weight daily, which would translate to about 15 to 1,125 grams of food-grade carrageenan daily for a 165 pound (75 kg) human.

Human studies

Few human studies exist evaluating the potential effects of food-grade carrageenan. In fact, due to ethical concerns, most studies have been conducted on cultured human cells and not actually in humans. The first laboratory study suggests that carrageenan (did not specify food-grade carrageenan or poligeenan) triggers a pro-inflammatory response to protect intestinal permeability function. Two additional studies (study1, study 2) also noted an increased inflammatory response to food-grade carrageenan. The most unfavorable evidence may be a laboratory study that found exposing human intestinal cells to concentrations of food-grade carrageenan lower than those typically found in the diet increased cell death and reduced intestinal cell proliferation. These studies provide some confirmation of animal studies in humans but it is important to note again that these studies administered food-grade carrageenan directly to human cells and not with food, amplifying the negative effects.

Interestingly, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study concluded that 0.75 g of food-grade carrageenan daily for 22 months effectively reduce peptic ulcers without notable side effects. Another study investigated the effects of food-grade carrageenan on carbohydrate absorption when administered as part of a meal. The study authors observed that food-grade carrageenan decreased carbohydrate absorption (significantly lowered blood glucose) and reduced total cholesterol and triglycerides. These clinical studies suggest that consumption of food-grade carrageenan with food may mitigate the negative effects observed in animal studies.

Carrageenan’s role in dietary supplements

Dietary supplement manufacturers utilize small amounts of carrageenan to create vegetarian/vegan compliant softgels that provide similar bioavailability to standard softgels without using animal products (bovine and porcine gelatin). Indeed, carrageenan appears to improve capsules thermal stability and resistance against humidity. The amount of carrageenan used to create vegetarian supplements is so small that it hardly adds to the daily total of carrageenan exposure. Supplements that use carrageenan-based capsules, therefore, pose little risk of adverse effects.

The final word

Currently, carrageenan is portrayed as significantly more harmful than the evidence supports and a small amount is not likely to harm you. However, a cautious approach is still warranted due to its potential effects on intestinal inflammation. Further research is necessary before carrageenan can be deemed completely harmless and safe. Sufficient evidence exists to say poligeenan has a greater potential to cause harm. The prudent approach would be to limit exposure to carrageenan (it’s very difficult to avoid it if you live in the United States due to its wide use) and avoid poligeenan where possible, particularly among those with a history of gastrointestinal issues (IBS, IBD, chronic diarrhea, etc.) or family history of colon cancer.

Essential Oils Positively Influence Genetics

The decisions you make every day influence your personal health. Whether you decide to have that donut laden with trans fat and sugar or choose to run on the treadmill for 30 minutes ultimately affects your long-term health. The more good choices we make each day the better our health and the lower our risk of disease. But what if your decisions today affected not only your health but the health of your offspring for generations to come. As weird as this may sound, the field of epigenetics suggests this may be something we should consider as we make our daily choices.

What is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the study of potentially heritable (transmissible from parent to offspring) changes in gene expression that does not involve changes to DNA. Each of us has unique DNA contained in our cells ― unless you have an identical twin. Virtually every cell in our body contains all of our DNA and genes that make us who we are. Despite this similarity among most cells, difference cells perform different functions. Our brain cells act differently than our muscle cells, our skin cells perform different functions than our heart cells, and so forth. What differentiates their behavior is epigenetics. Epigenetics basically comprises the instruction aspect of our DNA that tells it what to turn on or off, up or down, and how and when to perform.

We inherit our genes from our parents and they cannot be changed. However, methyl groups (compounds made of carbon and hydrogen) are attached to genes that affect their expression ― whether genes are activated or deactivated (or turned up or down) to express a trait. The methyl groups are influenced in various ways, including eating, activity, and environmental exposures. So while epigenetics doesn’t alter our DNA, it does orchestrate what genes are expressed and when.

