With an estimated 70 million people with digestive issues in the U.S. alone, digestive system complications are easily some of the most common health problems we face today.
Yet, the digestive system is one of those things that you don’t think about until it isn’t working properly. But when digestive issues show up, they can take over. Cramps that bring you to your knees, heartburn that makes your eyes water, constipation that pops a vein out of your forehead. There are many digestive issues out there, and having relief on hand can mean the difference between just getting by and getting over it quickly. Thankfully, many pure essential oils can be used to soothe digestive issues quickly and naturally.
The Digestive System
When you think of the digestive system, you likely think of the stomach, the intestines, and the toilet. In reality the digestive system of the human body is rather large, and has many auxiliary components including the spleen, liver, and pancreas. The process of digestion can begin as soon as you look at food! Ever wonder why food is “mouth-watering? It is a function of your digestive system. The brain perceives delicious food, and knows that there is no way you can resist. Since you will be eating it shortly, the brain triggers the salivary glands to make more saliva.
Saliva plays an important role in digestion, as it starts breaking down starches and fats to be quickly used by the body. The teeth are also an important digestive player; well chewed food is much easier to digest. Oftentimes, cases of indigestion can be cured by fully chewing your food.
Once swallowed, the food makes its way through the GI tract into the stomach, where it is further broken down by the acid in your stomach. It is then passed to the small intestine, where most of the digestion occurs. While in the small intestine the matter is called chyle, as it hardly resembles food anymore. As it twists through the small intestine, nutrients are extracted and sent to the bloodstream to power your body. From there it passes to the large intestine, where excess water and some minerals are reabsorbed into the body. The rest is flushed down the toilet as waste matter.
Common Digestive Issues
As with any complex system, there are numerous complex problems that arise. The most common digestive disorders are:
- Dysbiosis. Though it may be the most common digestive issue, you have likely never heard of it. Dysbiosis is caused by imbalanced intestinal bacteria. This can lead to poor digestion, heartburn, constipation, acid reflux, and a weakened immune system.
- Heartburn/Gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD). Caused by stomach acid backing up into your throat, the annoying burning feeling can cause serious problems like tooth decay and permanent damage to the esophagus.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Symptoms of IBS include stomach pain, digestive pain, diarrhea, and constipation. IBS is influenced heavily by diet.
- Lactose-intolerance. Caused by the digestive system naturally losing the ability to break down milk products, lactose intolerance can produce many digestive symptoms. Heartburn, diarrhea, stomach cramps, painful bloating, and foul smelling flatulence are the most common symptoms.
- Ulcers. Caused by the digestive juices eating away at the lining of your stomach, ulcers are small lesions which usually cause a painful burning sensation in your stomach.
- Hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are painful, itchy, inflamed blood vessels at the end of your digestive tract. Causes include diarrhea, constipation, lack of fiber, and straining during bowel movements.
Treatments For Digestive Issues
Although many common digestive issues require dietary or lifestyle changes in order to eliminate them, there are many drugs and natural alternatives out there to control the symptoms of these digestive disorders.
Chemical Treatments to Digestive Issues
Thanks in no small part to the Standard American Diet (SAD), over the counter digestive medicines are very common. It is not unlikely to find antacid tablets next to the table salt, and no home is complete without a pink bottle of bismuth subsalicylate in the cabinet. Heartburn medications are available 24/7 at any pharmacy, and hemorrhoid creams are “just a part of life”.
While major digestive issues may need medical attention, most common digestive issues don’t require the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Remedies may be as close as your kitchen pantry!
Alternative Treatments to Digestive Issues
For people living with digestive issues, the high price of medications mixed with the potential side effects can leave you looking for an alternative. There are many natural remedies for digestive issues.
Probiotics. For reasons that would take much more time to explain, everyone should consume probiotics. To boil it down, probiotics are beneficial bacteria that positively affect every system of the body. Not only do probiotics help with digestion, they boost your immune system, fight inflammation, help the body get more nutrients, eliminate toxins, fight skin allergies, and may even reduce obesity.
