Exploring the Complexities and Caveats of Safe Internal Use of Essential Oils for Pain:

Highlighting Intestinal Discomfort, Part 2

By Sarah A. LoBisco, ND, IFMCP

 

Editor note: Part 1 of this article, published in December 2018, discusses issues of safety, essential oil quality, metabolism, and synergy when using essential oils orally. Part 2 looks at the clinical application of ingested essential oils for intestinal discomfort.

 

Preliminary Considerations

Before selecting a therapeutic modality of any kind, it is important to address the underlying cause and use a naturopathic and functional medicine approach to address it. I would be amiss to not briefly review some preliminary considerations for using essential oils.

For intestinal discomfort and symptoms, an integrative doctor will want to take a full history, perform a physical exam, and run the appropriate tests. Examples of laboratory assessments include imaging for detecting pathology and functional issues, assimilation and absorption markers (e.g., pancreatic elastase, products of protein breakdown, fecal fats), excess inflammatory indicators (e.g., calprotectin, eosinophil protein X (EPX), lactoferrin), a Celiac panel, SIBO breath test, markers for bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic overgrowth, and microbiota panels.

A “Five R” program for restoring and healing a diseased gastrointestinal tract is the preferred protocol in functional medicine, but the aspects are likely be implemented by most integrative practitioners. These Five R’s are the following:  

1. Removing the cause and contributors (i.e., dietary, microbes, or environmental),

2. Replacing the nutrients that are needed for assimilation and digestion,

3. Repairing the damage to the gut,

4. Re-inoculating the good bacteria, and

5. Rebalancing lifestyle factors (sleep, stress, exercise) that can perpetuate a dysfunctional gut.(122-124)

Oral Use of Essential Oils for Intestinal Discomfort

Now, I will start the discussion on the “nuts and bolts” of internal administration of essential oils for gut discomfort. I will review the evidence in the research for the use of the most common essential oils for intestinal health and those that I personally use in my practice. I will also provide dosages, if available, that are recommended from scientific reviews and experts. Next, I will give a summary on essential oils’ antimicrobial effects and their impact on the microbiome. Finally, I will give a synopsis of how I would incorporate these essential oils in my practice.

Despite the controversary surrounding oral application of essential oils, many practitioners are already currently administrating two essential oils for gut comfort without concern. Many practitioners who run the previously mentioned lab markers have witnessed that certain essential oils are deemed “sensitive” to dysbiosis markers on various functional gastrointestinal health panels. For this reason, many functional and naturopathic medicine practitioners have experience administering the essential oils of oregano for its antimicrobial properties(124-127) and enteric coated peppermint oil for irritable bowels.(128-132) Two additional essential oils I personally use in my practice are fennel and ginger. Please refer back to the previous section (Part 1) on “Internal Usage of Essential Oils: Controversy, Scare Tactics, and Bad Science” in which I highlighted the benefits of fennel oil for gut distress and its safe internal use.

There is also one proprietary blend I have found to be very clinically effective.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint is perhaps the most researched and clinically evaluated essential oil used for intestinal discomfort. It has even been validated in several trials for its efficacy in IBS subjects.(128-131)

Peppermint’s mechanism of action on pain has been studied but is not conclusive. It may be related its impact on TRPM8, a transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channel. This receptor has been found to be activated by cold temperatures and menthol, a main constituent found in peppermint essential oil. It induces smooth muscle contractions inversely relational to stimulation (temperature) and initiation of Rho-kinase. This leads to smooth muscle contraction. Furthermore, there is some controversial evidence that menthol modulates intracellular calcium stores. In summary, peppermint oil may relieve intestinal discomfort through activation of TRPM, modulating calcium stores, and stimulation of menthol.(129)

There is a safety precaution reported in the literature that peppermint may delay gallbladder emptying. The evidence cited for this is based on one study of 12 healthy volunteers that was assessing gastrointestinal motality.(128, 130-131)