The exciting and emerging field of epigenetics continues to reveal how eating, activity, aging, disease state, and substances influence the human genome. Some experts believe that epigenetics will completely change the way we treat disease in the future.

How Essential Oils Influence Epigenetics

Landmark research, revealed that like other substances essential oils can influence the way our genes express. Through careful evaluation of billions of data points, it was discovered that essential oils fall into one of six zones of epigenetic influence: circulatory/respiratory, digestive/excretory, lymphatic/immune, muscular/reproductive, immune/nervous, and skeletal/integumentary. For example, helichrysum belongs to the skeletal/integumentary zone, orange to the muscular/reproductive zone, and myrtle to the circulatory/respiratory zone. By altering epigenetics, essential oils can profoundly influence the human genome and therefore human health.

To discover more about this exciting research read Synergy, It’s an Essential Oil Thing.

Hormones, Epigenetics, and Essential Oils

A woman’s hormones fluctuate each month during her fertility years and then alter again when her fertile years end. These fluctuations can lead to the uncomfortable symptoms of menstruation (cramps, minor mood changes, water retention, etc.) and menopause (hot flashes, vaginal dryness, etc.). Similarly, a man’s hormones (predominantly testosterone) tend to decline slowly after the age of 30, which can decrease performance and energy levels. Carefully balancing these hormones is key to healthy aging and well-being during our mature years.

Fortunately, this groundbreaking research revealed that certain essential oils play a role in overall hormone balance. While bioidentical hormones are an option for some women, an even better approach is to positively influence epigenetics in a way to improve the overall balance of all key hormones. The same can be said for males. Hormones are so tightly controlled within the body, that when one is deficient or excessive it cascades to the other hormones and soon you have a significant imbalance in multiple hormones. What the researchers found was that rosemary, lemon, vetiver, bergamot, clove, and tea tree essential oil positively affected the genes associated with female hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and prolactin. For men, sweet basil, tea tree, bergamot, clove, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), and vetiver promoted positive expression of male hormones like testosterone. Knowing this allows us to create better balance of all hormones.

So the obvious question becomes how can we best utilize this research to promote normal hormone function in men and women? The following are essential oil formulas intended to do just that (added to a capsule for a systemic benefit):

Women

One drop each of the following in a capsule morning and evening with food and water, six days per week:

  • Rosemary
  • Lemon
  • Vetiver
  • Bergamot
  • Clove
  • Tea Tree

Alternately, create a blend with equal parts of the above oils. Add 3 drops of the blend to the capsule and take morning and evening with food and water, six days per week.

Men

One drop each of the following in a capsule morning and evening with food and water, six days per week:

  • Sweet basil
  • Tea tree
  • Bergamot
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
  • Vetiver

Alternately, create a blend with equal parts of the above oils. Add 3 drops of the blend to the capsule and take morning and evening with food and water, six days per week.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a healthcare professional.

 

Ingesting essential oils; Safe or harmful?

Certain topics have been avoided among friends throughout history because of their controversial nature. Religion and politics are among these divisive subjects. However, more recently other subjects have divided friends and family including car brands and sports teams. There are also divisive subjects among essential oil enthusiasts, including choice of essential oil brand and whether or not it is safe to ingest essential oils. Regarding the latter, you have an entrenched group of traditionalists that want to maintain the status quo and a growing group of progressives that advocate oral ingestion. Blog posts and articles on both sides  fuel the fire of this discordant debate. All of this leads to a great deal of confusion for the consumer who just wants to enjoy the benefits of essential oils.

So, with all the conflicting information and the drama associated with the topic of ingesting essential oils what is the average consumer supposed to do? The purpose of this article is not to add fuel to the debate, but to provide an evidence-based perspective based on current scientific research.

