Can Essential Oils Help the Digestive System?

Woman holding stomach in pain

When you think of natural remedies for digestive issues you think peppermint and ginger. But do they really work and are there other oils you can use?
 
In a review article on peppermint oil on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other disorders, it was found that peppermint was successfully used in IBS, indigestion, childhood abdominal pain and postoperative nausea. If you’re interested in how peppermint oil works on these conditions have a look at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5814329/ .
 
This review identified eight essential oils that prevented gastric ulcer formation (fennel, rosemary, ginger, bitter orange, cardamom, dill), reduced production of gastric acids (dill) and promoted upper gastrointestinal healing (ginger, garlic, peppermint). All of these studies were done on animals.
 
A preliminary study on intestinal dysbiosis (gut bacteria are out of balance) examined the activity of eight essential oils in the lab. They looked for an essential oil that would reduce or balance the bad bacteria while leaving the normal microflora intact. Their results showed that lavender, caraway, ajwain (bishop’s weed) and bitter orange showed the most selectivity at inhibiting pathogens while not effecting the beneficial bacteria. See here.
 
Although there are no particular oils for acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), oils for indigestion and heartburn can be used. Oils for indigestion may include frankincense, fennel, cumin, ginger, marjoram, peppermint and rosemary. For heartburn, sandalwood and cardamom oils can be used. One study tested the effect of drinking peppermint tea on GERD during pregnancy and found a significant reduction in symptoms.
 
Essential oils can be applied to the abdomen by massage, a warm compress or a bath and inhaling them can be helpful.

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