Are you suffering from autoimmunity? Are you looking for a natural solution to manage your symptoms and reduce the impact of inflammation and flare-ups? Here’s why and how you can use essential oils for autoimmune disease.
If you’ve been on my website or come across my profile on social media before, you may have noticed that (amongst other things!), I’m also an essential oils educator. I’ve used essential oils for years now in my own healing journey as I manage the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I see for myself what difference they have made to my daily life, and I’m passionate about helping my clients explore how they can also use essential oils in their daily routines.
But first things first, what are essential oils?
Essential oils – what are they?
In a nutshell, essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. They are also referred to as aromatic compounds extracted from plants. And what that means is that through either mechanical means (like cold pressing) or distillation (through steam or water), the unique scent and flavour from the plant are extracted, retained, combined with a carrier oil (like coconut) and stored in a handy oil bottle.
Without going into too many details about this, the way the oils are made is important because when the oils are extracted through chemical processes or are then mixed with chemicals, they are no longer pure. And arguably, this means they are no longer a natural or effective solution. But that’s probably a topic for another day!
Essential oils are growing in popularity – according to Grand View Research, the market is forecasted to grow 8.6% per year between 2019 and 2025. And according to Transparency Market Research, it will grow 9.6% between 2017 and 2022. They are used in multiple industries and are extremely versatile. Some of their uses include medicine, food and drink flavourings, personal care products, household cleaning, emotional support, and much more.
How do essential oils help with autoimmunity?
In the context of health and autoimmunity, essential oils can play multiple roles. In particular, they can help to:
- manage symptoms,
- address root causes,
- and reduce the toxic burden we’re constantly exposed to.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how essential oils help with root causes or support with symptom relief, you may enjoy this article: Essential Oils – Powerful and Plant-Based Healing.
But what do essential oils help with specifically?
In the context of health and autoimmunity, in particular, essential oils can help to:
- improve mood,
- aid sleep,
- boost the immune system,
- balance hormones,
- support digestion and the digestive system,
- improve skin,
- and improve brain function.
Crucially, essential oils can also help to reduce inflammation and act as a natural form of pain relief. For example, specific essential oils can help to manage joint pain, muscle ache, stomach cramps, headaches and migraines, earache, and more. Oils like Copaiba act directly on the nervous system to reduce the feeling of pain. But when it comes to actively counteract and combat inflammation or infections, for example, essential oils can be effective at removing the cause of the pain.
How and why can you include essential oils in your personalised healing protocol?
When it comes to managing autoimmunity, these three areas are particularly important:
- maximising what the body and mind need,
- minimising what is harmful,
- and prioritising a healing environment.
If you want to find out more about what that means and about how you can work with me to create a personalised healing plan (or protocol) head over to my post: Working with an autoimmune specialist.
Essential oils fit beautifully into these three areas, and here’s how.
Maximising what the body and mind need and prioritising a healing environment
Our bodies are wonderful machines. When the various parts work beautifully together in the way they were designed to, we get to feel well and full of energy. But unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for a lot of us. Because, for whatever reason, some of our systems become ‘compromised’ along the way. And we need them to go back to how they need to work.
Essential oils are incredibly helpful in supporting some of our key systems and to help them to work as they’re meant to.
Immune system support
Essential oils help by regulating the immune system, so it can start to recognise when it needs to react and when it doesn’t.
Digestive system support
Contrary to what we’re led to believe, we’re not what we eat. We are what we eat, digest, and absorb. Essential oils can support our digestive system by helping it make the most of the food we eat.
Nervous system support
Our nervous system is responsible for our emotions. When we learn how to manage and support ourselves through negative emotions, we help our nervous system regain balance. Using essential oils for emotional support plays an important role in calming the body and generating a positive mood, which, in turn, helps us maintain a healthy nervous system.
When it comes to what the body (and mind) need, sleep makes it to the top of the list. I briefly talked about how critical sleep is to our recovery and to the management of chronic conditions in a previous post called, Can a Paleo diet successfully support people with chronic autoimmune conditions?
But essential oils have a big role to play here. They can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as help you improve the quality of that sleep. I know that when I diffuse or apply essential oils topically (i.e. on the skin), I sleep a lot better. According to my Fitbit, I regularly get 18-22% deep sleep every night, which is an improvement on the 12-16% I used to get before using essential oils!
Restoring hormone balance
Hormonal influence, together with immune response and heredity, environmental and lifestyle-related factors, plays a part in the onset of chronic and autoimmune diseases. Some of the recognised autoimmune conditions, for example, cause inflammation of the thyroid gland, which, in turn, leads to hormonal imbalances that can cause some of the symptoms linked to a specific disease. Likewise, a high and chronic stressful state, which high cortisol secretions, will also lead to hormonal imbalances.