Misguided Convictions, Proper Training, and Control

First of all, I respectfully submit that some of the traditionalists are misguided in their convictions against essential oil ingestion. For some, it is a case of continuing to do what they’ve always done. Change is difficult. Humans, in general, don’t like change and prefer what they are familiar with. Others have only received training from an “approved” school that doesn’t teach ingestion methods. These aromatherapists have not received the proper training to teach the ingestion method and therefore are not qualified to do so. Another group just wants to maintain control of aromatherapy. If individuals are empowered with the correct information they can use essential oils safely without resorting to an appointment with a certified aromatherapist. I understand this completely. They want to protect their bread and butter — their revenue stream. I tend to prefer empowerment. A knowledgeable essential oil user, empowered with the right knowledge, can realize better health naturally and safely.

 

Oral Administration in the Scholarly Research 

I was recently invited to contribute a chapter along with my colleague and friend Dr. Joshua Plant  on essential oils to a forthcoming medical textbook Nutrition and Integrative Medicine: A Primer for CliniciansAs part of this chapter, I completed a literature review of clinical studies that administered essential oils orally. A significant range of doses was used in the dozens of clinical studies I located depending on the purpose and the essential oil used. Doses ranged from 50 mcL to 3 mL daily. These studies safely administered essential oils orally with few, if any, adverse events. It is clear that members of the scientific community accept the oral administration of essential oils and recognize it is a valuable administration method.

Examples of doses used in clinical studies or recommended in pharmacopeias:

  • Lavender (name brand Silexan): 80mg, once or twice daily <Multiple Clinical Studies> Note: Oral adminstration of 160mg of lavender increases serum linalool levels, but not linalyl acetate; with a half life of 4 hours after acute administratoin and 9 hours after 11 days of repeated oral ingestion.
  • Peppermint (name brand Colpermin): 0.2mL (187 mg), before each meal <Multiple Clinical Studies>
  • Rose: 5mg/kg body weight in children aged 3 to 13 years <Clinical Study>
  • Rosemary CT 1,8-cineole: 1mL, every 8 hours for 44 weeks <Clinical Study>
  • Anise: 200mg, three times daily <Clinical Study>
  • Eucalyptus: 100-200mg, 2 to 5 times daily <European Medicines Agency>

Our Body is Regularly Exposed to Essential Oil Constituents 

Another aspect of this debate is whether our body is used to processing the constituents found within essential oils. Here are some of the constituents are body commonly encounters and is used to processing:

  • Limonene is a common essential oil constituent and found in citrus fruits (including their juice), carrots, baked goods, beverages, chewing gum and more. Indeed, orange juice contains a number of volatile constituents, with limonene being the most abundant at 376 to 741 mcg/mL.(1)
  • Linalool is found in coriander, rosewood, and lavender essential oils to name a few, but it is also present in apricots, papayas, and cranberries. Linalool is the most abundant volatile constituent in papaya fruits.(2)
  • Alpha-terpineol is another alcohol present in several essential oils (distilled lime, neroli, clary sage, cajeput, palo santo, etc.), but also found in cranberry juice.(3)
  • Eugenol is an abundant compound of clove bud and other spicy essential oils but also found in common foods such as coffee, mung beans, peaches, and bananas. Eugenol gives coffee its woody aroma.(4)
  • Even methyl salicylate (the dominant compound of wintergreen and birch essential oils) is found in tomatoes, peaches, and bilberries.(5)
  • West Indian lemongrass, rosemary CT myrcene, juniper berry, and blue spruce all have myrcene present in good to significant levels. Myrcene is considered the major constituent responsible for the “green hop aroma” of beer.

It is abundantly clear that we are exposed to, and our body is used to, processing very small amounts of essential oil constituents. Indeed, as Supercritical Essential Oils reports, many of these compounds have demonstrated significant beneficial properties.

The Unconvincing Argument Against Ingestion

It is also interesting that Robert Tisserand is the most commonly cited expert by traditionalists to support their anti-ingestion stance. This is despite the fact that he has been quoted in more than one article that he is not against oral administration. He believes — as do I — that a greater level of knowledge is required to ingest essential oils. His book Essential Oil Safety even lists oral dosage recommendations (“Maximum adult daily oral dose”) for many essential oils.