In this experiment, the researchers compared the effects of a combination of 90 mg of peppermint oil in 50 mg of caraway oil to a proprietary formulation to two medications and a placebo that contained NaCl (salt). The participants were tested at baseline and after drinking apple juice at various time intervals. The authors simultaneously measured gastric and gall-bladder emptying ultrasonically and orocaecal transit time using the H2 breath test using lactulose.(128) The authors concluded the following:

Further investigations need to be conducted to study the effect of peppermint oil and caraway oil on a maximal contraction stimulus on the gall-bladder (e.g.after a fatty meal), to investigate the effect of a combination of both oils (as found in a number of herbal drugs) and to examine whether the pharmaco-dynamic effects can also be shown in patients suffering from motility disorders.(128)

I take issue to making this safety flag for peppermint oil based on twelve healthy volunteers. Under normal conditions, fatty acids stimulate gallbladder contraction. The test drink was a non-fat juice, so how could the gallbladder be stimulated? Still, according to the Expanded Commission E, the following contraindications are reported: “Obstruction of bile ducts, gallbladder inflammation, severe liver damage. In case of gallstones, to be used only after consultation with a physician. Preparations containing peppermint oil should not be used on the face, particularly the nose, of infants and small children.”(132)

I believe that due to the impressive clinical trials that report the efficacy of peppermint for IBS, it may be a better conclusion that it is a modulator of digestive function rather than an inhibitor or stimulator of motility. Furthermore, with appropriate dosage, clinicians should not dismiss this essential oil for fear of harm.

Oregano Essential Oil

Whereas ingestion of peppermint oil has many clinical trials of efficacy for assisting with digestive distress, oregano oil does not. Yet, it is one of the go-to essential oils for most practitioners in treating gut discomfort related to microbial imbalances. Interestingly, clinical trials on efficacy regarding the popular use for intestinal dysbiosis is lacking.(133,134) There is one lone study on inhibition of enteric parasites.(125)

Its isolated compound, carvacrol, was found in vivo to have protective effects against clostridium difficile associated dirrahea.(135) In another in vivo model using pigs, oregano oil was found to improve intestinal permeability via modulating bacteria and immune status. Interestingly, the oregano oil used, as reported in the analysis found within the supplementary materials, did not contain the two components considered to be most active.(136) Many manufactured oregano oil products are encapsulated and standardized to carvacrol and thymol.

Still, clinicians report benefits and improvements of markers of intestinal dysbiosis for their patients.

As far as safety, it is recommended to be diluted in a fatty oil due to its potentially corrosive properties.

Ginger Essential Oil

Ginger is another well-known herb for its digestive properties and alleviating discomfort. It has evidence of this from a few human trials and many in vitro and in vivo.(137-142) In vitro and vivo, ginger oil has been shown to be microbe inhibiting and have inflammatory modulating properties. The constituents of ginger oil have also shown to be stomach protective,(139) possess antioxidant properties, and modulate inflammation.(137-142)

One study review of five trials had compelling evidence that the inhalation of a combination of peppermint oil and ginger oil could assist with nausea, though some methodical issues were reported. The authors stated, “Their results suggest that the inhaled vapor of peppermint or ginger essential oils not only reduced the incidence and severity of nausea and vomiting but also decreased antiemetic requirements and consequently improved patient satisfaction.”(142)

Cumin Essential Oil

Cumin essential oil is another essential oil traditionally used for digestive health. A small pilot trial with 57 subjects diagnosed with IBS using ROME II criteria assessed the efficacy of 2% cumin essential oil and had an impressive outcome. The essential oil was administered as 10 drops twice daily for four weeks. The authors concluded, “Abdominal pain, bloating, incomplete defecation, fecal urgency and presence of mucus discharge in stool were statistically significant decreased during and after treatment with Cumin extract. Stool consistency and defecation frequency were also both statistically significant improved in patients with constipation dominant pattern of IBS.”(143)

Proprietary Formation

I have had success using combinations of essential oils in proprietary formulations for intestinal health promotion and relief of irritation.  One essential oil blend I routinely use contains the following single oils with evidence of digestive support: Artemisia dracunculus (tarragon) oil,(144) Zingiber officinale (ginger) root oil,(137-142) Mentha piperita (peppermint) oil,(128-132) Juniperus osteosperma (juniper) oil,(145) Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) oil,(110-114) Cymbopogon flexuosus (lemongrass) oil,(146-149) Pimpinella anisum (anise) seed oil,(150) and Pogostemon cablin (patchouli) oil.

