Below is a downloadable interview (6 parts) between bestselling author Scott A. Johnson and Jessie Hawkins of the Franklin Institute.
Below is a downloadable interview (6 parts) between bestselling author Scott A. Johnson and Jessie Hawkins of the Franklin Institute.
With growing concern over COVID-19 (Wuhan coronavirus 2019), many people are wondering which essential oils are antiviral and might help them stay healthy all season. Infectious illnesses, caused by a variety of pathogens, are more common during certain times of the year. While we don’t have research showing the direct activity of essential oils against COVID-19, researchers have discovered multiple essential oils have antiviral properties. This doesn’t mean we can use these oils to prevent or treat COVID-19, but does show many oils have demonstrated antiviral properties against a variety of viruses. Use of these essential oils may support the normal protective activities of your immune system.
Researcher shows the following essential oils are antiviral and the virus they were effective against: (1)
Note: Most of the above were gathered from Medicinal Essential Oils: The Science and Practice of Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy. See this book for the references and more information.
Further research is needed to determine if these preclinical studies translate to humans. In the absence of clinical research to show how much of each oil to take and how to use them, savvy essential oil users know the best protection comes from using them three ways: aromatically, topically, and orally (for those that are labeled as dietary supplements, pure, and unadulterated).
Here are some general guidelines for using essential oils:
Aromatic: Add 2 to 4 drops of your chosen oils per 100 mL of water in your favorite diffuser. Diffuse in multiple rooms to keep your environment clean.
Topical: Apply 2 to 3 drops of oil in mixed in a carrier oil and rub on the upper chest and back or massage into the feet.
Oral: Take 1 or 2 drops directly under the tongue of milder oils a few times daily; or add 1 to 5 drops of essential oil in a capsule and take every 4 to 6 hours.
Essential oils work with your body through multiple pathways and mechanisms of action to help restore health. Using them responsibly and wisely will help you stay healthy all season and get back into your normal routine more quickly.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Seek appropriate medical advice if you have an illness of or medical condition. Consult an informed healthcare professional before using essential oils.
Essential oils are leading natural solutions for a variety of ailments because of their potency and proven properties and benefits. With their increasing popularity among the general public and health professionals, more people are seeking factual information that can help them use them safely and effectively. So, what are essential oils? It turns out defining what an essential oil is is much harder than you think.
Traditionally, the aromatherapy industry has held to the following definition, likley adopted from an earlier definition used by the flavor and fragrance industry:
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) defines essential oils as highly aromatic substances made in plants extracted by distillation.  They further explain that essential oils can be extracted by steam distillation, hydrodistillation (also called water distillation), or expression.  The NAHA prefers to call substances extracted by enfleurage, solvents, and carbon dioxide (CO2) as extracts rather than essential oils. Interestingly, the NAHA alludes to accepting CO2 extracts as essential oils when they state “An essential oil’s chemical make-up may vary from the plant from which it was extracted from due to its method of extraction; for example, distillation vs. carbon dioxide extraction vs. expression.”
Another industry organization, the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) does not have an official definition that I could find on their website. 
However, some scientists and scientific organizations allow for a broader definition:
“An essential oil is a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.” is a definition that closely matches that given by the NAHA for an essential oil by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). 
A 2012 review article published in The Journal of Essential Oil Research states that essential oils can be obtained from plants by “hydrodistillation, solvent extraction, cold pressing, and supercritical fluid extraction (CO2).”  The article also notes that essential oils are most commonly extracted by steam distillation.
Similarly, a 2018 review article from the Asian Journal of Green Chemistry includes a variety of extraction methods for essential oils, including steam distillation, hydrodistillation, solvent extraction, supercritical fluid extraction, instantaneous controlled pressure drop process, microwave-assisted extraction, and ultrasound assisted extraction.  The article further states that the traditional methods of extraction (steam distillation and hydrodistillation) have several drawbacks, which led to the emergence of newer processes to “optimize the performance of the essential oil in both quantitative and qualitative terms.”
Another review article from 2015, uses a simple definition that essential oils are “a mixture of saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons, alcohol, aldehydes, esters, ethers, ketones, oxides phenols and terpenes, which may produce characteristic odors” and “extracted from the flowers, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits and other parts of the plant by various methods.” 
A study even specifically calls a CO2 extract a “supercritical essential oil.” 
While another study considers CO2 extraction as an innovative technique to extract essential oils allowing for the extraction of additional essential oils that cannot be obtained with traditional methods. 
A recent symposium (Essential Oil Symposium for Medical Professionals) I attended that included some of the foremost and respected researchers and clinicians on essential oils defined essential oils as “distilled or extracted from a single botanical variety [where] nothing is added or taken away.” This means no addition of natural isolates, synthetic petrochemicals, or cheaper essential oils. Supercritical CO2 extracts can certainly meet this definition because they do not add any residual solvent.
Even Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC weighed in on the subject during an interview with Shape Magazine, defining essential oils as “highly concentrated compounds extracted from plant parts using a steam-distillation, cold pressing, or CO2 extraction process.”
