Essential Oils for the Digestive System
Due to increasing interest and concern over safe use of essential oils internally, this Essential Oils for the Digestive System blog was updated on 4-28-2021.
No one likes an upset stomach, but digestive problems can go beyond discomfort. In recent years, medical experts have referred to our gut as our “second brain.” When our digestive system is suffering, it can impact our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Adding essential oils for the digestive system to your wellness protocol can be very helpful.
If you’re looking for an overall blend to help support good digestion, e3’s Digestion Blend is a great choice. However, let’s explore the different essential oils and application methods that can help soothe your gut and address some of the most common digestive issues.
Stress is probably the factor with the highest impact on our digestive system. You’ve probably experienced how when you’re under extra stress or worried about something your stomach gets more agitated. This makes sense since the digest system is directly influenced by the sympathetic and parasympathetic division of the nervous system. Digestion effectively stops when your sympathetic system is active, so if you’re chronically stressed this can lead to many forms of digestive dysfunction. That’s one of the reasons why the most effective essential oils for the digestive system are often the ones you find the most calming and soothing.
(Read more about the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system in my post, Health Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing.)
Digestion is also strongly affected by secretions from the liver, and the use of essential oils that are hepatic, or strengthening to the liver, are often beneficial. Take a look at our comprehensive list of essential oils for the digestive system for specific recommendations.
Common Issues of the Digestive System
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is also known as nervous indigestion, irritable colon, spastic colon, spastic colitis, or mucous colitis.
Stress is by far the most significant trigger with IBS and essential oils that calm the individual and restore parasympathetic functioning are the most important treatment.
Causes: Spasms in the large intestine, with no apparent physical defect in the digestive tract.
Symptoms: Alternating constipation and sudden diarrhea, lower abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, nausea and halitosis may also occur.
Which essential oils for the digestive system can be used for IBS?
Any of the neurodepressant essential oils listed previously will be helpful, combined with any of the antispasmodic essential oils, as the major symptoms are caused by intestinal spasm. Peppermint has been successfully used internally in conventional allopathic medications to relieve IBS symptoms. (Please note, it is our recommendation that essential oils NOT be used internally, unless under the supervision of an MD, with a degree in integrative medicine, who knows how to safely advise on internal use of essential oils specific to the individual and his/her symptoms. Read more about Internal Use here.) Peppermint also has a good effect on spasms and pain when used topically. Basil is useful for both its strengthening effects on the nervous system and as an antispasmodic.
Methods of Application:
Abdominal Massage: Essential oils used in a 1-5%, (1-5 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil) for abdominal massage can be very helpful during the constipation stage of IBS and can also help to relieve the bloating and pain. Be sure to follow the directional flow of the colon when doing abdominal massage. Cautions: Diarrhea is a contraindication to abdominal massage.
Massage: Use calming essential oils in 1-3% dilution (6-30 drops per 1 oz. of carrier oil or lotion) in a full body massage.
Spritzer: Use calming essential oils in 1-3% dilution (6-30 drops per 1 oz. spritzer bottle) to support a calm environment. Shake well before each use and avoid getting the mist into the eyes.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation in the lining of the large intestine, while Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in the lining and wall of the large intestine and/or the small intestine. Not much is known about the causes of IBD, although some believe there is a genetic factory. Changes in the immune system have been observed with IBD.
Symptoms: Include abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and weight loss. Both colitis and Crohn’s disease have periods of remission and relapse.
Which essential oils for the digestive system can be used for IBD?
According to the American Gastroenterological Association, stress is probably not a cause of IBD, but it may aggravate the symptoms. Essential oils that calm the autonomic nervous system may be helpful. (Refer to neurodepressant previously listed).
Since IBD is an inflammatory problem, essential oils which are both calming and anti-inflammatory may be useful.
*e3 carries a selection of essential oils we consider our non-standards. Please contact us for price and availability.
Methods of Application:
Massage: The focus is on stress reduction, with essential oils used in a 1-3% dilution (6-30 drops per 1 oz. of carrier oil or lotion) in a full body relaxation massage. Gentle abdominal massage can be used if NOT experiencing a flare up of symptoms. Be sure to follow the directional flow of the colon when doing abdominal massage. When massaging the abdomen, gently massage in the direction/flow of the colon.
Constipation is a symptom, rather than an illness although it can lead to other health problems.
Cause: Constipation may be a symptom of IBS, IBD, MS, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. It can also be a side effect of pregnancy, surgery, and certain medications. Lifestyle factors include a diet low in fiber, inadequate water intake, stress, poor muscle tone, and lack of exercise.
Symptoms: Pain or discomfort may be experienced when passing stools and bowel movements are infrequent. Other results of constipation include abdominal pain and cramping, low-back pain, bloating and gas, nausea, lack of appetite, headaches and halitosis.
Which essential oils for the digestive system can be used for constipation?
Methods of Application:
Massage: Abdominal and low-back massage with essential oils in 3-5% dilution to promote relaxation is helpful if constipation is stress-related. Be sure to follow the directional flow of the colon when doing abdominal massage.
Many have found relief for some of their most troublesome digestive issues using all-natural essential oils. If you feel a little overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, our team of clinical aromatherapists is available to answer your questions!
Would you like to learn more about essential oils – like where they come from, how they’re made and how to make your own special blends? Simply download our free ebook, Listen to Your Nose – An Introduction to Aromatherapy.