This has been very effective in my practice for relief of gastrointestinal discomfort and symptoms. Most report improvement within one month. This is likely due to the synergistic components of the essential oils.(77-78)

Dilution and Dosages: A Guide for Essential Oils

Now that I’ve reviewed the evidence that ingesting essential oils and that their use for intestinal discomfort is science-based, I will now discuss specific dosage guidelines. Although aromatherapists have different viewpoints on dilution amounts necessary for safe application, measurement for what constituents a single dose is a commonality.

In this section, I will provide a dosage guide compiled from the experience of experts and various merchandizers.**

Most essential oils come in 5 ml and 10 ml bottles. This equates to approximately 100 and 300 drops respectively. A general knowledge of equivalency from drops to measurements is necessary for the practitioner to understand, as most often dosage is based on drops rather than liquid measurements of essential oils. Please see Table 1 (below) for these conversions and dilutions of essential oils (EOs).(117-121)

TABLE 1

TABLE 1

 

What the Science Says: Internal Usage and Conversion Measurements for the Application of Essential Oils

With knowledge of which essential oils to use for abdominal pain and a tool for conversions for dosages for administration, I will now review what is in the literature for internal adminstration of these selected essential oils.

Peppermint Essential Oil

According to Examine, the dosage for peppermint essential oil “does not follow a particular dosage,”(131) but is often standardized for menthol content. Quality and standards are once again validated as imperative for efficacy by this review. The authors summarize the research on this oil’s administration as follows:

Oral supplementation of peppermint oil for the purpose of gastrointestinal health and motility involves consuming anywhere between 450-750 mg of the oil daily in 2-3 divided doses, and this is around 0.1-0.2 mL of the oil itself per dosage. The exact optimal dosage of peppermint is not known, and the numbers reflect a menthol content somewhere between 33-50%.*

Usage of peppermint for the treatment of headaches involves having a solution of 10% peppermint oil and applying a relatively thin layer to the front of your head upon the start of a headache, with another application after 15 minutes and 30 minutes (for three applications in total).

Usage of peppermint for aromatherapy does not follow any particular dosing, and similar to other forms of aromatherapy it should be used as either an oil or in a distiller until a pleasant aroma permeates the vicinity.

Any form of peppermint oil should be effective although for persons who experience heartburn (acid reflux) and wish to supplement with peppermint oil for their intestines, then an enteric coated capsule would be useful (since the muscle relaxing effects may affect the esophagous if the capsule breaks prematurely).(131)

The American Botanical Council’s Expanded German E Commission on peppermint further validates this reported dosage and administration.(132) It states:

Unless otherwise prescribed: 6–12 drops per day essential oil and Galenical preparations for internal and external application.

Internal:

Essential oil: Average single dose 0.2 ml.

Essential oil enterically coated form: Average daily dose 0.6 ml (for IBS).

Inhalant: Add 3–4 drops of essential oil to hot water; deeply inhale the steam vapor.

External:

Essential oil: Some drops rubbed in the affected skin areas (may be diluted with lukewarm water or vegetable oil).

Liniment: Oily preparation containing 5–20% essential oil in base of paraffin or vegetable oil applied locally by friction method.

Ointment or unguent: Semi-solid preparation containing 5–20% essential oil in base of petroleum jelly or lanolin spread on linen for local application.

Nasal ointment: Semi-solid preparation containing 1–5% essential oil.

Tincture: Aqueous-alcoholic preparation containing 5–10% essential oil for local application.

