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The powerful influence of smell on memory, emotions, and overall health

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:

  • Regulate heart function.
  • Promote death and reduce the spread of certain types of cancer cells.
  • Regenerate skin cells to speed the wound healing process.
  • Promote prostate health.
  • Aid digestion.
  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • Stimulate insulin secretion by the pancreas. (4)
  • Regulate appetite. (5)

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:

  • Citrus oils like lemon, orange, and tangerine are strongly uplifting. Inhalation of citrus fragrance helped normalize neuroendocrine hormone levels and immune function in people diagnosed with depression and was deemed more effective than antidepressants. (6)
  • Rosemary is called the herb of remembrance and for good reason. Teen boys and girls (aged 13 to 15 years old) experienced significantly improved short-term memory when they inhaled rosemary essential oil. (7)
  • Lavender essential oil is associated with a more relaxed state. Healthy individuals who inhaled lavender essential oil reported feeling fresher and more relaxed than individuals who inhaled a base oil. (8)

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.

The Real Risk of Lavender and Other Essential Oils for the Hormone System

A recent study reignited fear and confusion in parents about one of the most versatile and trusted essential oils—lavender—and whether it has estrogenic properties. The study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism claims an association between lavender products and premature thelarche (PT; the development of small breasts typically before age three) and prepubertal gynecomastia (PG; the growth of breast tissue in males).

Dozens of sensationalized articles ran with this study’s assertions blurring the line between good scientific journalism and clickbait publicity. Most journalists only read the study abstract and do not dive deeper into the methodology and other important details, which leads to an oversimplification and sometimes misinterpretation of the results. Many health professionals and well-meaning people spammed their family and friends with these oversimplified and misconstrued articles to “prove” they should not use essential oils. So, is it time to throw out lavender and tea tree essential oils and avoid their use in children, or is this a case of scientists untrained in and ignorant of essential oils making absurd conclusions?

Previous research findings

Previously, a study argued that chronic lavender exposure caused PG, while another study alleged that both tea tree and lavender “probably caused” PG in boys. These studies spread like wildfire because they create doubt in people’s minds whether they should use one of the most popular and effective natural solutions available—essential oils. However, one should be cautious in jumping to conclusions and remember correlation does not mean causation.

The first study contains three case reports of PG that resolved after the discontinuance of lavender-containing products. One was a shampoo with lavender listed as an ingredient and the other two regularly used the cologne agua de violetas. They analyzed the cologne with HPLC, and based upon an “assumption” and comparison with an analysis of lavender essential oil concluded that linalool and linalyl acetate were components of the cologne.

The scientists failed to provide the full HPLC analysis of the oil for verification of lavender biomarkers and to rule out synthetic and adulterant markers. Given the substantial adulteration of lavender essential oil and the common practice of perfumers to use petroleum-derived synthetic chemicals (like synthetic linalyl acetate), it is highly likely that the cologne does not contain true lavender essential oil but synthetic bioidentical chemicals. It is also probable that an adulterated lavender was used in the shampoo product.

If you want to read the flawed science of the latter study, I invite you to review page 24 of my book Medicinal Essential Oils. For additional insight into how these studies are flawed—including confounding false-positive results due to the use of 96-well plates and the fact that essential oils may extract plastic chemicals up to 10,000-fold—see my Facebook live video.

Estrogenic activity of lavender and tea tree essential oils

Each of these studies validity is entirely dependent on lavender (or tea tree) producing sufficient estrogenic effects to disrupt the endocrine system. However, compelling evidence suggests lavender and tea tree do not have estrogenic potential.

The rat uterotrophic assay is the gold-standard test in living organisms to detect the estrogenic activity of a substance. During this test, immature female rats are repeatedly exposed to doses of a substance for three days. The weight of their uterus is measured on the fourth day, which provides a sensitive and toxicologically relevant measurement of the estrogenic activity of the tested substance.

In 2013, scientists evaluated the estrogenic effects of topical lavender in the rat uterotrophic assay. Immature female rats were administered 20 or 100 mg/kg of body weight over (roughly the equivalent of an adult applying 1.5 mL to 7.5 mL of lavender essential oil each day for three days) the course of three days. A positive control group was administered 2.5 mcg/kg of 17α-ethinyl estradiol (a synthetic estrogen used in birth control pills). The weight of the uterus and ovaries were recorded 24 hours after the final dose was administered. As expected, the positive control group that received 17α-ethinyl estradiol experienced significant increases in mean absolute and relative uterine weights. However, uterus weights of the lavender treated group did not increase relative to normal values. The scientists concluded that lavender essential oil “was not active in the rat uterotrophic assay and gave no evidence of estrogenic activity.”

