We seem to be in a “recycle all previous fads” mode. This time it’s the theory that essential oils may affect your diabetes treatment, improving the odds.
We know that all natural remedies are not created equal. So, when finding one that claims to help treat diabetes, there’s cause for concern about its safety.
You may have come across websites, well-meaning friends or family members who suggest a variety of natural “cures” including essential oils. While some will say there’s research behind it, the truth is that there is very limited research on this particular subject.
And, while these oils may be considered a more “natural” therapy, which I fully support, they come with some side effects worth learning about, before you invest in them.
Here are several things to consider when deciding whether or not to use them.
1. Essential Oils Won’t Cure Diabetes.
➡ Including them in your diabetes management routine, however, may help relieve stress and potentially relieve the symptoms and pain of diabetic neuropathy.
2. These oils are derived from plants, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t potent.
➡ It takes 50 lemons to make 15-milliliters (mL) of essential oil (1/2 ounce bottle)
➡ 3 pounds of lavender flowers are used in a 1/2 ounce bottle
➡ There are 105 pounds of rose petals in a 5mL bottle, which is 0.16th of an ounce, according to the manufacturer.
As lovely as they smell, they are powerful and need to be taken seriously.
3. It’s important to cut through the chatter you may have heard.
According to Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, an associate professor in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “Oils will not reverse diabetes or treat it in lieu of more traditional approaches. None of the essential oils are significantly potent enough to serve as diabetes medication.”
4. There are a few ways you can incorporate essential oils into your diabetes management routine — some recommended, and some not. Here’s what the current research has to say about it.
➡ Many studies have been done on mice and rats, which is a start, but they do not give enough information on how safe or effective these oils are for humans.
➡ For instance, one study published in May 2013 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that cinnamon leaf essential oil may help improve blood sugar control in rats with diabetes, possibly by protecting beta cells in the pancreas.
Inconclusively, the authors note more research is needed. I hope the newer research will focus more on humans.
5. Is It Safe or Beneficial to Add Essential Oils to Your Food?
While some people suggest you add these oils to your food, taking essential oils orally can be a gamble.
➡ Statements from both the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) and the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), note that you should not ingest the oils unless your doctor explicitly tells you to do so. And even then, I would question it every which way.
The Potential Risks of Using Essential Oils for Diabetes Management
➡ Essential oils are volatile chemicals that can have side effects, like burning mucous membranes in your gastrointestinal system
➡ They can potentially have a negative interaction with the medications you’re taking.
➡ Some can enhance and strengthen the sedative properties of certain prescriptions, while others can enhance diuretics, which can prove dangerous for your blood pressure.
Whatever small benefits you may get from essential oils, they will never be as effective as the multiple benefits you’ll get from the healthy foods you eat.
Diabetes-friendly spices, however, such as coriander, cardamom, and curry, will help improve the taste of your food so you can cook with less salt, sugar and other additives.
6. Should You Use Essential Oils Topically (applied directly to the skin) or in Aromatherapy?
Even though rubbing oils on your skin seems harmless enough, there are considerations:
➡ The skin is our largest organ, and we can absorb essential oils into our body, where they may dangerously interact with medications.
Do not treat it like perfume. It’s not. It’s like a medication. Approach them cautiously.
Using essential oils to treat Diabetic Neuropathy:
Some healthcare providers like to use essential oils with diabetic neuropathy treatments.
➡ Lavender may be particularly helpful when massaged into the feet to improve circulation and decrease pain.
➡ If you’re applying it directly to the skin, dilute one or two drops of essential oil in a carrier oil (like coconut) before applying to your skin; straight oils can cause irritation.
For these reasons and safety concerns, it’s essential to be up-front with your healthcare team about what essential oils you’d like to use topically.
Using an Essential Oil Diffuser May Help Reduce Diabetes-Related Stress
Essential oils really shine when they’re used as aromatherapy — where you place the oils in a diffuser and inhale the scent.
➡ Used this way, they are a potential source of stress relief, which is important in dealing with diabetes.
➡ Finding comfort and calm may also help keep blood sugar levels lower.
What to remember when you want to learn how essential oils may affect your Diabetes treatment:
Whether or not you choose to add the use of essential oils to your diabetes management routine is your decision.
If you do, follow these guidelines for adding them to your treatment plan:
➡ Think small when you’re first starting out. Aim for a baby dosage.
➡ If you’re going the aromatherapy route, use a diffuser for no more than 15 minutes.
➡ Use the oils cautiously.
We tend to attach memories to a scent. While that can be a very good thing, it can also backfire if you surround yourself with that scent during a rough time. Smelling that scent can create a stress response later on.
➡ Buy and store your essential oils correctly.
➡ Look for those that are pure or organic.
➡ Store them in a cool, dark place, as they can break down under heat or light.
➡ Find an oil scent you love. The important thing is to find a scent that makes you feel good. A few to consider for aromatherapy:
➡ Use essential oils only in diluted form on the skin and never internally.
➡ Always use essential oils with care and only under the proper guidance of an expert while pregnant or if you have liver damage, epilepsy, cancer or other serious health problems.
➡ People who have epilepsy or high blood pressure, pregnant women, infants and children all have special considerations in the use of essential oils.
Please check the safety precautions for each oil before using it.
Essential oils are volatile.
➡ They can be damaged by exposure to heat, oxygen, and sunlight.
➡ A good quality oil comes in a dark bottle, either brown or cobalt blue. After use, the cap should be securely fastened and the bottle stored in a cool, dry place out of the reach of children.
➡ Many essential oils come with a plastic dropper in the bottle, letting you dispense one drop at a time. This makes blending more accurate and prevents spills.
➡ When properly cared for, most essential oils have a shelf life of two to five years. Citrus oils oxidize easily so they have a much shorter shelf life – about six months. The test of freshness in an essential oil is its fragrance.