Peppermint Tea. A common digestive beverage, peppermint tea aids in digestion, relieves stomach gas, bloating, and fights flatulence. Drinking a cup of peppermint tea after a meal may also help reduce heartburn, as the “cooling” effect can actually help relax overworked intestinal muscles.
Ginger. Commonly made into a spicy tea to help with digestive issues, ginger has been used medicinally for centuries. Ginger candies are often used to settle nausea and seasickness. General queasiness, dizziness, digestive upset, vomiting and nausea can all be helped by ginger.
Aloe Vera. Yes, the same succulent which you rub on your skin after sunburn can also help with digestive issues. Aloe Vera can help relieve constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and heartburn. Because it helps to line the stomach, it can also prove useful for peptic ulcers.
Fennel seed. The potent little seeds are commonly chewed after meals in some countries, and can increase digestive juices, relieve gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
Apple Cider Vinegar. Seen as a “wonder drink” in the natural health realm, Apple cider vinegar has numerous digestive benefits. The high acid content can help keep your stomach acids high enough to properly digest food, reducing acid reflux and constipation. A teaspoon of Apple cider vinegar diluted in a cup of water can provide relief to those digestive issues fast. This same mixture can even be used to cure hiccups- try it out next time!
Essential Oils For The Digestive System
Of the numerous natural remedies for digestive issues, none is more medically appealing than the use of pure essential oils. Medical science is blooming when it comes to natural treatment options thanks to an increasingly educated public. As more beneficial compounds are found and tested, more uses for pure essential oils arise. Here are the top 9 scientifically supported essential oils for digestion.
1. Peppermint Essential Oil
Like the plant which it is extracted from, Peppermint essential oil is great for soothing an upset digestive system. This is due to peppermint essential oils anti-inflammatory compounds. Researchers found that peppermint essential oil was significantly effective at reducing inflammation. In the digestive system, this can help to soothe the digestive muscles, which can be overworked by a big meal. This can lower the feeling of being “stuffed”, and calm an overactive digestive system.
2. Caraway Essential Oil
Caraway seed has long been used for digestion. Ancient cultures added the seeds to recipes to help digest and preserve foods, and caraway essential oil improves the digestive system by balancing the intestinal bacteria. When your intestinal bacteria are out of balance, your body suffers. You reduce your ability to get nutrients from your food, and your digestive system can slow to a crawl. This can lead to a long list of digestive issues.
Researchers in this recent study found that caraway essential oil actually helps to eliminate harmful bacteria while leaving beneficial bacteria untouched. This amazing news adds just another item to the list of caraway essential oil benefits.
3. Cardamom Essential Oil
The benefits of cardamom essential oil are extensive, from lowering the blood pressure to getting rid of bad breath to-of course- facilitating digestion.
Cardamom has a long history of use for digestion, and science is now backing up the claims. Researchers found that extracts of the cardamom seed act to excite the digestive system. When the body encounters the compounds in cardamom, the entire digestive system is stimulated, from saliva production to enzyme creation. This can be beneficial for reducing heartburn and eliminating constipation.
Pure cardamom essential oil also acts an antispasmodic, which may help to settle an upset stomach and promote relaxation after a large meal.
4. Fennel Essential Oil
Like many of the herbs used for digestive issues, fennel has been used medicinally for thousands of years. A recent study compiled a large body of medical evidence, and found that compounds in fennel help reduce digestive gasses. Fennel essential oil can be applied topically to help relieve bloating, belching, and flatulence. Simply add 2 drops of fennel essential oil and 2 drops of ginger essential oil to 1oz of carrier oil and rub on your abdomen after eating.
5. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is another one of those every day oils that keep surprising! There are many benefits of lemon essential oil, helping the digestive system is only one on the list. According to recent research, lemon essential oil may be useful for IBS symptoms. This extensive journal found that the relaxing effect which lemon essential oil has mimics certain anti-anxiety drugs that are being studied for their possible use in the treatment of IBS. The study stated that non-conventional treatments such as traditional Chinese herbs and essential oils may provide a natural alternative to chemical IBS treatments.
6. Lavender Essential Oil
It’s no wonder this is the oil known around the world. Lavender essential oil has so many uses! From relaxation to digestion, the benefits of lavender essential oil are extensive. Like caraway essential oil, lavender essential oil helps balance intestinal bacteria. A balanced gut means a healthy immune system, reduction in skin allergies, and of course-better digestion. A healthier digestive system means more regularity- you’ll be much less likely to reach for that hemorrhoid ointment.
7. Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger is the most studied herb of all time. This speaks volumes into the benefits of pure ginger essential oil. One recent study found that ginger speeds digestion. This may be due to the fact that compounds in ginger help stimulate digestive enzymes. Ginger essential oil can reduce indigestion , relieve stomach pain, and reduce nausea, says another recent report.
Another study suggested that Ginger acts to increase digestive activity through the production of digestive enzymes.
8. Black Pepper Essential Oil
Who knew that “common” black pepper had so many benefits? Pure black pepper essential oil concentrates the key benefits into a peppery medicinal liquid. One medicinal review pointed out that black pepper eliminates gas, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The benefits of black pepper essential oil may be linked to an active compound within the oil called piperine. Piperine is responsible for the ability of black pepper essential oil to increase digestive enzymes. The alkaloid compound acts on the pancreas to increase enzymes, which in turn reduces digestive transit time.
9. Cumin Essential Oil
Compounds in cumin help speed up digestion. A recent study focused on the digestion-stimulating effects of various herbs, and found that subjects who took cumin experienced a quickening of their digestive system. This may be attributed to the spices ability to increase digestive juices in the body. Researchers fed subjects insoluble colors in order to test transit time. Compared to the control, subjects fed cumin had a shorter digestive transit time.
Another study noted more of the seeds health benefits. This recent study pointed out that cumin essential oil is a carminative, acting to reduce digestive gas and bloating. The same study found that the use of cumin essential oil also reduces cholesterol. Time to add it to the list!
Essential Oil Recipes for Digestion
Now that your mouth is watering for more, you may be wondering how exactly to use these essential oils. Here are two tried and true essential oil recipes for digestion, one for topical application, and one for aromatherapy.
The Ultimate Digestive Rub
Most of the beneficial compounds in essential oils are small enough to pass right through the skin and be picked up by the bloodstream. Rubbing this oil on your abdomen can help sooth a full stomach, speed digestion, and ease gas and acid reflux. The mix feels warm and soothing, and the touch of peppermint essential oil provides an easy cooling effect.
- 10 drops cardamom essential oil
- 10 drops ginger essential oil
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 drops black pepper essential oil
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil
- 1 ounce jojoba oil (or your favorite carrier oil)
- Mix the ingredients in a 1 oz. container (preferably with a lid). Rub on the abdomen as needed for relief.
Digestive Aromatherapy Blend
Sit back after a big family meal and inhale this blend through your diffuser. It is calming, and helps facilitate digestion.
- 2 drops lavender essential oil
- 2 drops ginger essential oil
- 2 drops lemon essential oil
- 2 drops caraway essential oil
- Add to your aromatherapy diffuser and run for 30-60 minutes after a meal.
Thanks to the modern global marketplace, it is becoming increasingly easier to choose pure, natural solutions at every stage of our lives. Choosing to use pure essential oils for digestion combines the power of medicinal compounds with the ease of the in-home remedy.
It should be noted that pure essential oils are powerful, and should be treated as such. The pure oil should always be diluted; pay attention to any reactions your body may have to it when applied on the skin. Children and pregnant women should use any essential oil under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
There are so many ways to use essential oils for digestion. What is your favorite essential oil recipe for digestion? Let us know in the comments section!