Why must we hold to such a limited definition of essential oils—oils obtained only by distillation or expression—when CO2 “select” extraction can produce an end-product very similar to—sometimes even superior to—traditionally distilled essential oils without leaving residual solvent? For example, CO2 bergamot can produce an oil similar to expressed bergamot, distilled caraway closely resembles CO2 caraway, CO2 lemon and expressed oils composition are comparable, CO2 tea tree produces an oil similar to distilled oil but with less loss of bioactive constituents due to thermal degradation, and many more essential oils could be cited.
Indeed, I recently asked a group of trained aromatherapists to review the complete composition of 10 essential oils and tell me whether it was a distilled or expressed essential oil or one extracted by CO2. Trained aromatherapists were only able to correctly identify the extraction method about 50% of the time, which is not statistically different than guessing really. This emphasizes that many CO2 oils look just like traditionally extracted essential oils when you compare compositions.
In addition, some essential oils extracted by CO2 may be more therapeutic due to the preservation of bioactives. For example, supercritical German chamomile select CT bisabolol oxide essential oil contains similar levels of bisabolol oxide A (50.4% to 56.8%), bisabolol oxide B (0.2$ to 21.5%), alpha-bisabolol (1.5% to 8.9%), and sometimes minor amounts of chamazulene (0.0% to 1.8%)—some of the key active constituents in the oil identified by research—while preserving some matricine (up to 3.5%). This is highly desirable because matricine is significantly more anti-inflammatory than chamazulene.
Another example is supercritical ginger select essential oil. Gingerols and shogaols are pungent compounds found in ginger roots with proven anticancer, antiobesity, antiallergic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds are not present in distilled ginger essential oil but the selectivity and better extraction properties of CO2 allow these health-promoting constituents to appear in high levels in CO2 ginger essential oil while still maintaining other key bioactives (e.g. alpha-zingiberene, beta-sesquiphellandrene).
Instead, I propose that we accept as essential oils any plant extract that produces an end-product similar to traditionally distilled essential oils without introducing a foreign substance (such as animal fat or solvents) during the extraction process. This would allow select CO2 oils, distilled oils, and expressed oils to each be called essential oils being delineated as such: supercritical lemon essential oil (select), distilled lemon essential oil, and expressed lemon essential oil. Absolutes would not be included as an essential oil because they leave trace to small amounts of solvent in the end-product.
One argument against using CO2 essential oils in clinical practice has been the lack of safety information because of the presence of these additional constituents. However, I performed a literature review on the safety of these constituents and list additional cautions in my book “SuperCritical Essential Oils” based on these new constituents. For the clinician, the name and definition are not as important as reliable efficacy and safety. Supercritical essential oils may produce more therapeutic end compositions making them a great addition to the clinician’s natural toolbox.
Essential oils could therefore be defined as “mixtures of volatile aromatic compounds and select nonvolatile compounds (e.g. coumarins and fatty acids) extracted from plants by various methods that do not introduce foreign substances (e.g. solvent residue) during the extraction process.” Doing so, allows us to use plant extracts for therapeutic purposes to improve overall well-being and removes self-imposed limitations.
A consensus definition among scientists, health professionals, and the aromatherapy community will likely never be obtained. More importantly than a consensus definition, scientists and sellers of essential oils should clearly delineate what extraction method was used for the product they are evaluating or selling. So the bottom line is, the definition of essential oils depends on whether you abide by traditionally held views, definitions from published research, or a hybrid.
Although one of the least explored senses in the field of research, the sense of smell (or olfaction) may be one of the most important senses for overall health. Smell has a unique relationship with memory and emotions that is unmatched. No doubt you’ve experienced déjà vu due to exposure to a scent. This familiar and memorable aroma—like grandma’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, your dad’s garage, new car smell, or the flowers outside the house you grew up in—activates specific areas of your brain reigniting vivid memories and emotions. These nostalgic experiences intimately linked to aromas are called scent memories and demonstrate just how powerful the sense of smell is.
Your sense of smell is directly connected to your brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows that when you smell something two parts of the brain are activated—the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain and the hippocampus plays a major role in memory, so it is not surprising that scents arouse powerful memories and emotions. Indeed, a captivating and familiar aroma has the power to not only remind you of a past person, place, or event, but it triggers emotions more powerful than those generated by other senses like sight and sound. (1)
Collectively, the amygdala and hippocampus (both parts of your limbic system) coordinate a conditioned response that rapidly links familiar aromas with their associated memories. Other senses (visual, auditory, and tactile) do not pass through these areas of the brain, which explains why aromas produce greater emotional responses than the other senses.