The German E Commission has more specific quality and internal standards for essential oils than found in the United States. It reports on the constituents and their percentages that must be contained for a bottle of peppermint essential oil to be considered pharmaceutical grade, beyond menthol:

European pharmacopeial grade peppermint oil is the volatile oil distilled with steam from the fresh aerial parts of the flowering plant. Its relative density must be between 0.900 and 0.916, refractive index between 1.457 and 1.467, optical rotation between –10 and –30, among other quantitative standards. Identity must be confirmed by thin-layer chromatography (TLC), organoleptic evaluation, and quantitative analysis of internal composition by gas chromatography. It must contain 1.0–5.0% limonene, 3.5–14.0% cineole, 14.0–32.0% menthone, 1.0–9.0% menthofuran, 1.5–10.0% isomenthone, 2.8–10.0% menthylacetate, 30.0–55.0% menthol, maximum 4.0% pulegone, and maximum 1.0% carvone (Ph.Eur.3, 1997).French pharmacopeial grade peppermint oil must contain not less than 44% menthol, from 4.5–10% esters calculated as menthyl acetate, and from 15–32% carbonyl compounds calculated as menthone. TLC is used for identification, quantification of compounds, and verification of the absence of visible bands corresponding to carvone, pulegone, and isomenthone (Bruneton, 1995; Ph.Fr.X, 1990).(132)

An example of how to use Table 1 for converting the .1-.2 ml indicated dosage to drops of essential oils is as follows:

·  .2 ml of peppermint oil equates to approximately .067 oz (1 oz =30 ml).

·   There are 600 drops of essential oil in one ounce.

·   .067 oz of 600 drops totals approximately one drop two to three times a day. This equates to six to 12 drops per day.

Fennel Essential Oil

The American Botanical Council’s Expanded German E Commission reports on the dosage and administration for fennel essential oil(110) as follows:

Unless otherwise prescribed: 0.1-0.6 ml essential oil or equivalent Galenical preparations for internal use.

Essential oil: 0.1-0.6 ml.

Fennel honey or fennel syrup with 0.5 g fennel oil/kg [=0.5:1000 (w/w)]:

Adult: 10-20 g.

Children 4-10 years: 6-10 g.

Children 1-4 years: 3-6 g.

Duration of administration: Unless otherwise advised by a physician or pharmacist, one should not consume fennel oil for an extended period (several weeks).(110)

Other sources do not contain direct references to dosage.

Oregano Essential Oil

Examine states the following regarding dosage for oregano oil:

The only study on using oil of oregano for oral supplementation used a dose of 600 mg. To make tea, steep 15 g of oregano leaves in 250 mL of water.

The tea is traditionally used to aid digestion, while the oil has antibacterial properties that may boost the immune system.

Both the tea and oil is usually supplemented once a day.

Since the study cited is based on an emulsified oil, not an essential oil, this information is misleading.(133) Using Table 1:

·   1 drop = 30 mg.

·   The dosage reported would be 600 mg/30 mg, which would equate to 20 drops of pure essential oil. This is not an ideal dose.(133, 134)

I did find one human trial of 104 subjects that used oregano oil in a formulation. The study found the efficacy of herbal treatment to be equivalent to Rifaximin for treatment of SIBO. For the intervention, one of the two formulations randomized contained .1 ml of oregano oil. This would be equivalent to approximately .5-1 drop of oregano oil.(151)

Ginger Essential Oil

Neither of the monographs for ginger in Examine(152) and the American Botanical Council’s Expanded German E Commission(153) state a dosage for the internal usage of essential oil of ginger, as they do the herb. Natural Medicines Database authors report on nasocutaneous administration and inhalation of ginger oil as follows:

Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: An aromatherapy necklace containing two drops of ginger essential oil has been used for 2 minutes three times daily for 5 days starting with chemotherapy.

