Essential Oils and Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune disease and essential oils

I’ve always been a healthy person with some very unhealthy habits! From an early age I was very active physically, cycling long distances (up to 160 km or 100 miles per day), hill-walking in Wales and later South Africa, running five to ten miles in the morning and so on. A year ago I took up cycling again in my new home, Australia. And then I contracted an autoimmune disease.

There were gaps in my physical training of course, particularly during my months at sea, and most especially in my mid forties when I stopped most activities for almost ten years. But the one consistent aspect of my behavior though was drinking vast quantities of beer and often wine; hard liquor I gave up as a very young man of twenty for the simple reason I realized how destructive it was – and how easy it became to drink a whole bottle of whisky or rum in a night! But I was always healthy!
Then in my mid fifties, I was struck by ulcerative colitis (UC), which in general is a young person’s disease. This is a particularly unpleasant condition defined as:-

Ulcerative colitis (UL-sur-uh-tiv koe-LIE-tis) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers (sores) in your digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum.9 Sep 2014 – (Mayo Clinic)

The upshot of this is that I must be extremely careful what and when I eat and drink. The condition can be painful and has potentially serious consequences (see the link above to the Mayo Clinic). UC is an autoimmune disease and as such it cannot be treated except by attempts to moderate the impact of the body’s malfunctioning immune system; it cannot be cured.

Why Try Essential Oils?

There are several essential oils which have proven useful in combatting inflammation in human tissues. However, different sources point to different oils which is a strong indication of the fact that there is no central point of control for the claims made about essential oils, but also that these oils have several overlapping properties, There are some good information sources out there which publish real information rather than marketing sound-bites: This is from the very reputable Dr Axe;

Ginger essential oil is one of the best natural remedies for colic, indigestion, diarrhea, spasms and stomach aches. Ginger oil is also effective as a nausea natural remedy and to treat vomiting.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology evaluated the gastroprotective activity of ginger essential oil in rats. Ethanol was used to induce gastric ulcer in Wistar rats; the ginger essential oil treatment inhibited the ulcer by 85 percent. Examinations showed that ethanol-induced lesions, such as necrosis, erosion and hemorrhage of the stomach wall, were significantly reduced after the oral administration of the essential oil. (Dr Axe )

The incidence of autoimmune disorders is increasing in the western world, but why is this?  An Autoimmune Disease is the body’s abnormal response to substances and tissue that is naturally present in the body, but what triggers this? There are many indicators that our bodies are simply not coping with the synthetic substances in our environment and that our immune systems are simply overwhelmed by a multitude of confusing signals.  And so we end up with such diseases as  thyroid disorders, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, ulcerative colitis and more. Here is some useful information from another site The Essential Life (full accreditation and link below):-

Oils Suggested by The Essential LIfe


You need to avoid any Essential Oil that might boost the immune system. For this reason, it is a good idea to avoid Essential Oils such as Palmarosa, Rosalina, and Thyme. Any oil that is an immunostimulant should be used in low doses.


Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil: Cinnamon’s pain relieving properties have been used to treat inflammation, tooth aches and can be used as a mild local anesthetic. Cinnamon Essential Oil can be an extremely potent oil and needs to be diluted in the right concentration. Try blending Cinnamon and Clove Bud Essential Oil, then dilute to .6% in any Carrier Oil, and use your finished product as a warming and effective massage oil. It can also be diffused in an Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Diffuser to combat sickness.

Clary Sage Essential Oil: Clary Sage has a long history of being used to treat symptoms of PMS and Menopause. It has an extremely balancing effect on our hormones and can be used to treated cramps. Clary Sage is also effective for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Mix Clary Sage into your favourite Carrier Oil and use it daily as an all-natural moisturizer. It can also be diffused into the air for its mood-enhancing properties.

Cypress Essential Oil:  Cypress Essential Oil is useful for treating the inflammation of muscles and joints as well as symptoms of rheumatism and the pain associated with varicose veins. To help with breathing difficulties, diffuse Cypress Essential Oil into the air using and Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Diffuser. For pain relief, blend equal parts Cypress, Sandalwood and Lavender Essential oils and then add this blend to your favourite Carrier Oil for use as a massage oil.

Ginger Essential Oil: This oil is especially useful for its warming properties. When diluted and applied to the skin, Ginger Essential Oil induces a warm and soothing tingling feeling that helps with pain relief and will reduce swelling and inflammation. Ginger Essential Oil is also useful for aiding in digestion and it alleviates nausea. If Colitis or Crohn’s Disease has left you feeling a little queasy, try blending 2 drops of Ginger Essential Oils with Cypress and Coriander Essential Oils and adding the blend to 1/2 cup Epsom Salt for use as bath salts.

Roman Chamomile Essential Oil: Chamomile’s most popular use is to treat insomnia. In addition to this oil’s calming and soothing properties, it can also be used to treat the aches associated with chronic pain that results from a number of autoimmune disease and disorders. To relieve stress and tension headaches, diffuse Roman Chamomile into the air using an Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Diffuser. For arthritis pain, add 1-3 drops of Roman Chamomile Essential Oil and 1 drop of Peppermint Essential Oil to your bath water.