Scientists are just beginning to understand the complexity of the sense of smell and its involvement in human health. The discovery of olfactory receptors outside the nasal cavity in areas such as the kidneys, heart, skin, and immune cells highlighted a wider role for olfaction in human health than previously known. (2) A growing body of evidence suggests that olfactory receptors not only play a role in the function of multiple organs and systems, but they also have potential to be used in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. (3) This research has revealed that olfactory receptors perform important functions such as:
Nostalgic memories and positive emotions can also be produced by the potent aromatic molecules found within essential oils. When an essential oil is smelled, aromatic molecules are carried by olfactory sensory neurons to the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb filters and processes the incoming signals and then mitral cells carry an outgoing signal to the olfactory cortex and the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and the hippocampus. A wide variety of psychophysiological responses occur in response to this outgoing signal that can promote improved health. Here are a few essential oils associated with improved memory and emotions:
These few studies—and many more existing studies—show that essential oils can improve mood and memory function simply through inhalation. For more research to support the use of essential oils for memory and emotions, see Medicinal Essential Oils: The Science and Practice of Evidence-based Essential Oil Therapy.
The power of the sense of smell should not be overlooked nor underestimated. The evidence is clear that olfaction plays a significant role in overall human health, so don’t cut your health short. Stop to smell the roses and be sure to incorporate essential oil inhalation into your regular daily routine.
Aromatherapy has captured the senses, especially the sense of smell, for centuries. From pampering Egyptian pharaohs to the anointing oil of spices mentioned in the Bible, majestic botanical essences have been highly esteemed and prized throughout history. Aromatic essences have also been an integral part of the healing systems of multiple ancient and modern cultures. So, what is all the fuss? Why have aromatic essences and essential oils stood the test of time? It may be partly related to the most powerful sense human beings possess—the sense of smell.
The sense of smell is vital to human health, allowing humans to identify food, mates, and predators, and detect pleasure and danger (e.g. smoke from a fire or harmful chemicals). Olfaction is the sensory receptors that form the sense of smell. Odor molecules travel to specific sites (olfactory epithelium) and bind to olfactory receptors located in the nasal cavity. Once bound to olfactory cell receptors, intensified signals are transmitted via the olfactory bulb (lying inside the nose and extending to two important areas of the brain: the amygdala and hippocampus) that rapidly reach the limbic area of the brain.
The limbic system is responsible for controlling emotions, memory, learning, instinct, and motivation. In addition, it is involved in sleep, libido, appetite, cardiovascular regulation, breathing, and hormone balance. Through this system, the aroma of essential oils can influence multiple physiological responses to hormones and neurotransmitters in the body.
Here are six fascinating and amazing facts about the sense of smell in humans.
The sense of smell is considered 10,000 times more potent than taste. Other senses like touch, taste, sight, and hearing must travel through the body via neurons in the peripheral nervous system and the spinal cord before reaching the brain (central nervous system). The olfactory response is immediate because of its direct link to the brain. Indeed, this is the only location where the central nervous system is directly exposed to the environment. Direct access to the brain means more rapid and substantial effects.
The sense of smell is the only sense directly connected to the brain. Unlike other senses, that must rely on neuronal communication from the peripheral to the central nervous system to operate efficiently, the sense of smell has a direct link to the central nervous system. Any disruptions in communication from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system can diminish these senses. As stated earlier, the olfactory bulb receives odor molecules first and then sends signals to the amygdala and hippocampus, which are strongly linked to emotions and memory. The other senses don’t pass through these areas of the brain, showing us the unique influence odors and smell have on human emotions and memories.
Females use the sense of smell to find a mate. Men and women are attracted to pheromones that the opposite sex produces. Men produce androstenol in fresh sweat (not exposed to oxygen), which is highly attractive to women. Research shows that women who are at the peak of fertility during their menstrual cycle prefer the smell of men with higher testosterone levels. Females also tend to prefer partners with different genes than their own according to scientists. A more diverse set of genes (major histocompatibility complex) produces offspring with a stronger immune system. In essence, women are sniffing out a mate with presumed healthy genes to ensure their offspring are healthy with a more robust immune system. Unfortunately, males don’t appear to have this same “superpower.”
Women have a greater sense of smell. Individuals have differing abilities to identify scents based on various factors. However, women outperform men when it comes to olfactory sensitivity that goes beyond social and cognitive differences between the genders. One study found that women on average have 43% more cells (50% when only neurons are counted) in their olfactory bulb when compared to men. This may account for their greater olfactory sensitivity and also contribute to their above mentioned “superpower” of sniffing out a mate.
Human Olfactory System: 1) Olfactory bulb, 2) Mitral cells, 3) bone, 4) nasal epithelium, 5) glomerulus, 6) olfactory receptor neurons
Olfactory receptors are not isolated to the nasal cavity. Olfactory receptors are chemical sensors responsible for your sense of smell. Scientists once believed that these receptors were isolated to the nasal cavity. That all changed when researchers at John Hopkin’s University School of Medicine (Maryland, USA) published a report reviewing discoveries of olfactory receptors on the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, muscles, heart, pancreas, liver, lung, and skin. These fascinating findings help us understand that scent receptors play important roles in full human physiology and well-being.
Aromatherapy and scent memories. The sense of smell communicates directly with areas of the brain that store memories and govern emotions. You’ve likely walked into a house or shop and been captivated by a familiar aroma that instantly reminds of a past place, event, or person—think grandma’s perfume or cookies. You may have even felt strong emotions associated with this scent. These experiences are called scent memories and demonstrate how powerful odors are in relation to memories and emotions.