Tea tree has not been tested in the uterotrophic assay, nor could any convincing research be found supporting an estrogenic or hormone-disrupting effect. Although a group of scientists contended that individual chemicals within tea tree oil disrupt hormone function, they relied upon flawed methodology that in essence makes their finding invalid (see the Facebook video above for more details).

The most recent study again used an in vitro (laboratory) method by placing human cells in 6-well, 24-well, and 48-well plates. While the authors took measures—also assessed soybean oil—to assess whether essential oils dissolved plastic chemicals in the plates to elicit the observed hormonal activity, they did not use the gold standard in vivo (performed or taking place in a living organism) rat uterotrophic assay. In vitro studies don’t always correlate with in vivo studies, and particularly human clinical studies. With the conflicting results in these studies, the appropriate approach is to weigh the in vivo study results more heavily. In other words, the in vivo study that suggests lavender has no estrogenic activity supplants the most recent study that reported lavender has estrogenic activity in laboratory research.

Lavender and tea tree essential oil major constituents

Essential oils are complex mixtures of volatile aromatic molecules. They can contain from a dozen to hundreds of constituents depending on the oil. The ratio of these molecules is what gives essential oils their therapeutic benefits. It is also known that certain essential oil constituents can synergize, buffer, or counteract the effects of another constituent in the oil.

To aid in this discussion the typical percentages of major constituents in lavender and tea tree essential oil are provided.

Lavender

  • Linalyl Acetate 25%–45%
  • Linalool 25%–45%
  • (Z)-Beta-Ocimene 2%–8%
  • Beta-Caryophyllene 2%–6%
  • Lavandulyl Acetate 2%–6%
  • Terpinen-4-ol 1%–6%

Tea Tree Oil

  • Terpinen-4-ol 35%–48%
  • Gamma-Terpinene 10%–28%
  • Alpha-Terpinene 5%–13%
  • Alpha-Terpineol 2%–8%
  • Alpha-Pinene 1%–6%
  • Terpinolene 1%–5%

Penetration enhancing effects of essential oil constituents

Essential oils have been used to enhance the penetration and absorption of various substances through the skin. Indeed, scientists have observed this effect of essential oils for decades in relation to the transdermal delivery of drugs. Knowing this, synthetic chemicals—some of which are known hormone disruptors—are likely to penetrate through the skin at a higher rate when combined with essential oils.

Terpenes are the most common class of constituent found within essential oils and they are known to acts as penetration enhancers of multiple substances (vitamins, drugs, phytocompounds, etc.). Some of these individual terpenes have been explored for their ability to act as penetration enhancers. It is also possible that essential oils that contain multiple penetration-enhancing constituents—like tea tree and lavender—could possess a synergistic effect.

Lavender essential oil itself is a known penetration enhancer. Looking at the major components in lavender we find that the following are known penetration enhancers:

Tea tree essential oil also contains constituents that enhance the penetration of other ingredients or chemicals through the skin:

These lists are far from inclusive of all constituents in these two oils that increase the penetration of other substances through the skin.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the products

A more plausible answer for the link between products that contain essential oils and PG or PT is interactions with other known hormone-disrupting chemicals present in the products. Many commercial personal care products (shampoo contains parabens and phthalates, which disrupt hormone activity) and colognes (many contain phthalates that disrupt hormone function) are a smorgasbord of harmful chemicals. Not to mention that essential oils may react with the chemicals (like bisphenol A, a known hormone disruptor) in the plastic containers of these products and cause them to leach into the product. Application of the product to the skin leads to absorption of both the plastic container chemicals and the synthetic chemical ingredients in the product.

While ingredients in wash-off products like shampoo and soaps have minimal contact with the skin, repeated exposure to these chemicals can have a cumulative effect. This is particularly true if the chemicals are being absorbed at a higher rate because the product includes lavender or tea tree essential oil. Colognes and perfumes are often sprayed directly on the skin and can have a higher absorption rate as a leave-on product.

In reality, exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is pervasive today because they are found in our water, air, clothes, food, furniture, vehicles, household cleaners, industrial chemicals, cosmetics, and personal care products. Indeed, one study found that infants are born with a tremendous toxic burden—an average of 200 chemicals present in umbilical cord blood at birth. Exposure to additional hormone-disrupting chemicals that are absorbed at a higher rate due to the presence of essential oils may have simply been the tipping point to trigger PG or PT.