This is why trying to restore and then maintain the natural hormonal balance in our body can have a positive effect in trying to manage these symptoms and allow for the condition to go into remission. Some essential oils can be particularly beneficial in supporting our bodies to re-balance hormones.
Minimising what’s harmful
Essential oils can also help to manage pain. Now, when thinking about pain, of course, that’s something we’ll want to minimise! But the reasons for this go beyond the obvious. We don’t just want to reduce the pain, but we also want to support the process our body goes through when dealing with pain.
Let me explain this. Despite the discomfort it causes, pain is a powerful communication tool and a signal from our body that something is out of balance and needs to be changed. So that is positive (not feeling pain is actually really quite dangerous for your health!). However, what isn’t so great (other than the fact we are actually suffering!) is the way our body reacts to the pain. Chronic pain creates stress for the body. In order to relieve pain, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol.
But in the long run, large amounts of cortisol in our system can cause adrenal fatigue. Through constant stimulation, our adrenal glands effectively stop working properly. This is why, when it comes to chronic conditions that will naturally put additional strain on these glands, it’s important to reach out to tools that can help us manage the pain in a more natural way that isn’t as taxing on the body.
Reducing the toxic burden
I already touched on the fact that essential oils are helpful in regulating the immune system. This becomes particularly important as we are continuously exposed to man-made toxins that disrupt our hormones. Our immune system is on constant alert, ready to fight off foreign invaders.
And this is great when it comes to fighting off viruses and bacteria. But when these foreign invaders come from the food we eat (think pesticides, fertilisers, food additives, and preservatives), or the products we use daily for our skincare or to clean our homes, that’s when we start to have a problem.
And that’s because our immune system has to work overtime and react to pretty much anything we come into contact with! Combine that with the fact that our immune system is potentially also dis-regulated, and effectively ‘confused’ about what’s really harmful and what isn’t, that it’s no surprise we are left vulnerable to all sorts of ailments and illnesses.
Thankfully, using essential oils in our household and personal care can dramatically reduce our bodies’ exposure to harmful, synthetic chemicals. Not only that, but some specific oils can also support the detoxification process, by helping the liver and kidneys.
What oils can support an autoimmune condition?
All autoimmune conditions have a common root cause, which is a dis-regulation of the immune system. But why is the immune system not working as it should?
- Is it constantly stimulated by chronic infections? By food sensitivities? By toxins?
- Is the body lacking essential nutrients for the immune system to work as it should?
Essential oils are one of the elements (but not the only one) that can support a healthy immune system. Some specific conditions will require specific protocols or oils. For example:
- For Rheumatoid Arthritis, or conditions where painful joints are one of the symptoms, topical use of Peppermint, Copaiba, Wintergreen, and other anti-inflammatory oils could help.
- Digestive autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis will benefit from digestive support such as Zengest.
- Skin conditions will benefit from skin oils, such as Yarrow Pom, Melaleuca, Lavender, etc.
As a functional medicine health coach, I work with all my clients on trying to understand root causes whilst providing relief. Essential oils help with both these aspects, and I often recommend them alongside other protocols.
The oils recommended for autoimmunity
Three of the oils that I would suggest to anyone with autoimmunity are:
This is because together, they will support cellular health and the immune system to work as it should. This means, it will react when it needs to and it will recognise when not to react.
Additionally, the detoxification blend (Zendocrine) may also help. This is because toxicity often plays a role in the immune system being on alert when it really shouldn’t. And this particular blend helps to support the liver and kidneys, and thereby ensure our bodies can efficiently get rid of toxins.
Lastly, I also use the protective blend, On Guard, on a daily basis, as it protects me from unwanted infections. It is often said of autoimmunity that this is the immune system over-reacting and being too strong. This is in a way true, but it is over-reacting because it is weakened and like a wounded animal, it becomes aggressive. So people with autoimmunity are often prone to catching more infections, especially if they are on immunosuppressant medications. On Guard may provide an additional support against infections.
If you want to read more about essential oils, you can find more information in this article: A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils, which talks about the different ways of using essential oils as well as some of their specific benefits.
And, for more avid readers, here’s a very complete systemic review of essential oils, which provides access to many studies into the effect of these plant compounds.
Would you like to find out more about how essential oils can support your healing journey?
If you are interested in essential oils, feel free to contact me or go to my dōTERRA page. And if you would like to explore how working with me could help you with your autoimmune disease, I offer a FREE 20-minute discovery call.