When it comes to treating Autoimmune Diseases, it is always best to do your research, and consult your physician regarding your treatment plans. A certified Aromatherapist can help you develop a Natural Wellness regime to alleviate your symptoms and help you live a pain-free life.


Conditions Related to Other Autoimmune Diseases

There are over 60 known disorders thought to be related to autoimmunity. Below is a summarized list of conditions related to autoimmune disorders :

alopeciaAlopecia Areata – An autoimmune disorder that is characterized by hair loss. It is found commonly in men and women and can occur at any age, including childhood.

Recommended Essential Oils

This condition has shown a great response to treatment with thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood) in a mixture of carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) applied/massaged  into the scalp daily. In one controlled experiment mediated by two dermatologists,  44%) of  patients in the active group showed improvement. The experimenters concluded that the results show aromatherapy to be a safe and effective treatment for alopecia areata. Treatment with these essential oils was significantly more effective than treatment with the carrier oil alone.

alzheimer's diseaseAlzheimer’s Disease – Characterized as a progressive brain disorder, which involves a decline in social and intellectual abilities. Alzheimer’s Disease is thought to be associated with free radical damage in the brain and inorganic aluminum.

Recommended Essential Oils

More trials have investigated the effectiveness of aromatherapy in dementia than in any other condition. Here is one example described in a series of steps.

a) Lemon balm and lavender aroma were introduced to six patients and compared with sunflower oil for six others as controls for one week. The treatment increased functional abilities and communication, and decreased difficult behaviour.

b) Lavender aroma and massage with 21 patients were compared with aroma or massage alone for one week. Aromatherapy with massage significantly reduced frequency of agitation.

c) Lavender aroma was given to 15 patients as oil and placebo (water) on alternative days for 10 days. The aromatherapy significantly reduced agitated behaviour (as assessed using the Pittsburgh Agitation scale) versus placebo.

d) Lemon balm (Melissa) lotion was applied to the face and arms of 36 patients while another 36 patients had sunflower oil applied. Melissa was associated with highly significant reductions in measures of agitation (on the Cohen Mansfield Agitation Inventory) and social withdrawal, together with an increase in constructive activities (as measured by dementia care mapping).

e) Lavender, marjoram, patchouli and velvert were applied as a cream to body and limbs of 36 patients and compared with plain oil. The essential oil combination significantly increased scores on the Mini Mental State Exam, but also increased resistance to care (considered to be due to increase in alertness), compared with the plain oil.

The above results are quoted from: Alzheimer’s Society UK

celiac disease rashCeliac Disease – A chronic inflammation of the colon that creates an intestinal breakdown due to an allergic reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, oat and rye.

Recommended Essential Oils

I have not found any credible research material covering the use of essential oils to help with celiac disease. All of the articles I have read tend to cover the general benefits of improved immune system response, mental condition and so on. I will continue looking and report back if I find something credible.

crohns diseaseCrohn’s Disease – A chronic inflammatory bowel disease, which is characterized by severe inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This disorder is typically seen in persons between the ages of 15 and 35, but can also be found in young children and the elderly as well.

Recommended Essential Oils

I have a strong interest in this as a sufferer of Ulcerative Colitis. I tracked down one particular experience of a person with Crohn’s Disease who experimented with Essential Oils. Here’s what she said:-

“I obtained some new essential oils (Copaiba and Di-Gize) and began taking them immediately. The first day I was taking them (internally and externally) I had the first normal BM (bowel movement) in weeks, if not months! I almost didn’t remember what it was like to not have diarrhea at that point. My husband was SHOCKED. Little did HE know, when we said our vows 7 years ago that he would be hearing about my daily stool habits. Since then, normal stools have continued unless I eat too much dairy (hard cheeses) in my GAPS style diet-which I have been on for 2 months.” You can read the full story here.

fybromyalgiaFibromyalgia– This disorder is characterized by aches and pains in the muscles along with chronic fatigue and insomnia. It is estimated between 3 to 6 million people in the US suffer with Fibromyalgia. Ninety percent of them being women.

Recommended Essential Oils

The reputable and credible Dr. Axe says:

Helichrysum oil has been shown to decrease muscle pain, improve circulation and support healing of nerve tissue which makes it an effective natural treatment for fibromyalgia.

Lavender oil is also excellent to reduce the emotional stress associated with fibromyalgia and making a homemade muscle rub can help reduce pain.

Graves DiseaseGraves Disease – A disorder affecting the thyroid gland. In this disease auto-antibodies bind to the thyroid gland, which increases the production of thyroid hormone, which plays a major role in metabolism. Symptoms include nervousness, diarrhea, insomnia, sweating, and weight loss with increased appetite. More serious symptoms include irregular heart beat, tachycardia (increased heart rate), swelling of eyes and legs. In rare cases, cardiovascular collapse, shock or coma could occur.