The evidence-based and logical conclusion

Dozens of clinical trials using lavender or tea tree, combined with anecdotal use among millions of children, has not reported a statistically significant amount of estrogenic activity or hormone disruption for these two oils. We are each biologically unique and will respond to different substances uniquely. Most people can eat watermelon, but some have their throat itch and close if they do. Some children can eat peanuts, but to others, peanuts represent a threat to their life. Even among natural products, you will have a very small number of people that respond adversely or experience undesirable effects.

The presumed link to essential oils and hormone disruption in these studies is far from proven and frequently based on poor science and flawed methodology. The observations do not prove definitively PT or PG was caused by essential oils. This has been grossly overstated and aggrandized by the media. What we can learn from these studies is that consumers should be more selective about their products. They should choose natural products and products with essential oils that do not contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. Unfortunately, this is a major trend among companies selling soaps, lotions, shampoos, and other personal care products to capitalize on the growing essential oil industry.

The bottom line is you can still use tea tree and lavender essential oils on your children when diluted appropriately. With anything in medicine or health, the risks versus the benefits have to be weighed. And in this case, the vast whole-body benefits of these two essential oils far outweigh the minimal and rare risks that are far from proven.

Six Amazing Facts About the Sense of Smell (Olfaction)

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.

Seven essential oils to support lung and sinus function during bad air

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

  • Diffuse a combination of the above oils for at least 60 minutes, twice daily.
  • Perform a steam inhalation of one or more of the above oils (cinnamon and thyme may be too strong) once daily. The steam may help improve mucus clearance.
  • Dilute and apply eucalyptus, myrtle, peppermint, and ginger to the upper chest, once or twice daily.
  • Consider taking a capsule with one drop each of myrtle, eucalyptus, orange, and lemon essential oils (simulates Myrtol), three to four times daily.

Conclusion

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.

The mislabeling of tea tree essential oil as a poison

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.

Ten essential oils to ignite passion and enhance intimacy

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.

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

Surviving the 2018 flu season

The peak of the 2018 flu season is upon us with outbreaks being reported across North America. The influenza virus has hit every state in the continental United States and the media reports that Canadian emergency rooms are overcrowded with sick patients. A number of schools have canceled classes due to a rapid rise in flu-related absences. The flu shot has been a miserable failure, particularly since the mutated H3N2 strain that is spreading is difficult to prevent with the vaccine. And people are missing work, negatively affecting businesses. With the significant effects of the flu this year, some are wondering whether they should isolate themselves at home until the peak flu activity ends in April.

What is the flu and what are the symptoms?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory infection caused by a group of viruses known as influenza. There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C, and D. Influenza D primarily affects cattle and does not cause illness in humans. Human influenza A and B are responsible for the seasonal flu. Influenza C generally only causes mild respiratory symptoms and is not believed to cause seasonal epidemics.

Influenza A is further divided into different strains based on the presence of two proteins on the surface of the virus: hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). There are 18 different H subtypes and 11 different N subtypes. Influenza A also involves different strains due to virus mutation. H1N1 and H3N2 are two of the most common strains responsible for seasonal flu. They may be labeled according to the year they were most virulent, such as 2009 H1N1 Influenza.

The flu can cause mild to severe illness depending on the age and current state of health of the individual. It usually comes on suddenly and includes the following symptoms:
• Fever
• Chills
• Cough
• Headache and body aches
• Fatigue
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy noise

The role of the immune system
Whether or not you get the flu depends on the strength of your immune system. This is why the elderly, very young, and people with chronic medical conditions tend to be hit the hardest by the flu — both in incidence and severity.

The immune system is relatively immature at birth and has to adapt during life through exposure to multiple foreign challenges (viruses, bacteria, etc.). Babies produce their own antibodies each time they are exposed to a foreign challenge. Infants rely upon antibodies passed from their mother to protect them against germs for their first few months of life. Breastfed babies continue to receive a boost of disease-fighting antibodies through breast milk that is rich in cells that fight infection. By age one, their immune system has developed significantly but not fully. An immature immune system obviously increases the risk of influenza infections in infants.

The effects of aging on the immune system include a reduced production and diminished function of key immune cells. (1) In other words, the immune system detects and responds to foreign challenges more slowly with fewer cells performing this vital function. The body also heals more slowly in aged adults. As a result, elderly individuals experience a decline in immune function that makes them more susceptible to illness and a greater risk for complications.