Postoperative nausea and vomiting: A 5% solution of ginger essential oil, administered nasocutaneously, has been used preoperatively. Aromatherapy with ginger alone, or in combination with spearmint, peppermint, and cardamom, has been inhaled through the nose and exhaled through the mouth three times postoperatively.(154)

The conversion of drops of essential oil in a 5% solution of ginger oil would be as follows:

·   1 oz. = 600 drops

·   6 drops of EO per oz. of carrier oil = 1% dilution (1% of 600 drops)

·   30 drops of EO per oz. of carrier oil= 5% dilution (5% of 600 drops)

Essential Oils and the Microbiome

Since healing the intestinal tract via the “Five R” program includes removing the cause (e.g., microbes) and re-inoculating the good bacteria, it is important to pause and discuss how essential oils, which are often deemed “antimicrobial,” impact the microbiome. From my research and experience, I believe that high quality essential oils likely balance microbe activity. Specifically, there is supporting evidence that as they eliminate overgrowth, they also spare commensal organisms and protect our tissues.

I will now provide a brief review of the scientific literature regarding this topic. First, I will give a quick summary on their antimicrobial actions and use with antibiotics. Then, I will provide the compelling vivo and in vitro trials. This, in combination with years of clinical experience and experts’ opinions, provides support for assisting with positively balancing the intestinal microbiome.

The Antimicrobial Properties of Essential Oils

The antimicrobial activity of essential oils on pathogenic bacteria is diverse. In a review on the effects, the authors differentiate the actions of essential oils (EOs) to their isolates. The authors state:

The mechanism of action of EOs depends on their chemical composition, and their antimicrobial activity is not attributable to a unique mechanism but is instead a cascade of reactions involving the entire bacterial cell; together, these properties are referred to as the “essential oils versatility”. In general, EOs act to inhibit the growth of bacterial cells and also inhibit the production of toxic bacterial metabolites. Most EOs have a more powerful effect on Gram-positive bacteria than Gram-negative species, and this effect is most likely due to differences in the cell membrane compositions.(155)

A proposed mechanism of essential oils on microbe destruction consists of their toxic effects on membrane structure. These include “degradation of the cell wall, damaging the cytoplasmic membrane, cytoplasm coagulation, damaging membrane proteins, increased permeability leading to leakage of cell contents, reducing proton motive force, reducing intracellular ATP pool via decreased ATP synthesis and augmented hydrolysis that is separate from the increased membrane permeability and reducing membrane potential via increased membrane permeability.”(155)

Essential oils have also been reported to interfere with quorum sensing (bacteria’s regulation of gene expression related to changes in cell-population density) and decrease bacterial virulence factors.(155)

They may also be helpful in combination with antibiotics to prevent resistance. In a 2014 article titled, “Essential Oils, A New Horizon in Combating Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance,” the authors explain that essential oils’ versatile properties make them a novel approach for a “drug compound.” This is because essential oils have more than one therapeutic effect due to their many biological impacts. This contrasts with a drug’s mechanism which is skewed to act on one pathway in the body, not accounting for effects on the body’s other functions. The article states:

Various essential oils have been reviewed to possess different biological properties such as anti-inflammatory, sedative, digestive, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant as well as cytotoxic activities. These findings highlight an exciting scientific interest whereby essential oils warrant special attention because they represent a distinctive group of possible novel drug compounds due to their chemical and structural variance that makes them functionally versatile.(156)

Essential Oils Impact on Intestinal Microbes In Vitro

An in vitro study with eight essential oils, the authors sought to determine if essential oils selectively inhibited several microbes that cause intestinal dysbiosis while sparing 12 species of intestinal bacteria. The authors reported:(157)

The most promising essential oils for the treatment of intestinal dysbiosis are Carum carvi, Lavandula angustifolia, Trachyspermum copticum, and Citrus aurantium var. amara. The herbs from which these oils are derived have long been used in the treatment of gastrointestinal symptoms and the in vitro results of this study suggest that their ingestion will have little detrimental impact on beneficial members of the GIT microflora. More research is needed, however, to investigate tolerability and safety concerns, and verify the selective action of these agents.(157)

In a study with swine cecal digesta, the authors tested the antimicrobial effects of 66 essential oils and their impact on swine gut. The authors stated:

The antimicrobial activity of essential oils/compounds was measured by determining the inhibition of bacterial growth. Among 66 essential oils/compounds that exhibited ≥80% inhibition towards Salmonellatyphimurium DT104 and Escherichia coli O157:H7, nine were further studied. Most of the oils/compounds demonstrated high efficacy against S. typhimurium DT104, E. coli O157:H7, and E. coli with K88 pili with little inhibition towards lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. They were also tolerant to the low pH. When mixed with pig cecal digesta, these oils/compounds retained their efficacy against E. coli O157:H7. In addition, they significantly inhibited E. coli and coliform bacteria in the digesta, but had little effect on the total number of lactobacilli and anaerobic bacteria.(158)


Essential Oils Impact on Intestinal Flora In Vivo

In a 2010 in vivo study, it was demonstrated that ocotea essential oil inhibited inflammatory mediators from microbial byproducts while simultaneously protecting the gastric mucosa of rodents.(159)

In another study with rabbits, thyme oil increased antioxidant status (i.e., GPx activity) and decreased oxidative harm (i.e., lowered malondialdehyde) in the small intestine. It also positively influenced intestinal integrity, aka preventing “leaky gut,” as measured by transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER). Furthermore, there was a tendency “for thyme oil to stimulate the abundance of some microbes beneficial in the rabbit gut.” The abstract states:(160)

In both groups, the bacterial counts were generally lower in the caecum than in the faecal samples. In conclusion, dietary supplementation with 0.5 g/kg DM thyme oil may improve intestinal integrity, and it may have an antioxidant effect. A tendency was also found for thyme oil to stimulate the abundance of some microbes beneficial in the rabbit gut. (Effect of thyme oil on small intestine integrity and antioxidant status, phagocytic activity and gastrointestinal microbiota in rabbits.(160)

A study in chickens demonstrated that five culinary herbs and their essential oils (thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and yarrow) had negligible effects on gut microflora and beneficially impacted these broiler chicks’ digestion. In the experiment, body mass and feed consumption were measured on a weekly basis. Counts of lactic acid bacteria, coliforms, anaerobes, and Clostridum perfingens were assessed at 25 days. Finally, digestibilities were measured via nitrogen (N), dry matter (DM) and organic matter, and sialic acid concentration. The researchers concluded:(161)

Generally, dietary thyme oil or yarrow herb inclusion had the most positive effects on chick performance, while oregano herb and yarrow oil were the poorest supplements. Only thyme and yarrow in these diets had a different effect when used as a herb or oil on weight gain and BM.(4) Dietary treatment had no effect on the intestinal microflora populations, apparent metabolisable energy (AME) or the calculated coefficients of digestibility. Sialic acid concentration was greatest in the birds given dietary thyme oil, compared with all other treatments except those birds receiving marjoram oil, rosemary herb and the controls. However, less sialic acid was excreted in those birds given diets with oregano or rosemary oils, or oregano herb, than in the controls.(5) Plant extracts in diets may therefore affect chick performance, gut health and endogenous secretions, although the chemical composition of the extract appears to be important in obtaining the optimal effects. (The effect of herbs and their associated essential oils on performance, dietary digestibility and gut microflora in chickens from 7 to 28 days of age.(161)

My Clinical Experience:

How I Use Essential Oils Internally for Intestinal Discomfort

I find oral administration of essential oils the most effective method of application for clients that are seeking relief from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, functional gastrointestinal disorders, bloating and abdominal extension, food poisoning (due to antimicrobial effects noted above), discomfort, gas, dysbiosis, and changes in stool frequency.

I instruct my clients to administer one to two drops of the selected essential oil from a quality supplier. The drops are placed in a vegetable capsule (enteric coated) using pipette droppers. Next, they are asked to fill the remainder of the cap with coconut oil or a non-dairy milk substitute. This is important for sensitive patients, as it will provide coating for the stomach.

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Essential oils are alternated every two months or until symptoms have resolved and lab markers are back within normal ranges. I also recommend that my clients take 1-2 days off per week depending on tolerance. If one experiences burping, GI discomfort, or notices loose stools, I will decrease the dose.