Other groups opposed to the ingestion of essential oils share documents filled with adverse reactions allegedly caused by essential oils. Self-reported adverse reactions are hardly credible due to bias, untrained diagnoses, and lack of complete information (concomitant use of other supplements or drugs, the health status of the individual, etc.). In reality, these reports equal a statistically insignificant number of adverse events compared to the number of people who regularly ingest essential oils.

The Evidence-Based Conclusion

It is time for the traditionalists to embrace the future of essential oils and stop ignoring the ever-increasing evidence that essential oils are not only safe to ingest but provide a potential not attainable through inhalation and topical application in some cases. Long-established organizations should modify outdated policies and stances against this practice and encourage schools and certification programs to adapt their curriculum to teach the proper way to ingest essential oils. If you are looking for a program that already teaches these guidelines, I invite you to check out my comprehensive essential oil certification program.

For more information on other aspects of this debate, including empowerment vs. control, potential, knowledge, and comfort level, see my additional blog post here.


References

(1) Dagulo L, Danyluk MD, Spann TM, et al. Chemical characterization of orange juice from trees infected with citrus greening (Huanglongbing). Food Chem. 2010;75(2):C199-C207.

(2) Flath RA. Volatile components of papaya (Carica papaya L. Solo variety). J Agric Food Chem. 1977;25(1):103-9.

(3) Hirvi T, Honakanen E, Pyysalo T. The aroma of cranberries. Zeitschrift fur Lebensmittel-Untersuchung und Forschung. 1981 Sep;172:365-7.

(4) Hendon CH, Colonna-Dashwood L, Colonna-Dashwood M. The role of dissolved cations in coffee extraction. J Agric Food Chem. 2014;62(21):4947-50.

(5) Stevens MA. Inheritance and flavor contribution of 2-isobutylthiazole, methyl salicylate and eugenol in tomatoes. J American Soc horticultural Sci. 1970;95:9-12.

Top 5 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is considered the “Swiss Army Knife” of essential oils, and for good reason. It is one of the most well-researched and versatile essential oils with vast benefits and numerous properties. It has been used traditionally for its healing and relaxing properties. One of its most well-known uses is for burns, but it is also useful for stress management, relaxation, painful menstruation, and more. So what benefits has science revealed about this remarkable essential oil? Let’s explore the top five scientifically proven benefits of lavender essential oil.

  1. Relieves anxiety. Several clinical studies demonstrate that oral administration of lavender essential oil significantly reduces anxiety.
  2. Improves emotional balance and relieves depression. Clinical research shows that oral and topical administration of lavender essential oil positively modulates mood and reduces depressive symptoms.
  3. Alleviates pain. Inhalation or topical application of lavender essential oil alleviates painful conditions according to clinical evidence.
  4. Improves sleep quality. Inhalation of lavender essential oil increases deep sleep and reduces mild insomnia in humans.
  5. Kills cancer. Laboratory research suggests that lavender essential oil kills breast, metastatic prostate, lymphoblastic leukemia, lung (large cell), and colorectal cancer cells.

 


REFERENCES:

See Medicinal Essential Oils: The Science and Practice of Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy.

Eradicating H. pylori Naturally

One of the most successful pathogens in human history is the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterium. It has manipulated cellular death pathways to ensure its survival and propagation, permitting it a prolonged existence and perpetual infections in humans. It is so successful that the CDC estimates nearly two-thirds of the human population has this bacteria living inside them.(1) While H. pylori has a long history of success and infection, it can be managed naturally with an evidence-based approach.

What is H. pylori

H. pylori (previously Campylobacter pylori) is a gram-negative bacterium that resides in the digestive tract and has a propensity for attacking the stomach lining — so much so it causes the majority of peptic ulcers (sores in the stomach and upper part of the intestine). H. pylori is transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids (saliva, fecal matter, or vomit) of an infected person. It is also contracted by drinking contaminated water. Good hygiene is essential to avoid its spread.