All things considered, the sense of smell is not only fascinating but an absolutely vital part of human well-being. It also shows us how potent aromas, like essential oils, can significantly influence our entire well-being by leveraging this influential sense. Maybe we need a new mantra of smell and be well.
The Western United States is experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in recent history. Dozens of wildfires are burning across multiple states, taxing wildland firefighters and government resources. With the massive amount of fires burning, air quality in the West has significantly declined, resembling a dark and thick haze, that challenges the respiratory system of even healthy people. Here are seven essential oils that can aid lung and sinus function during these times of bad air.
People most vulnerable to smoky air
While many healthy people remain unaffected by the smoky air, sensitive individuals and those with existing health conditions are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of bad air. Children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of smoky air due to their more rapid breathing rate. On the opposite side of life, the elderly — who are more likely to have other health conditions — can easily succumb to bad air. People with heart (heart failure, angina, ischemic heart disease) and lung diseases (asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, bronchitis, COPD) are likely to experience chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Pregnant women should also be very cautious in these conditions as the air could potentially affect both the mother and the developing baby. Even healthy individuals aren’t immune to the effects. They can experience burning eyes and throat, chest pain, excess mucus production, and difficulty breathing if too much time is spent outdoors.
How smoky air affects the respiratory system
When wood and other organic matter burns it produces a mixture of gases — fires can boost ozone pollution by releasing nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons — and particulate matter. These microscopic particles are particularly concerning because they penetrate deeply into the lungs and cause a range of health problems, from a mild runny nose to chronic lung disease. Particulates produced by wildfires promote acute inflammation, oxidative stress, and reduced immune responses to infections according to research. Exposure to fine particles is also linked to cardiovascular disease (1) and premature death. (2) It is best to limit time outdoors when significant smoke is present in the air and sensitive individuals should consider wearing a mask.
Essential oils that support overall respiratory system function
Essential oils are great remedies for the respiratory system due to their volatility. Their volatility allows them to enter both the upper and lower respiratory tract to influence complete respiratory function. In addition, their complexity (from a dozen to hundreds of constituents), multiple mechanisms of action, and multiple cell receptor targets make them an ideal solution to help you breathe easier during the most challenging situations.
Eucalyptus. A hallmark of inflammatory airway diseases is the overproduction of mucus. Eucalyptus essential oils are rich in the important monoterpene 1,8-cineole. (3) Preliminary research demonstrates that 1,8-cineole modulates the expression of genes involved in the production of mucus; therefore, it reduces overproduction of mucus. (4) Other research shows that eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oil prevents lung injury. (5) A standardized supplement called Myrtol designed to break down mucus and alleviate sinus congestion, and clinically proven in more than dozen trials — containing eucalyptus, orange, lemon, and myrtle essential oils standardized for limonene, 1,8-cineole, and alpha-pinene (300mg, four times daily), significantly reduced coughing fits during the day and night in people with bronchitis. (6)
Myrtle. Used for centuries to treat pulmonary disorders, myrtle essential oil has moderate amounts of 1,8-cineole — depending on whether it is green or red myrtle — but also contains other respiratory-supportive constituents like alpha-pinene and linalool. Regular exposure to ozone and particulate matter has been associated with exacerbation of pulmonary fibrosis and possibly even the development of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. (7) A methanolic extract of myrtle, which contains volatile constituents found in the essential oil, reduced inflammation and fibrosis of the lungs in animals. (8) Myrtle essential oil has also been shown to positively influence genes related to the respiratory system. (9)
Balsam fir. Another essential oil that is known to positively influence pulmonary epigenetics is balsam fir. (10) This research supports its traditional use for respiratory disorders, including those involving respiratory spasms. Some scientists report that conifer trees, like balsam fir, cleanse the air around us by trapping particulates and airborne chemicals in their foliage.
Peppermint. Russian scientists found that inhalation of peppermint essential oil reduced symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis and prevented its recurrence in humans. (11,12) Inhalation of menthol — one of the primary constituents in peppermint oil — significantly enhanced mucus clearance in smokers. (13)
Cinnamon, clove, and thyme. A recent study concluded that the essential oils of cinnamon, clove, and thyme are excellent choices to combat respiratory tract infections in liquid or vapor phase. (14) This means you could diffuse these oils to allow them to enter the respiratory tract and help cleanse the lungs of pathogens. Moreover, these essential oils are known as potent antioxidants, which will help protect against the free radical assaults caused by particulates that enter the lungs. Clove and cinnamon are often combined in immune blends, so you may already have a good option in your essential oil arsenal.
Ginger. Opening the airways can reduce wheezing and difficulty breathing. Preclinical research shows that ginger essential oil can reduce airway constriction. (15) The study authors noted that 1,8-cineole and citral, both present in small quantities in ginger essential oil, each triggered bronchodilation (dilation of the bronchi and bronchioles to improve airflow to the lungs).
