8 Essential Oils For Autoimmune Diseases
There are over 80 types of autoimmune diseases affecting an estimated 7% of Americans, meaning you or someone you know likely suffers from one or more of these diseases.
An autoimmune disease is a condition where a person’s immune system mistakes its bodily cells for foreign cells. As a result, the body attacks itself.
With so many living with an autoimmune disease, it’s no wonder why we often receive questions on using essential oils to combat these diseases. To help you navigate the world of autoimmune disease and aromatherapy, we sought to answer all of your burning questions.
In this short guide, we’ll review the symptoms of autoimmune diseases, as well as the top eight essential oils for autoimmune support.
Autoimmune Diseases: Causes & Symptoms
Autoimmune diseases can be the result of genetics, outside influences, or both. Outside influences can include one’s environment and diet. Some common types of autoimmune diseases include:
Type I Diabetes
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Scientists also hypothesize that our immune systems may be programmed to fight off more germs and bacteria than humans currently encounter, thanks to an increase in hygiene in recent decades. In turn, this may cause our immune systems to overreact in the face of minor to nonexistent threats. In sum, our immune function overpowers the body and an autoimmune disorder can often be the result.
Chronic inflammation is also often associated with causing autoimmune diseases. Thus, anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs are often used to help control these diseases.
Essential Oils & Autoimmune Disease
So what role do essential oils play in autoimmune disease?
While some essential oils can help boost immunity, some are not recommended for people with autoimmune disease. Because an overactive immune system often causes autoimmune diseases, immunostimulating essential oils may backfire and worsen one's autoimmune condition. Essential oils to avoid include:
Clove: increases white blood cell count
Cinnamon Bark and Leaf: modulates immunostimulating T cells
Fennel and Thyme: inhibits oxidative-stress-causing reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Frankincense: possesses immunostimulating properties
Now that you have a better understanding of autoimmune diseases and aromatherapy, it’s important that you take this information and speak with an aromatherapist and doctor who can provide you with safe guidelines that meet your individual needs.
Why? Because there are so many different types of autoimmune diseases and individuals are unique in how essential oils affect them, this information is not one-size-fits-all. In light of this fact, one aromatherapist recommends using trial and error to learn what works best for oneself, and we second this notion (so long as you’re following general safety guidelines).
Best Essential Oils For Autoimmune Disease
Are you ready to start experimenting with essential oils to combat inflammation and improve your quality of life? Next, we’ll go over our favorite essential oils for comforting symptoms of autoimmune disease.
1. Fir Needle
Fir Needle is a Traditional Chinese Medicine aid for arthritis and joint stiffness.
Antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, this fresh, piney oil may help combat pathogens and inflammation, giving your overtaxed immune system a rest.
Dilute Fir Needle in a carrier oil and give yourself a hand massage. Alternatively, use it in aromatherapy.
Birch has a minty aroma, as well as some surprising properties. Cool and refreshing, this essential oil has been traditionally used to relieve chronic pain or short term pain, such as muscle tension and soreness. It contains a compound with rich history:
Methyl salicylate – This compound was a precursor to modern Aspirin and other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).
One of the most popular essential oils, Eucalyptus is well known for its ability to reduce respiratory inflammation during the cold and flu season.
When applied topically Eucalyptus oil benefits can also include soothing joint pain or soreness.
One study showed that inhalation of Eucalyptus essential oil reduced inflammation and discomfort in people who had just undergone knee replacement surgery.
Another study showed that arthritis patients who received aromatherapy reported less discomfort and better mood. Notably, this study blended Eucalyptus with other oils rich in anti-inflammatory 1,8-cineole, including Rosemary and Marjoram. It also included Lavender.
Bright, soothing Eucalyptus is another great addition to a diffuser or massage blend.
What isn’t Lavender good for? Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and analgesic, Lavender essential oil can be a promising ally for most autoimmune diseases.
Healthy sleep cycles are key to reducing inflammation. Because Lavender can help induce tiredness and improve sleep quality, it can improve inflammation and overall health.
Lavender may help reduce stress and tension, which in turn combats inflammation, too.
Some research indicates that Lavender’s analgesic effect can extend to stiff joints. A certain study found that aromatherapy massage with a blend of Lavender, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang and Juniper Berry significantly reduced test subjects’ discomfort.
Gentle and soothing, Lavender is widely tolerated, so it can be a great choice for people with sensitive skin, too.
Bright, spicy Ginger isn’t just great for cooking. It is also highly anti-inflammatory. Studies show that Ginger essential oil can:
Reduce chronic joint pain and inflammation
Help lower blood sugar levels
Reduce stiffness and soreness
Ginger is also energizing and uplifting. Because chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases are often associated with fatigue, Ginger aromatherapy can be a great aid for finding new reserves of energy and enthusiasm.