Signs and Symptoms of Infection

One of the problems with H. pylori is that the majority of people who are infected don’t exhibit any symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur they generally present as bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, belching, and vomiting. More serious infections may include diarrhea, dark or tarry stools, heartburn, peptic ulcers, loss of appetite, anemia (low red blood cell count), vomiting blood, and fatigue. It is also linked to an increased risk of gastric cancer depending on health status and other environmental factors.(10)

What is the Conventional Treatment for H. pylori

H. pylori is typically treated with “triple therapy.” This involves the simultaneous administration of two antibiotics to kill the bacteria with an acid reducer (esomeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole or pantoprazole). The acid reducer decreases stomach acidity to improve the action of the antibiotics. Side effects of triple therapy include diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, stomachache, headache, dark colored stools, vaginal itching/discharge, muscle weakness, mood changes, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.

Die-off Symptoms

Die-off (Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction) reaction is a term used to describe a reaction during the clearance of pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses, yeasts, etc.) from the body with antimicrobials. It is believed to occur when endotoxins produced by massive numbers of dying pathogens overwhelm the body’s ability to clear them out. This creates a toxic state that produces characteristic flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, muscle aches, skin rashes, brain fog, and gastrointestinal problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation). Die-off reactions usually occur when significant lifestyle changes are made: diet modification (switching from processed to whole foods — pathogens starve and die off rapidly), beginning probiotics (modifies the gut microbial balance to one with more good bacteria), or taking an antimicrobial substance (food, herb, supplement, or drug). This type of reaction will usually occur hours (1-2) to days (up to 10) after the lifestyle modification occurs.

The risk of die-off reactions may be reduced by backing off on the amount of the antimicrobial substance consumed, making a dietary change more gradually, or reducing the dosage of probiotics taken. In addition, a digestive enzyme (especially one with bromelain and proteases) may reduce reactions to whole foods added to the diet by facilitating better absorption of proteins and nutrients new to your body.

Eradicating H. pylori Naturally

  • Essential oils (2 drops each of clove, German chamomile, ginger, and lemongrass in a capsule, twice daily, one hour after a meal). Fortunately, scientists have revealed that a number of essential oils kill H. pylori — some at very low concentrations. Common essential oils that are effective against H. pylori include clove, German chamomile, ginger, and lemongrass.(2)(3)(4) Even more importantly, research suggests that some of the essential oils kill the bacterium without promoting resistance — a problem plaguing modern day antibiotics.
  • DGL (760 mg 20 minutes before each meal). This special form of licorice root has been relied upon for centuries to soothe stomach issues. It is very useful for ulcers and heartburn. One study concluded that the addition of DGL to triple therapy increased the elimination of H. pylori, particularly in people with peptic ulcers.(6) Another study demonstrated that licorice was as effective as bismuth (Pepto-Bismol) for H. pylori infections.(7)
  • Black cumin seed oil (1,000 mg after lunch and dinner). Black cumin seed oil and one of its active constituents thymoquinone are two of the most useful natural medicinals known. Scholarly research suggests that they are valuable for myriad health conditions and H. pylori is no exception. People administered 1,000 mg of BCSO (and 40 mg omeprazole), twice daily after meals, experienced reduced H. pylori counts comparable to triple therapy.(8)
  • Probiotics (15-50 billion CFU with evening meal). Results of clinical studies suggest that specific probiotics (Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus GG, L. johnsonni La1, and L. reuteri) reduce H. pylori counts in the digestive tract, improve triple therapy eradication rate, or reduce the side effects of triple therapy.(9)

Conclusion

Chances are you are infected with H. pylori, even if you are symptom free. This infection could increase the risk of adverse reactions during lifestyle changes and puts you at greater risk for peptic ulcer and gastritis. Conventional triple therapy is not without side effects and may not be the most effective therapy to eliminate H. pylori. Natural options including essential oils, DGL, black cumin seed oil, and probiotics are promising natural remedies to control this common infection. Talk to your doctor about these natural, evidence-based options if you know, or suspect you have, and H. pylori infection.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a healthcare professional.