How to use the essential oils
Hopefully, firefighters will get the fires in the West under control quickly. Pray for their safety and ability to do so. But, until then, use your essential oils to keep your respiratory system healthy, particularly if you are among the sensitive populations.*
* Note: If pregnant or under the care of a physician, consult your health practitioner prior to use. Some people with chronic respiratory systems may respond adversely to essential oils, so use with caution and under proper guidance.
Search for tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil (TTEO) on the Internet and you will find multiple websites — even government maintained — with stern warnings not to ingest it because it is a poison. As I reported previously, the ingestion of essential oils is disappointingly controversial but TTEO is especially denounced as harmful. This blog is meant to explore the evidence behind the mislabeling of TTEO as a poison.
What is tea tree essential oil?
TTEO is the volatile and aromatic constituents obtained from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. It is native to Australia and has a rich tradition in indigenous medicine systems there. Aborigines in Australia used the healing powers of TTEO topically to treat wounds, cuts, injuries, and infections. The leaves were also soaked in water to make an infusion for sore throats and colds. Additionally, it is believed that the indigenous Bundjalung people of eastern Australia inhaled the oil from crushed leaves to treat coughs and colds.
Modern research has discovered that tea tree is helpful for acne, oral health, warts, wound cleansing, head lice, dermatitis, inflammatory conditions, and influenza infections to name a few. This research has led to a resurgence of this ancient remedy from the Australian bush.
Typical Composition of TTEO
Tea tree is a predominantly monoterpene alcohols and monoterpenes with some sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene alcohols present. Its major constituent is terpinen-4-ol (4-terpineol), which is typically within the range of 35% to 48%. The monoterpenes gamma-terpinene and alpha-terpinene are also typically found in moderate to significant amounts. Other key constituents include 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol), alpha-terpineol, alpha-pinene, terpinolene, para-cymene, delta-cadinene, aromadendrene, and ledene (viridiflorene). See page 459 of Medicinal Essential Oils for more information about TTEO composition.
What does the evidence from animal studies show?
A key point of this discussion is that virtually anything that can produce a therapeutic effect also has the potential to produce a harmful or toxic effect. Several factors determine whether you experience a therapeutic or harmful effect, such as your current state of health, height, weight, age, and most importantly the amount used. Small children are more susceptible to toxic effects of therapeutic substances.
Animal evidence shows that TTEO can be toxic when ingested in very large doses. The amount required to cause the death of half of the animals in a study is called LD50. The LD50 for rats was determined to be 1.9mL to 2.7mL per kilogram (kg) of body weight. (1) To put this in perspective this is equivalent to a 154-pound (70 kg) adult ingesting 133mL of TTEO. They also found that 1.5g/kg caused the rats to be lethargic and ataxic (lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements). Another study pegged the rat LD50 at 1.9g/kg. (2) To give you an idea of how much this translates to in human consumption, the same 154-pound adult would need to consume more than 26 teaspoons of TTEO to consume that much. No reasonable person would consume these amounts of TTEO.
Let’s compare this LD50 to essential oils that have been used in numerous human clinical studies safely. Peppermint essential oil has an LD50 of 2.426g/kg in rats and 2.49mg/kg in mice, within the same range as the LD50 for TTEO. (3) Anise essential oil is commonly ingested in capsules for digestive disorders. The LD50 of anise in rats is 3.12mg/kg, modestly higher than TTEO. (4) Even lavender essential oil, which is commonly ingested for anxiety, has an LD50 of 4.25g/kg. (5) This data shows that some essential oils not erroneously labeled as poisons, and commonly ingested by humans, have similar toxicity levels in animals to TTEO. It also reveals that even some of the safest essential oils, like lavender, do have a harmful level of use, although the level is extreme.
The data above certainly doesn’t merit labeling peppermint, anise, and lavender as poisons. So why is tea tree singled out with this dubious title?
Aspirin has an LD50 of 0.2g/kg in rats (6) — far lower than TTEO — but it isn’t being labeled as a poison with warnings in all caps stating not to ingest it. Instead, people are informed about reasonable doses that will not cause death. I doubt people Google to see if aspirin is a poison before using it.
People consume caffeinated beverages indiscriminately without considering if it is toxic or a poison. It too has an LD50 far lower than TTEO at 0.367g/kg in rats. (7) Should people be advised to call poison control centers when they ingest a cup of coffee?
Even vitamin A (retinol) has a similar LD50 to TTEO at 2g/kg in rats. (8) Medical professionals and much of the public is aware of the toxic potential of too much vitamin A and so we use it and administer it at reasonable and safe doses. Likewise, TTEO can be ingested at reasonable and safe doses without hitting the toxic and harmful level.
Remember, water is a life-giving and vital substance, but even drinking too much of it can cause water intoxication — a condition where excess water enters cells causing cells and tissues to swell. Should we then label water as a toxin, or would it be more reasonable to recognize it as a healthy means of hydration when used in reasonable amounts?
Reviewing the evidence in humans
Toxicity has also been reported in human case reports. Two cases of toxicity in adults are reported in the literature. One adult ingested half a teacup (most modern teacups hold 150mL of liquid, suggesting this individual ingested 75ml of TTEO!) of TTEO and the other half a teaspoon full (2.5 mL; which he had ingested previously without problems). (9) Both of these are examples of extreme doses and far beyond reasonable oral use of TTEO.