Recommended Essential Oils

I will again use the personal testimony of a suffer of this disease to illustrate the potential of Essential Oils;-

“Last October, I stopped my medications, cold turkey (not recommended but I was desperate) and started using Peppermint, Lemongrass and a blend called Endoflex. I layered them topically on my thyroid (base of throat area) and adrenals (mid-back) 3x/day. Within a week I felt better and was able to workout again. I kept up this regimen until December and was even able to lose some weight and get some energy back. In December, I added Frankincense to the mix, but decreased my usage to 2x/daily. This decrease happened mostly because of lifestyle changes more than by intention. However, I did not have any issues come up with the decrease in frequency. I added Frankincense because although I was feeling better, my thyroid antibodies were still at approximately 6,000 (goal is 40 or under depending on what type of physician you work with). Needless to say, I was on a mission to get those antibodies down!”

There is more of this testimony on the site
Last October, I stopped my medications,
cold turkey (not recommended but I was desperate) and started using Peppermint, Lemongrass and a blend called Endoflex. I layered them topically on my thyroid (base of throat area) and adrenals (mid-back) 3x/day. Within a week I felt better and was able to workout again. I kept up this regimen until December and was even able to lose some weight and get some energy back. In December, I added Frankincense to the mix, but decreased my usage to 2x/daily. This decrease happened mostly because of lifestyle changes more than by intention. However, I did not have any issues come up with the decrease in frequency. I added Frankincense because although I was feeling better, my thyroid antibodies were still at approximately 6,000 (goal is 40 or under depending on what type of physician you work with). Needless to say, I was on a mission to get those antibodies down!.

lupusLupus – A disorder which instead of the body’s immune system functioning properly as protection from harmful invaders, it forms antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs. Symptoms include aching joints, inflammation, swelling, fatigue, fevers and rashes. Lupus is a mild disease affecting only a few organs, but for some people it may cause serious, even life-threatening problems.

Recommended Essential Oils

Dr Axe recommends as follows:-

Frankincense essential oil is effective at reducing inflammation and immune reactions associated with lupus.  You can take 3 drops 3x daily in water, in honey or in capsule form.

Helichrysum oil supports the nervous system and can help reverse autoimmune reactions.  Helichrysum can be taken internally or applied to neck area.

For skin inflammation lavender and geranium oils work well add 3 drops to skin and for digestive issues associated with lupus take 3 drops of ginger oil internally 2-3x daily.

Multiple SclerosisMultiple Sclerosis – A chronic inflammatory condition which involves the central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord. This chronic inflammation causes severe damage to the myelin sheath (covering of the nerves). Symptoms include blurred vision, numbness and paralysis. Mercury toxicity may be a causal factor.

Recommended Essential Oils

The US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health (NCBI)  says as follows:- “Aromatherapy in MS patients could be effective for some symptomatic relief, such as helping in sleep, relaxation, mobility of joints and muscle, and improvement in the feeling of well-being.”

psoriasisPsoriasis – A common chronic skin condition which is characterized by symptoms similar to eczema. It involves the hyperactivity of the immune system which creates a form of inflammation. This inflammatory reaction causes skin cells to multiply seven to twelve times faster than normal. The skin is often dry and itchy as well as being cracked or blistered.

Recommended Essential Oils

Dr Axe recommends as follows:-

Essential oils like lavender, frankincense, geranium and tea tree oil can bring relief to inflamed skin and support the healing process. Mix 3 drops of lavender oil and 3 drop of frankincense oil with 1 tsp of coconut oil and rub onto affected area.

Rheumatoid arthritisRheumatoid Arthritis – This disorder can affect many joints, but most commonly the small joints of the hands. An autoimmune attack on the tissues causes inflammation along with pain and swelling. If uncontrolled it could lead to destruction of the bones, deformity and eventually disability. It is thought that a factor of rheumatoid arthritis is holding onto bitterness.

Recommended Essential Oils

The most credible evidence I found on this disease and essential oils was the highly reputable WebMD

Boswellia. It’s also known as Indian frankincense, and it appears to have similar anti-inflammatory properties as NSAIDs without the stomach problems.

Like turmeric, boswellia is used in a form of holistic medicine from India. While study findings are mixed, it remains one of the most researched and promising supplements for RA.

Ginger and green tea extract also are said to have anti-inflammatory effects, but they need to be studied more.

What I’ll be doing

I’m going to start my treatment with a two day fast to clear all the junk out of my body. Two days without beer!! Gulp! I will be taking a glass of Slippery Elm powder in water three times a day during this time. After this I’m going to start using Ginger Essential oil topically as I start eating again. I’ll also be diffusing this oil in my office during the day. After a week, I’ll review and report back on my findings. Off we go!!!


The data on essential oils for use in cases of autoimmune disease above was garnered from The Essential Life blog.