Can Essential Oils Help My Symptoms of Diabetes?

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI and Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on August 9, 2016Written by Jennifer Purdie on August 9, 2016
essential oils for diabetes

The basics

For thousands of years, essential oils have been used to treat everything from minor scrapes to depression and anxiety. They’ve surged in modern-day popularity as people seek out alternative options to expensive prescription medications.

Essential oils are created from plant extraction. This is done through a cold pressing or steam distillation process. They can then be used topically or diffused through the air to help you with health issues.

What are the benefits of essential oils?

Benefits

  1. Essential oils may have a positive effect on the body and mind.
  2. They’re said to reduce side effects associated with a number of health conditions, including diabetes.
  3. They may help combat infection and soothe stress.

Many cultures have used essential oils as a way to enhance overall quality of life. Although these oils are commonly known for their calming effects on the mind and body, they’re also said to have a number of medicinal benefits.

For example, certain essential oils are thought to reduce the side effects of health complications, such as ulcers and skin elasticity. They may also help combat infections, which can be more frequent in people with diabetes.

Other potential benefits include:

  • treating colds and coughs
  • soothing tension, stress, and anxiety
  • helping you fall asleep more easily
  • lowering blood pressure
  • aiding in digestion
  • assisting respiratory problems
  • relieving pain in the joints
  • increasing concentration

What the research says

There isn’t any medical evidence to support the use of essential oils as a treatment for diabetes. However, essential oils may be used to treat complications of diabetes, including gastrointestinal issues and weight gain. Essential oils should be used with caution and in conjunction with your doctor's recommended treatment.

Cinnamon

In a 2013 study, researchers found that people with prediabetes and diabetes who ate cinnamon experienced a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Although the study focused on the spice and not the essential oil, you may be able to experience some of the same effects using the oil. There have been a limited number of studies, so you should not use it to control your blood pressure.

Rosehip

If you want help with weight management, you may consider rosehip essential oil. Researchers conducted a 12-week study of 32 participants with a body mass index of 25 to 29, giving them either rosehip extract or a placebo. At the end of the study, abdominal total area fat, body fat, and body mass index had decreased significantly more for those who used the extract.

Mixture of oils

Researchers in a 2005 animal study found that a mix that included fenugreek, cinnamon, cumin, and oregano oils enhanced insulin sensitivity in lab animals with diabetes. Researchers concluded that this mix of oils lowered glucose levels and systolic blood pressure.

How to use essential oils for diabetes symptoms

In the study on diabetic lab animals and people with a high body mass index, essential oils were administered via oral droplets. Doctors typically advise against ingesting essential oils, as the long-term risks are not yet known. This is especially true for people with diabetes, because it isn’t clear how ingestion can affect your blood sugar levels.

It’s generally considered safe to administer essential oils topically or diffuse them into the air. If you want to apply an oil to your skin, be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil first. A good rule of thumb is to add 1 ounce of a carrier oil to every 12 drops of essential oil. This can prevent your skin from becoming irritated or inflamed.

Common carrier oils include:

  • coconut oil
  • jojoba oil
  • olive oil

Risks and warnings

Risks

  1. Essential oils aren’t regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.
  2. Read all labels and look for any added ingredients that may serve as allergens.
  3. Undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritation and inflammation.

Essential oils aren’t regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, so you should only buy products from reputable manufacturers. Be sure to read all labels and look for any added ingredients that may be allergens.

You shouldn’t apply undiluted essential oils to your skin. This can cause irritation and inflammation.

Before applying diluted essential oils to large areas of your skin, do a patch test on a small area. This will allow you to determine whether you’re going to experience any irritation. It’s best to use your inner arm. Wait 24 hours to check if you have any patchy skin or redness. If you itch, break out into a rash, or notice any patches of red skin, discontinue use.

When using a diffuser, make sure that you frequently clean it with a mixture of vinegar and water to remove any residual buildup of previous oils and extend the life of your diffuser.

Other treatments for diabetes

A typical care plan for type 1 or type 2 diabetes involves:

Nutrition and exercise

Because diabetes is related to issues with blood glucose levels, you need to be aware of what, when, and how much you are eating. This includes limiting your sugar intake and eating clean, healthy foods from all the food groups to keep a balanced diet. People with diabetes often find it helpful to work with a nutritionist to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need without adding extra sugar.

Physical activity can help control your blood sugar level and blood pressure. It’s recommended that everyone get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.

Medications

Medications vary per your diabetes type. If you have type 1 diabetes, this usually means taking insulin. You can administer the insulin yourself through an injection or an insulin pump. You often need to check your insulin level throughout the day to make sure you are in the normal range.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may not need medication. If your doctor decides you do, you may be instructed to give yourself insulin or take an oral medication.

What you can do now

Essential oils are easy to find these days. You can start your search online or at a specialty health store. Buying from a friend, coworker, or family member can be helpful because you can directly ask them questions. If they don’t know the answer, they can go to their company to inquire.
Always begin with diluting and testing the oils one at a time on a patch of skin. If you don’t experience any irritation, it should be safe to use them topically. You can also purchase a humidifier to diffuse the oils into the air. You should not take essential oils orally.

In the weeks following, begin to look for any changes in your health and well-being. If you experience any adverse side effects, discontinue use.

Keep reading: Herbs and supplements for diabetes »

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