Most cases of toxicity occur in children. A 17-month-old child and two additional children who ingested less than 10mL (again a whole lot of TTEO) experienced drowsiness and ataxia. (10)
One case report states that a 4-year-old boy consumed a “small quantity” of tea tree oil, which caused ataxia within 30 minutes that progressed to unresponsiveness. (11) His symptoms improved with treatment over the course of ten hours and he made a full recovery. The term small quantity is very subjective and leaves open the possibility that he ingested what would be considered a large quantity in medical aromatherapy.
Several cases of toxicity have involved the ingestion of 10 to 25 mL of tea tree oil.(12) Again, these are extreme and not reasonable doses. Even the National Institutes of Health admits that TTEO “ingestion, demonstrate that at relatively high doses, TTO causes Central Nervous System depression and muscle weakness.” (13) They also state the symptoms generally resolve within 36 hours.
I find it particularly odd that a U.S. state poison control center states “Tea tree oil causes rapid onset of lethargy, confusion, ataxia, hypoventilation, and coma after ingestion of as little as 10mL.” (14) 10mL is hardly a “little” amount in medical aromatherapy, highlighting the inadequate knowledge of essential oils that is rampant among Western-trained health professionals and government agencies.
What we learn from these case studies is that we should limit TTEO ingestion to reasonable amounts and avoid it in children under age six. Indeed, ingestion of tea tree is likely best reserved for teenagers and adults.
The benefits of tea tree oil ingestion
Some question the need for ingestion of TTEO. Certainly, topical application has vast and varying benefits, but a systemic benefit is best achieved when essential oils are taken orally. We know that TTEO prevents an early stage of replication of the influenza virus (15) and therefore sublingual or TTEO in a capsule can be helpful to support the immune system. Epigenetics is an emerging and exciting field that we are just beginning to understand who essential oils influence the human genome. Research revealed in a landmark study that TTEO positively influences genes related to hormone function in men and women. (16) Again, a systemic benefit would best be achieved by taking TTEO orally. TTEO has vast application and oral administration is reserved for cases that demand it for maximum benefits.
The misinformed sharing misinformation about essential oils
This isn’t the first time people untrained in the clinical use of essential oils and without proper knowledge or the required thousands of hours of study have spread poor and misleading information about essential oils. You’ve probably heard that lavender and tea tree will make your boys develop breasts. Well, this couldn’t be farther from the truth and falls more in the realm of pseudoscience. See my video rebuttal of the “research” here. The fact is you need to check facts posted on social media and the Internet against credible experts and resources that follow an evidence-based approach.
The evidence-based conclusion
Based on the above evidence, it is abundantly clear that TTEO has an undeserved reputation as a poison when ingested. If we continue to call it a poison, we should also include caffeine, aspirin, and other substances with similar toxicity profiles.
Can toxicity occur when it is ingested? Absolutely. But, we must consider the extreme amounts required to ingest before we arbitrarily call a beneficial essential oil a poison. Individuals should seek qualified advice from an expert trained in the oral administration of medicinal essential oils before ingesting TTEO. If you are uncomfortable with ingesting TTEO, don’t. No one is forcing you to do so. However, you may be missing out on benefits best achieved through this administration method.
Billions of dollars are spent every year with one goal in mind — to maintain youth. Creams are applied, surgeries undergone, and extreme exercise or calorie restriction executed to maintain a youthful glow and youthful function. Knowing this, scientists have performed thousands of hours of research in search of the next miracle drug, molecule, or supplement to extend healthy human lifespan. Recent discoveries of cellular pathways — AMPK and mTOR — make this dream more of a reality.
What is AMPK?
Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an important enzyme found inside every cell in the body. It serves as a master regulator of energy metabolism. AMPK detects energy levels (the number of ATP molecules) inside cells and controls responses when ATP levels are too high or too low. When activated, AMPK speeds metabolism, accelerates fat burning, and even influences how long you live.
Its activity level also closely regulates aging. The enzyme is most active in days of youth but its activity gradually decreases with each passing year. (1) This decreased activity is partially responsible for the buildup of visceral (belly) fat and muscle loss that occurs during the aging process. Excess weight, and the accumulation of fat around the waistline, accelerates aging. (2) Abdominal fat also generates an abundance of inflammatory chemicals. Indeed, deep abdominal fat transforms into an inflammation-promoting factory, leading to metabolic diseases. (3)
What happens when AMPK activity decreases?
Given that AMPK is the master cellular regulator of metabolism, it’s not surprising that a whole host of adverse effects can occur when its activity slows down.
AMPK promotes cellular renewal and clean-up
Your cells continuously generate energy to remain viable. The process of energy creation produces toxic debris and metabolic waste that must be carefully managed by your body. Autophagy is the primary process cells use to clear damaged proteins and mitochondria, and other metabolic waste products. It is your cell’s internal housekeeping process.
