Can Essential Oils Really Help Manage Diabetes?
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of conditions associated with abnormally high blood sugar levels.
It is caused by insufficient insulin production or by an inability of the body to properly process insulin.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which lowers blood glucose.
The most common types of diabetes are:
- Type 1 diabetes – Is an autoimmune condition whereby the body attacks the pancreas and cripples its ability to produce optimal insulin levels. Type 1 is believed to be influenced by a person’s genetic makeup.
- Type 2 diabetes – with this type you can still produce insulin not enough for your body’s needs or your body may exhibit signs of insulin resistance which means the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. This causes glucose to build up in the blood since it can’t enter the cells as easily.
- Prediabetes – Is the precursor to type 2 diabetes which is characterized by high blood sugar levels but not high enough to be type 2.
- Gestational diabetes – This type creates high blood glucose levels in pregnant women.
It’s believed that bad eating habits, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to or worsen prediabetes and type 2.
Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
Having both diabetes and high blood pressure increases this risk even more.
It’s estimated that about 10.5% (34.2 million) of the United States population has diabetes. (1)
How EOs Work For Diabetes Management
While no medical evidence currently indicates that essential oils can cure diabetes, there is growing research indicating they may help to manage symptoms and reduce difficulties caused by the disease.
Essential oils (EOs) are highly concentrated plant extracts sourced from tree bark and resin, leaves, stems, roots, flowers, nuts, seeds, and fruits.
The therapeutic application of EOs is referred to as aromatherapy.
Because of the many health benefits, plant extracts have been used as natural remedies for hundreds of years by various cultures and civilizations like the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks.
In Eastern healing traditions like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda herbal medicine and EOs play a vital role in restoring the body and mind back to health, balance, and harmony.
In recent years there’s been increasing interest in the medicinal and therapeutic properties found in the active components of EOs.
There are certain EOs that have been shown to help balance blood sugar, improve insulin resistance, support healthy liver function, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, boost the immune system, decrease stress hormones, and increase inner calm.
Let’s take a closer look…
The 12 Best Essential Oils For Diabetes
Cinnamon oil (Cinnamomum verum)
Cinnamon bark oil is high in inflammation-reducing antioxidants and is known to help lower blood sugars while also aiding in weight loss.
Cinnamon essential oil also supports healthy blood circulation and heart function.
A review in the Journal of Diabetes Science & Technology found cinnamon to show potential in the alleviation and prevention of symptoms of type 2 diabetes and heart disease though more research is needed. (2)
Coriander oil (Coriandrum sativum)
Coriander (aka cilantro) seed extract has been shown to promote a healthy insulin response.
An article published in Phytotherapy Research found that coriander lowered blood sugar levels while increasing insulin levels in diabetic rats. (3)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Studies indicate that this oil can be very beneficial for those with high blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes as it’s been shown to facilitate cellular glucose consumption, reduce inflammation, reduce blood pressure, and balance lipid profile. (4)
Black pepper (Piper nigrum)
A research article published in Advances in Pharmacological Sciences found that the high antioxidant content in black pepper can help manage and prevent type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure by inhibiting certain key enzymes. (5)
Grapefruit oil (Citrus X paradise)
Since a major contributing factor to diabetes appears to be obesity and inflammation, weight loss and a reduction in inflammation can help manage symptoms better.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that both grapefruit and helichrysum can aid in weight loss, balance insulin, improve inflammatory markers, and decrease oxidative stress. (6)
A pilot study examining the effects of particular EO blends found that ingesting oil blends resulted in lower glucose levels and reduced systolic blood pressure, and concluded that these oil blends may enhance insulin sensitivity. (7)
Some of the oils blended were:
Please note: You must proceed with extreme caution when ingesting EOs, especially if you have a medical condition like diabetes. It’s best to consult with your healthcare provider and an experienced aromatherapist before taking them orally.
Other EOs that might be beneficial for managing diabetes:
- Lavender oil
Using EOs Along With Other Healthy Habits for Diabetes Support
EOs aren’t a cure-all or a magic bullet.
They work best when used in conjunction with a well-rounded holistic approach to healing and well-being.
Since obesity, poor eating habits, chronic stress, and inflammation are risk factors for the disease you’ll also want to look into adopting the following lifestyle habits along with EO use.
Change your diet
Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet and eat more like a yogi.
This means ditching the fried foods, sugars, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, gluten, and dairy.
It also means eating 70-80% organic, life-giving vegetables and minimal fruits.
Move your body
A sedentary lifestyle can worsen or contribute to diabetes so be sure to move your body mindfully and regularly.
Go for walks in nature, take a yoga or pilates class, and learn a new sport.
Manage your stress
Chronic, unmanaged stress and anxiety are big contributors to many inflammation-related diseases, not just diabetes.
Make learning effective stress management tools and techniques a priority.
Take up a daily meditation and mindfulness practice.
Breathe deeply daily
Believe it or not, your breath contributes to inflammation levels.
Yoga breathing (pranayama) can help reduce inflammation, decrease stress hormones, and increase inner calm and well-being.
Just a few minutes a day goes a long way.
Ensuring you get regular high-quality restorative rest and sleep helps to keep hormones like insulin in check.
Yoga nidra (yogic sleep meditation) is an effective way to beat insomnia and support your body’s resting cycles.
How To Choose the Right High-Quality EO for Diabetes & Blood Sugar Support
EOs are not regulated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration), so, unfortunately, there are a lot of adulterated products on the market being touted as “natural” and “pure.”
Remember – high-quality means maximum medicinal and therapeutic efficacy.
Learn how to differentiate between good products and good marketing with these seven tips for choosing the right EOs for you:
- Look for certified organic therapeutic grade essential oils.
- Check that proper testing has been done.
- Research the company. Is it reputable?
- Check the label. Is all relevant information there?
- Check the price. Too cheap is a red flag.
- Check the Latin name. This is the plant’s actual botanical name.
- Check in with yourself. Your body will give you feedback so trust your intuition!
How To Use EOs for Diabetes
As mentioned, you’ll need to use essential oils with care and caution if you’re experiencing medical issues like diabetes.
Even if the oils seem to pose low-risk it’s wise to do your research and know the contraindications for each and every oil you use.
This is especially true if you’re on medication because certain EOs can actually interfere with medications.
If you’re going to apply the oils topically and directly on your skin be sure to dilute the EOs with a carrier oil like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil.
If you’re going to use a diffuser remember that a little goes a long way.
Use no more than 7-10 drops of essential oil per diffuser refill.