Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine - - Contents - By Sarah Pen­ney, ND - Hamil­ton, ON

Herbs that heal

Es­sen­tial oils used for health seem to be ev­ery­where we turn right now. Ads and ar­ti­cles pep­per social me­dia, you might even be see­ing these oils in lo­cal gro­cery stores, or know friends who have be­come distrib­u­tors. Do these small glass bot­tles re­ally con­tain the an­swers for ev­ery­thing from di­a­betes to thy­roid dis­or­ders?

Hu­man re­search on es­sen­tial oils is in its in­fancy com­pared to this booming mar­ket – the trend has swept con­sumers faster than sci­ence has been able to keep up. There are a few es­sen­tial oils, that as a natur­o­pathic doc­tor I use in prac­tice to treat things like anx­i­ety, IBS and acne that ac­tu­ally have some re­search on them re­gard­ing hu­man use. These in­clude:


This is one es­sen­tial oil that has been stud­ied in dif­fer­ent forms largely for stress and anx­i­ety. There is ev­i­dence to sug­gest that daily use of a stan­dard­ized cap­sule dosage can help some peo­ple with gen­er­al­ized anx­i­ety dis­or­der. Us­ing this oil as aro­mather­apy may also help with sleep­ing is­sues in some.


It is well known that pep­per­mint can help soothe an up­set stom­ach – and that is be­cause of its es­sen­tial oils! The oil in pep­per­mint leaves has an an­ti­spas­modic ef­fect (which means it helps to calm spasms in the in­tes­tine) and has been shown to help some peo­ple with ir­ri­ta­ble bowel disease (IBS) in cap­sule form. Cov­er­ing a steep­ing pep­per­mint tea is a great way to trap these oils in and get this ben­e­fit too!


Tea tree is a tried and tested top­i­cal treat­ment for acne. Re­search sug­gests that this es­sen­tial oil can have an­timi­cro­bial and anti-in­flam­ma­tory ac­tions to help blem­ishes and in­hibit bac­te­rial over­growth in mild to moder­ate acne. Ir­ri­ta­tion of the skin may oc­cur if the oil is not di­luted or you have a re­ac­tion, and spot test­ing be­fore wide­spread use is al­ways rec­om­mended.


It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that es­sen­tial oils are very con­cen­trated and po­tent, each with a myr­iad of ac­tive in­gre­di­ents. Some of these in­gre­di­ents can be toxic to the body in high amounts. Not many are safe for in­ter­nal use, and I only rec­om­mend some en­cap­su­lated forms men­tioned above that are specif­i­cally man­u­fac­tured, stan­dard­ized and stud­ied for hu­man in­ges­tion. In­ter­nal con­sump­tion of oils added to drinks or foods can ir­ri­tate the throat and stom­ach, and put a bur­den on liver detox­i­fi­ca­tion. The liver has to process ev­ery com­pound and toxin our body comes into con­tact with through the air we breathe, food we con­sume, or for­mu­las we ap­ply on our skin. The com­po­nents in es­sen­tial oils en­ter our body through all these path­ways and af­fect the liver in high amounts. Es­sen­tial oils in top­i­cal or oral form should be used with ex­treme cau­tion in chil­dren, as these com­pounds can be harder for their liver to break down.

While re­search shows that some es­sen­tial oils can pro­vide health ben­e­fits to those who use them, cau­tion should be taken to avoid ex­ces­sive ex­po­sure. Re­mem­ber that not ev­ery­thing nat­u­ral is safe! ~

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