The easiest way to think about this process is to consider fireplaces and a chimney sweep. Fireplaces are your cells. Inside these fireplaces, a series of oxidation reactions occur to convert food molecules into energy. As a result, the inside of the cell accumulates debris (like soot). The chimney sweep is autophagy, which cleans out the debris so the cell can operate more efficiently. Maintaining optimal autophagy is critical to cellular health and function.
Emerging scientific research suggests that autophagy is involved in virtually every intervention proven to extend healthy lifespan. (4) This discovery is a major advance in the quest to slow and reverse the aging process.
mTOR: AMPK’s partner in longevity
AMPK regulates autophagy and fat-removal partly by modulating a protein, and its partner in crime, called mTOR. mTOR stands for mechanistic target of rapamycin (an immunosuppressive drug that targets mTOR activity), and when properly balanced, triggers the breakdown of fat stores to produce cellular energy. (5) Indeed, scientists have discovered that mTOR functions as a central coordinator of metabolism and cellular growth in response to environmental and hormonal signals.
In essence, mTOR is the master conductor of your cellular symphony of processes. mTOR responds to stimuli such as amino acid levels, cellular energy status, oxygen level, and insulin growth factors. Its two complexes (mTORC1 and mTORC2) serve as a communication hub that integrates cellular nutrient and stress statuses and then formulates an appropriate response.
Like AMPK, mTOR activity is directly associated with the aging process. Animal research demonstrates that decreasing mTOR activity extends lifespan. (5) Conversely, mTORC1 signaling activity is increased in a number of diseases, including cancer. (5) The discovery of mTOR’s involvement in aging and age-related diseases creates an exciting prospect to not only delay aging, but reduce the risk of age-related diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The role of exercise and eating in AMPK activation and mTOR regulation
Before we explore proven natural solutions to slow aging at the cellular level, it is important to emphasize the importance of regular exercise and eating better. It’s no revelation to those who live a healthy lifestyle that vigorous activity and reducing caloric intake are two well-established strategies to active AMPK activity and regulate mTOR. (6)(7) Calorie restriction triggers mechanisms that improve metabolism efficiency and protect against cellular damage. Many of the health benefits of exercise are linked to mTOR activity in muscle, brain, fat, and liver tissue. (8) Achieving optimal AMPK and mTOR activation is therefore critical for overall health and healthy lifespan.
Health really is a product of what you eat, how you move, environmental factors, and your thoughts and emotions. You simply can’t outpace the effects of poor eating, inactivity, or chronic stress. Nutrition and regular activity are foundational and the longevity results achieved with other natural measures will be amplified when they are properly established.
Natural methods to increase autophagy and AMPK activation and regulate mTOR
Turning down mTOR and activating AMPK (and therefore autophagy) is not for everyone. Those with sarcopenia (degenerative loss of muscle tissue) or other frailty-associated conditions could experience aggravation of symptoms through chronically decreased mTOR and elevated autophagy. (18)
Emerging evidence surrounding the AMPK/mTOR signaling pathway is an exciting cellular pathway to slow down the aging process and reduce age-related disease burden. Even more exciting is the possibility of influencing aging and age-related diseases with natural products. Don’t take your chances with expensive and risky surgeries to look and feel younger. Mother Nature prepared multiple solutions that you can give a try instead.
Looking to ignite passion and enhance intimacy? Lost enjoyment in sex or struggling with that elusive and mystical (some would say mythical) libido? No worries, essential oils may be just what the libido ordered. Throughout history, essential oils have been used to encourage cuddling, affection, and intimacy. This blog intends to explore ten oils that can enhance the passion in your bedroom and life.
Known as the sex drive, libido influences a person’s overall desire for sexual activity. Libido is regulated by a complex interaction between hormones and neurotransmitters (chemical communicators of the brain like dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, GABA) released by the brain—specifically the limbic system and amygdala. Dopamine regulates desire, acetylcholine initiates arousal, GABA is necessary for orgasm, and serotonin is the final phase of libido called resolution.
To say that libido is all in your head is mostly accurate. Neurotransmitters released by the brain do the heavy lifting, governing a healthy libido. Estrogen is the primary hormone driving libido in women during the most fertile days. In menstruating females, libido peaks just prior to ovulation—a built-in motivation that encourages sexual intercourse during the most fertile days of the cycle and ensures the survival of the human race.
However, those revved-up days in the cycle virtually vanish as the production of key hormones—that are intimately connected to neurotransmitters—diminish during menopause. Indeed, hormones and neurotransmitters are interconnected in a complex dance (estrogen to serotonin, progesterone to GABA, and so forth) and must maintain a specific rhythm throughout the life of a woman to sustain a healthy libido. The result of losing this rhythm and optimal production of both hormones and neurotransmitters is decreased libido, and reduced blood flow to the vagina, which causes vaginal dryness and decreased pleasure. Less pleasure, discomfort, and decreased libido causes some women to experience a less fulfilling sex life during their mature years.