Prevention strategies
Prevention is a far better strategy than treating the flu, especially if you are in the more vulnerable populations. Flu-related complications — such as pneumonia, sinus or ear infections, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), and more — resulting in hospitalization and sometimes death are more likely in the elderly, very young, and chronically ill. Here are some tips to reduce your risk of infection:
Wash your hands with soap and warm water regularly. The flu virus is spread via contact with respiratory droplets. This contact can occur through direct contact with the virus or by contact with a surface the has the virus (like a door handle or shopping cart). Washing your hands frequently can reduce your risk of infection.
Eat real whole foods (not packaged, processed foods). Your body relies on a daily infusion of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary for proper immune function. Inadequate supply of nutrients weakens your immune defenses and makes you more susceptible to illness. On the contrary, eating fresh fruits and veggies improves your immune defenses. (2)
Reduce sugar intake. Sugar depresses the activity of white blood cells, (3) which not only protect your body from viruses and germs but help prevent some medical conditions. Indeed, recent research suggests that drinking 1 liter (33.8 ounces) of sugary soda — or 100 grams of sugar — can disable the immune system for up to five hours. (4) Sugar also has a similar structure to vitamin C and competes with C, resulting in less vitamin C in white blood cells. Vitamin C is important for both the production and function of white blood cells.
Be physically active. Regular physical activity isn’t just good for your heart, body, and mind. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week may reduce the risk of respiratory infections. (5) Regular low to moderate activity also decreases flu-related mortality. (6)
Take a vitamin D supplement daily. Research has made it abundantly clear that vitamin D plays an important role in immune system regulation. (7) Experts concluded that about 41.6% of U.S. adults are deficient in vitamin D, with those of African American decent reaching 82.1%. (8) Individuals who are deficient can see up to a 50% reduction in influenza risk by taking vitamin D according to a 2011 study. (9) Ideally, people would have their vitamin D status determined by a blood test. However, in the absence of a test it is not unreasonable for elementary aged children to take 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily during flu season, and older teens and adults 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily.
Take probiotics daily. You may not realize it but about 70% of your immune system lies within your gut as the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, or GALT. (9) Probiotics play a vital role in the gut microbiome and therefore significantly impact immune function. A review of 13 randomized controlled trials concluded that probiotics reduced the number of people who experienced an acute upper respiratory-tract infection. (10) Another review that included 23 trials and 6,269 children determined that probiotic consumption reduced the incidence of respiratory tract infections in children. (11) Look for a multi-strain probiotic with at least 10 to 15 billion CFU and take one to two daily.
• Wear a mask if you choose. Although not very attractive, wearing a respiratory mask has proven significantly effective in reducing the risk of influenza. (12)

Natural solutions if you get the flu
Despite your best efforts, you may still get influenza. If this happens, a number of natural solutions exist to help speed your recovery.
Rest. Your body needs time to heal and recover, so take it easy. Stay home from work or school. Not only does this provide much needed rest but you reduce the spread of the virus.
Drink plenty of fluids. Water, herbal teas, and broth keep your respiratory system hydrated and thin mucus for expulsion. Don’t drink sodas, sugary sports-drinks, or other sugary beverages that will depress your immune system.
Take elderberry syrup. Preliminary research suggests that taking elderberry syrup reduces both the severity and duration of the influenza A and B. (13) Thousands of individuals can also attest to its effectiveness. As outlined in SuperCritical Essential Oils, typical doses are as follows: teens/adults: 10–15mL, 4 times daily for 5 days; children 1–6 years old: 5mL, twice daily for up to 5 days; children 7–12 years old: 5 mL, 4 times daily for 5 days.
Use essential oils. Teens and older adults can take a few drops of an immune-supporting blend with two drops of one or two SuperCarrier oils (balsam fir, lavender, lemongrass, ginger, and ylang ylang) in a capsule up to three times daily. This will help support normal immune activity to identify and eliminate the virus. Be sure to diffuse a respiratory blend to support mucus expulsion and respiratory function as well. Younger children can have an immune-supporting blend rubbed onto their feet with carrier oil. Diffusing respiratory supportive oils is also helpful in children three and older. For more information on how to use essential oils see Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails, Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy, or Medicinal Essential Oils.
Take homeopathic Oscillococcinum. If you catch the flu within the first 12 hours — even better within the first two hours — then you may have success with Oscillococcinum. It is designed to reduce flu-like symptoms such as body aches, fever, chills, fatigue, and headache. Take as directed in the supplement box.

Conclusion
You don’t need to panic and sequester yourself until Spring. Take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect you and your family and life will continue without inviting the dreaded flu into your home.

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.

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.