Xylitol: Safe or harmful?

Xylitol is growing in popularity as a natural sugar substitute to sweeten various foods, gums, and oral care products. However, if you search the internet you find reports that xylitol is harmful and shouldn’t be consumed. So, what are the facts? Is xylitol a safe natural sweetener and sugar substitute with potential health benefits, or is it a toxic ingredient that should be avoided? Read on to discover the scientific facts of this often maligned sweetener.

What is xylitol?

This discussion needs to start with what xylitol is. Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar alcohol (also called polyols) that has a crystalline, granular structure and sweetness comparable to sugar. Despite containing the name alcohol, xylitol contains no ethanol like alcoholic beverages. It is called a sugar alcohol like other sugar alcohols: sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, isomalt, and lactitol  because its chemical structure places it in the alcohol family. It contains about 2.4 calories per gram (compared to 4 calories per gram for sugar). It is naturally found in some fruits and vegetables. Commercial xylitol is usually obtained from corn cobs or birch trees. Sugar alcohols are not processed the same as sugar absorbed and processed more slowly, which means that it provides fewer calories than the same amount of sugar and has less of an impact on blood sugar and insulin.

What is the problem or potential harm of xylitol and sugar alcohols?

Large amounts of sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal upset, such as gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.(1) However, the average person will not experience these effects unless they are consuming 50 grams or more per day. Indeed, research from the 1980s in the Soviet Union that administered 30 grams of xylitol per day observed that diarrhea and other side effects seldom occurred.(2) The same review of Soviet research concluded that xylitol is well-tolerated in children at doses of 20 to 35 grams daily for up to four weeks. People who are sensitive to sugar alcohols may experience GI symptoms — often severe — at much lower doses.

The most common report on blogs even among health professionals — is a concern about the toxicity of xylitol. This concern largely stems from animal research and appears to be misguided (more to come on this). It is important to remember that natural doesn’t always mean non-toxic. What determines toxicity is the dose of the substance (this principle is true of all substances regardless of whether it is natural or synthetic). A perfect example is water. Drinking too much water causes water intoxication (poisoning, seizures, and convulsions). Water is necessary to sustain life, but it can be toxic in excess. The same goes for many natural products, including xylitol.

What does research say?

Here is a brief summary of some of the research regarding toxicity in animals and humans.

  • Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs (keep xylitol products away from man’s best friend) and can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, and death.(3)
  • Bladder tumors increased in mice when their diet consisted of 10% or 20% xylitol.(4) This is due to the conversion of a minor metabolite of xylitol called glycolic acid to oxalate. Increased oxalate in the urine predisposes mice to bladder stones, and in turn, bladder tumors. If humans consumed just 10% of their calories as xylitol, the average adult (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) would consume nearly 84 grams of xylitol daily. It would reach a whopping 167 grams if 20% of our calories came from xylitol.
  • At 20% of their diet, rats also experience an increased risk of tumor formation, but not at 10%.(4)
  • Humans do not readily convert glycolic acid to oxalate, and no increase in urinary oxalate levels has been observed even at doses of 1 g/kg body weight daily.(4) To put this in perspective, the average-sized person would need to consume 70 grams of xylitol daily to reach this level of consumption. Based on this no adverse effect, the study author concluded that humans exposed to normal levels of xylitol are at no risk of developing bladder tumors.

The current available research demonstrates that xylitol toxicity is species dependent, and not all animal studies can be directly correlated to humans. Current evidence in humans suggests it takes extreme amounts of xylitol to cause GI upset and potential harm.

Many products sweetened with xylitol (gum, breath mints, candy, protein powders) contain 1 gram or less of xylitol, meaning you would have to consume a significant amount of the products to even reach the safe level of 70 grams. Other products (jams/jellies — about 6 grams per tablespoon; baked goods) contain higher levels.