The male libido resides in the cerebral cortex and limbic areas of the brain and is fueled by neurotransmitters and testosterone. When a male becomes aroused, signals are sent from the cerebral cortex along nerves that elevate heart rate and increase blood flow to the genitals. Just like women, testosterone production changes over the course of a man’s lifetime. It usually peaks in his late teens and slowly declines thereafter. As a man ages, neurotransmitter, hormonal, and vascular changes make greater physical stimulation required to maintain sexual function and pleasure.
Keep in mind that although hormones and brain chemicals regulate libido, it is significantly influenced by emotions and stress levels. For example, you may be showering with the love of your life and feel desire, but arousal only occurs if you feel emotionally balanced and have stress under control. This may be why essential oils are so well-equipped to influence libido—because they profoundly influence mood and emotions by interacting with the same areas of the brain that regulate libido.
Ylang ylang is prized for its positive effects on blood pressure, stress levels, self-confidence, mood, and libido. Its flowers are traditionally placed on a couple’s bed on their wedding night. By relaxing both the mind and body, it places individuals in the right state for intimacy should the desire arise. In addition, its positive effects on blood pressure may increase blood flow to the genitals to make intercourse more enjoyable. How to use: Diffuse 7 to 10 drops in your diffuser 15 minutes prior to and during intimacy; or dilute and apply 1 to 2 drops over the heart.
Sandalwood is employed as a potent aphrodisiac in India. It too is calming to the mind and combats the negative emotions and stress that can interfere with intimacy. Interestingly, sandalwood reportedly smells similar to androsterone (a metabolite of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone), which may trigger subtle sensual signals to the opposite sex. How to use: Diffuse 7 to 10 drops in your diffuser 15 minutes prior to and during intimacy; or dilute and apply 1 drop to the side of the neck.
Patchouli essential oil is used in aromatherapy to reduce tension, stress, and anxiety. It has been used traditionally in Asian cultures as an aphrodisiac. Some experts believe that patchouli stimulates the sex glands to increase both libido and sexual responses. How to use: Diffuse 5 drops in your diffuser 15 minutes prior to and during intimacy, or dilute and apply to the lower abdomen.
Deeply relaxing and producing euphoric feelings, clary sage is a powerful aphrodisiac. It contains trace to small amounts of sclareol, which is a compound structurally similar to estrogen. It has a long history of use for balancing female energies and supporting normal hormone function in women. Clary sage also influences dopamine activity, which helps regulate sexual desire. How to use: Dilute and apply to the lower abdomen area and inside ankle area; or take 2 to 3 drops in an empty capsule and consume daily.
With an earthy aroma, vetiver essential oil is used in the traditions of Ayurveda to increase libido. It positively influences genes associated with both male and female hormone function. Its calming aroma reduces stress, which is vital for sexual health and enjoyment. Moreover, vetiver is known to increase GABA levels in the brain, which may enhance orgasm. How to use: Take 2 to 3 drops in a capsule daily.
Prized for its balancing effects to mood and uplifting aroma, bergamot is known to support optimal levels of acetylcholine in the brain. Optimal acetylcholine levels lead to enhanced sexual arousal. In addition, bergamot positively influences genes related to male and female hormone function. With less stress, improved mood, and optimum acetylcholine and hormone function, you can’t go wrong with bergamot during intimacy. How to use: Diffuse 7-10 in your diffuser 15 minutes prior to and during intimacy, or take 2 to 3 drops in a capsule daily.
Neroli essential oil is a great option for menopausal women according to clinical research. Women who inhaled a 0.5% dilution of neroli oil experienced improved sexual desire, quality of life, estrogen levels, cortisol levels, and menopausal symptoms. It has an alluring aroma that triggers desire in men and women both. How to use: Diffuse 5 drops in your diffuser 15 minutes prior to and during intimacy, or dilute and massage to the shoulders.
More than just a food spice, nutmeg essential oil is known for its psychoactive properties, including stress management and reduction of anxiety. It has also been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and to improve sexual function. How to use: Diffuse 3 to 5 drops in your diffuser 15 minutes prior to and during intimacy.
Fennel has a licorice-like aroma that is relaxing and promotes self-confidence. Interestingly, fennel was used by the Egyptians to improve female libido and fennel decoctions were consumed by old men to improve virility anciently. How to use: Diffuse 5 drops in your diffuser 15 minutes prior to and during intimacy, or take 2 drops in an empty capsule the day of intimacy.
Several reports from women suggest that peppermint oil enhances sexual experience and orgasm. Peppermint increases focus, which is especially helpful for women who have trouble focusing during intimacy. The most common way it is used is by mixing 1 drop with about 7–10 mL of carrier oil and using it as a lubricant during intercourse. Other reports suggest applying it to the inner thighs is helpful.
Using two or more of the above essential oils together may amplify the benefits. Some find that combining three or more of the above oils into a roller bottle with carrier oil makes it easy to apply and readily available when the moment is right. Another frequent area to apply this type of blend is on the inner thighs.
Enhance intimacy and sensuality in the bedroom and your life with these tips. Used regularly, a night of passion with essential oils may become a more regular occurrence for you and your special someone.
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 Clinicians. As 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:
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:
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.
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