Ivory A. Gordon, Pharm.D. Candidate
Florida A&M University College of Pharmacy
Essential oils are complex and contain many different chemical ingredients that are extracted from plants through distillation, a process of purifying liquids by boiling and condensing its vapors. Essential oils serve as an invaluable element of natural healing for mankind. Ancient Egyptian oils were used in religious practices and the preservation of the dead for the afterlife. The Greek and Roman cultures used oil of lavender for wounds which is still utilized today. While there is still limited understanding of the mechanisms through which most essential oils act, research continues to indicate their effectiveness as agents for both treatment and preventive measures for several chronic diseases such as; cancer, HIV, and even diabetes.
Diabetes is becoming a common condition with many people in the United States and elsewhere in the world. It has been recently discovered that diabetes can be tempered with the use of essential oils such as; dill, cinnamon, coriander, or ylang ylang. Although essential oils can never cure diabetes completely, they can help reduce some aggravation of the condition.
Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum) is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and western Asia. Traditionally, coriander has been used as an infusion to aid in the healing of digestive conditions, flatulence, anorexia, gripe pains and for children’s diarrhea. Coriander has dual blood glucose-lowering effects in diabetes. It works both by enhancing the secretion of insulin from the pancreas and exhibiting insulin-like activity at the cellular level.
In 2008, a study was conducted to observe the effects of Coriander seed oil on the lipid profile within a population of rats. The study demonstrated decreased levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. There was also a significant increase in HDL cholesterol within both the experimental and control groups.
Cinnamon bark (Cinnamon Zeylancium) is one of the most antimicrobial essential oils. Other possible uses include; rheumatism, flatulence, stress, and even lowering blood pressure. It originates from Indonesia and is cultivated in many countries such as; Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and India.
Recent studies have demonstrated cinnamon’s on the reduction of the glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in subjects with Type 2 diabetes. This study was conducted in the Department of Human Nutrition, NWFP Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan where individuals with Type 2 diabetes were divided randomly in which half consumed cinnamon daily (experimental group), respectively, and the control group was given placebo capsules corresponding to the number of capsules consumed for the cinnamon. Although the mechanism of action for cinnamon is not clear, the effects of the extract led to increased insulin sensitivity for those in the experimental group. Although the study population was small, it proves that cinnamon is indeed beneficial to the management of Type 2 diabetes.
In my opinion, essential oils will be a part of future research and there will continue to be increased clinical use in the United States. I’m already convinced that the use of essential oils can be helpful in the healing of ourselves and others. The proof is demonstrated within these two medical studies.
As a pharmacist, it is vital to have reliable resources of drug information at your fingertips. Sources must provide a thorough synthesis of history, chemistry, safety issues, the most current clinical research, clinical applications and more. I feel that resources such as the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database and Essential Oils Reference Desk are good examples of efficient up-to-date information surrounding CAM products.
Agriculture, pharmacy, and commercial ingenuity have all contributed to the development of the modern industry of essential oils. According to data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), approximately 30% of U.S. adults use some form of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) for health and wellness or to treat a variety of conditions and diseases. CAM accounts for 1.5% of total health costs and 11.2% of total out-of-pocket costs on healthcare in the U.S..
Essential Oils Desk Reference. 2nd ed. Orem, UT: Essential Science, 2000.
Heinerman, John. Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs & Spices. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 1996.
Ramadan, Mohamed Fawzy., et al. Coriander seed oil improves plasma lipid profile in rats fed a diet containing cholesterol. European Food Resource Technology (2008). Vol 227: 1173-1182. Web. 15 April 2010.
Khan, Alam., et al. Cinnamon improves Glucose and Lipids of People with Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care (2003). Vol 26: 3215-3218. Web. 13 April 2010.
National Institutes of Health. Americans Spent $33.9 Billion Out-of-Pocket on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2009). Web. 11 April 2010 http://nccam.nih.govnews/2009/073009.htm