Benefits of xylitol

Research suggests that xylitol helps prevent tooth decay and cavities by preventing oral bacteria from sticking to teeth.(5) By preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth, xylitol reduces plaque formation. Remarkably, another review even found that xylitol can reverse the process of early cavities.(6) At least 5 grams of xylitol daily is necessary to produce a benefit to oral health, and some experts suggest 10 to 15 g in divided doses daily.(1) In addition, xylitol is a good choice for diabetics because it is low-glycemic and does not raise blood glucose or insulin levels like sugar.

Evidence-based conclusion

Based on the research and benefits of xylitol, it can be safely used in most adults at reasonable amounts (no more than 50 grams daily, but preferably less than 35 grams daily) and most children (less than 25 grams daily). Larger amounts may cause GI upset, while even small amounts may be problematic for sensitive individuals. Xylitol is beneficial for oral health, diabetics, and as a natural sugar substitute in reasonable doses, but should be avoided in excessive amounts.


REFERENCES

(1) Makinen KK. Gastrointestinal disturbances associated with the consumption of sugar alcohols with special consideration of xylitol: Scientific review and instructions for dentists and other health-care professionals. Int J Dent. 2016;2016:5697907.

(2) Nesterin MF. Xylitol. Experimental and clinical investigations conducted in the USSR (review). Z Ernahrungswiss. 1980 Jun;19(2):88-94.

(3) Cortinovis C, Caloni F. Household food items toxic to dogs and cats. Front Vet Sci. 2016;3:26.

(4) Roe FJ. Perspectives in carbohydrate toxicology with special reference to carcinogenicity. Swed Dent J. 1984;8(3):99-111.

(5) Janakiram C, Deepan Kumar CV, Joseph J. Xylitol in preventing dental caries: A systematic review and meta-analyses. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2017 Jan-Jun;8(1):16-21.

(6) Nayak PA, Nayak UA, Khandelwal V. The effect of xylitol on dental caries and oral flora. Clin Cosmet Investig Dent.  2014 Nov 10;6:89-94.

Essential Oil Absorption and Distribution After Topical Application and Inhalation

Essential oils are known for their rapid results. They quickly enter tissues and cells to support healthy cellular and organ function. But just how quickly do they enter tissues after different administration methods?

Research into the distribution of essential oils after administration (topical, oral, and inhalation) is limited, but it is generally accepted that they are distributed similarly to fat-soluble drugs. Essential oils molecules do not distribute to organs throughout the body in the same quantities and ratios.(1) Instead, essential oils molecules will tend to distribute to fatty tissues (brain, nervous, and liver tissue) and move more slowly to adipose tissue, which has a reduced blood supply.

It is interesting that essential oils first seek to distribute to cells and tissues vital to life (nervous system and liver tissue). By doing so essential oils can profoundly influence health because the nervous system is the primary controller of myriad body functions.

The following is a brief overview of how quickly essential oils enter body tissues after topical application and inhalation.

TOPICAL

  • Essential oil compounds (lavender) are detected in the blood within 5 minutes of topical application.(2)
  • Widespread (peak blood concentration) at 19 minutes and reaching a minimum after 90 minutes.(2)

INHALATION

  • A significant portion of essential oil compounds distribute to the pulmonary system following inhalation.(3,4)
  • Inhalation of aroma compounds leads to detection in the blood within minutes, peaking at about 20 minutes.(5)
  • Research using brain topographical maps (EEG) demonstrates that essential oil molecules modify brainwave activity. However, how quickly molecules entered brain tissue was not reported.(6)
  • Animal research suggests that inhalation of aroma compounds leads to distribution in the brain tissue.(6)

So it is clear that essential oils are rapidly absorbed or distributed to tissues that are vital for optimum health. Regular use of essential oils (what I call an aromatic lifestyle) leads to cell, tissue, and organ support. This allows the whole person to thrive.

Students of the Mastering Essential Oils Certification course also have access to videos demonstrating essential oil absorption and distribution (for oral, topical, inhalation, and vaginal/rectal administration) via the included app.