I often supplement any gut protocol with a relaxing essential oil to restore the nervous system. The most well-known and most researched essential oil for this is lavender.(162-167)

Lavender has a good reputation for alleviating anxiety Europe. Germany has authorized a preparation of lavender oil, Silexan, for treatment of restlessness during anxious mood.(162-167) It is branded as LASEA and is standardized for 20-45% linalool and 25-46% linalyl acetate.(162) Two trials have indicated that Silexan has been effective in mood related issues without unwanted sedative effects.(165,166) According to Examine, “It is prescribed (or at least used) for Generalized Anxiety disorder in Germany without apparent benzodiazepene actions.”(163)

In a comprehensive review, the nervous system effects of lavender were analyzed in animal and human clinical trials. The authors reported that lavender was shown to have in vivo effects of modulating inflammatory pathways in the brain and on the neurotransmitters dopamine, GABA and serotonin. Human studies with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) also indicated brain imaging evidence for relaxation effects. These calming effects were also shown to have an impact on sleep, pain, and positive mood.(167)

These psychoneurological effects will impact gastrointestinal function related to the gut-brain connection, stress, and resultant discomfort and pain.(168)

As far as dosage, both Examine and the American Botanical Council’s Herbal Expanded Commission E Commissions report that the internal dosage of lavender oil is between 80-160 mg of essential oil.(162,163) Using the conversions in the table:

·   30 mg = approximately 1 drop of oil

·   80-160 mg would be approximately 3-6 drops of lavender oil

I have often also used this oil internally at these dosages for clients who appear to have hyperactive sympathetic activity, which is most of my IBS and pain clients.

Conclusion:

Summarizing the Art and Science of Selecting the “Correct” Essential Oil

Essential oils can effectively remove the obstacles in the way of healing via their multimodal effects while simultaneously and synergistically working with the body to bring it to balance. This is due to their biochemical constituents affecting physiology combined with the instantaneous psychological effect of their aroma.(1-2)

Not only are essential oils synergistic within themselves and with other modalities, they are also the same regarding their action with the human body. One human study provided evidence that the metabolomics and biochemical pathways of individuals were modulated differently by the same essential oil intervention.

In the clinical trial, researchers sought to determine the metabolic changes in thirty-one females with mild anxiety symptoms after exposure to aroma inhalation for 10 days. In several participants, no effect was found in the measurements studied, yet there were minimal disturbances and many benefits reported by all the responsive subjects.  This demonstrates the mechanisms of essential oils “innate wisdom” to bring about balance to the human body. The authors concluded:(169)

A significant alteration of metabolic profile in subjects responsive to essential oil was found, which is characterized by the increased levels of arginine, homocysteine, and betaine, as well as decreased levels of alcohols, carbohydrates, and organic acids in urine. Notably, the metabolites from tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and gut microbial metabolism were significantly altered. This study demonstrates that the metabolomics approach can capture the subtle metabolic changes resulting from exposure to essential oils, which may lead to an improved mechanistic understanding of aromatherapy.(169)

I have now provided evidence that essential oils can address underlying causes of dysfunction while simultaneously alleviating contributors, triggers, and mediators. I have shown this through the example of using them internally for intestinal discomfort. By reviewing what I have learned and my clinical experience for the past seventeen years, my hope is that now clinicians can decipher how to proceed with more informed, safe, and confident decisions on dosage and proper use of this powerful, ancient, innately intelligent, healing modality.

Complete References

Sarah A. LoBisco, ND, IFMCP

Sarah A. LoBisco, ND, IFMCP

Sarah LoBisco, ND, is a graduate of the University of Bridgeport's College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM). She is licensed in Vermont as a naturopathic doctor and holds a bachelor of psychology degree from State University of New York at Geneseo. Dr. LoBisco is a speaker on integrative health, has several publications, and has earned her certification in functional medicine. Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training as a naturopathic doctor and functional medicine practitioner through writing, researching, private practice, and her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her recent blog can be found at www.dr-lobisco.com.