6. Roman Chamomile
Another noted sleep aid, Roman Chamomile has a number of other beneficial properties, including:
Helping manage allergy symptoms
Relieving muscle soreness
Because Chamomile is so relaxing and calming, adding a little to a massage oil or diluting it your favorite carrier oil (such as Fractionated Coconut oil) to apply topically can reduce discomfort at the site of sore joints while providing emotional benefits.
Sharp, floral Geranium oil is another one used to help with stiff joints and sore muscles. In addition, it may be a helpful aid for people with psoriasis.
If you have psoriasis or other chronic skin conditions:
Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil at a ratio of 1% or lower
Perform a skin patch test before applying copiously
Cease use if irritation occurs
8. Juniper Berry
Juniper Berry comes from a cone, not a berry. Piney and slightly sweet, this confidence-boosting oil has a long history in traditional and folkloric medicine.
Juniper Berry has been shown to help relieve joint stiffness and soreness combined with Lavender and other soothing essential oils. Use this oil in aromatherapy whenever you need to feel grounded.
An Individual Care Plan
While the above eight oils may benefit some people with autoimmune diseases, it’s important to use them with an overall care plan tailored to your individual needs.
Most doctors strongly recommend the following as the primary means of controlling autoimmunity:
A healthy diet
While essential oils can help maintain a healthy appetite, support sleep cycles and reduce stress, one should not solely rely on essential oils. Living in the digital age, resources for managing this disease are not hard to come by. But again, the best advice is advice that’s tailored to your individual needs.
- “What are Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases?” Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/what-are-common-symptoms-of-autoimmune-disease
- Leah Stiemsma et al. “The hygiene hypothesis: current perspectives and future therapies.” ImmunoTargets and Therapy 4 (2015): 143-157. https://www.dovepress.com/the-hygiene-hypothesis-current-perspectives-and-future-therapies-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-ITT
- Carrasco, FR et al. “Immunomodulatory activity of Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Salvia officinalis L. and Syzygium aromaticum L. essential oils.” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 6.17 (2009):961-967. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19589240
- Anastasiou, Charis and Buchbaue, Gerhard. “Essential Oils as Immunomodulators.” Open Chemistry 15.1 (2017). https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/chem/15/1/article-p352.xml
- Tisserand, Hanna. “Immune Boost With Essential Oils.” Tisserand Institute. https://tisserandinstitute.org/learn-more/immune-boost-with-essential-oils/
- Truchan, Mariola et al. “Antimicrobial Activities of Three Commercial Essential Oils Derived from Plants Belonging to Family Pinaceae.” Agrobiodiversity for Improving Nutrition, Health and Life Quality 3 (2019). https://agrobiodiversity.uniag.sk/scientificpapers/article/view/287
- Li, Ping et al. “Drugs for Autoimmune Inflammatory Diseases: From Small Molecule Compounds to Anti-TNF Biologics.” Frontiers in pharmacology 8.460 (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5506195/
- Jun, Yang Suk et al. “Effect of Eucalyptus Oil Inhalation on Pain and Inflammatory Responses after Total Knee Replacement: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Medicinal Plants in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Diseases (2013). https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/502727/
- Kim, Myung Ja et al. “The Effects of Aromatherapy on Pain, Depression, and Life Satisfaction of Arthritis Patient.” Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing 35.1 (2005). https://synapse.koreamed.org/articles/1063350
- Metin, Zehra and Leyla Ozdemir. “The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage and Reflexology on Pain and Fatigue inPatients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Pain Management Nursing (2016). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Leyla_Ozdemir/publication/301344191_The_Effects_of_Aromatherapy_Massage_and_Reflexology_on_Pain_and_Fatigue_in_Patients_with_Rheumatoid_Arthritis_A_Randomized_Controlled_Trial/links/59df0847458515376b386139/The-Effects-of-Aromatherapy-Massage-and-Reflexology-on-Pain-and-Fatigue-in-Patients-with-Rheumatoid-Arthritis-A-Randomized-Controlled-Trial.pdf
- Sebai, Hichem et al. “Lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.) essential oils attenuate hyperglycemia and protect against oxidative stress in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.” Lipids in Health and Disease 12 (2013). https://lipidworld.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-511X-12-189
- de Lavor, Érica Martins et al. “Essential Oils and Their Major Compounds in the Treatment of Chronic Inflammation: A Review of Antioxidant Potential in Preclinical Studies and Molecular Mechanisms.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6323437/
- Chao, Sue, D. Gary Young & Craig J. Oberg. “Screening for Inhibitory Activity of Essential Oils on Selected Bacteria, Fungi and Viruses.” Journal of Essential Oil Research 12.5 (2002), 639-649, 10.1080/10412905.2000.9712177
- Metin, Zehra and Leyla Ozdemir. “The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage.”
- Han, Xuesheng and Tory L. Parker. “Anti-inflammatory activity of Juniper (Juniperus communis) berry essential oil in human dermal fibroblasts.” Cogent Medicine 4.1 (2017). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2331205X.2017.1306200