Aromatherapy for Digestive Gas
“I have been searching for an answer for my stomach problems for a couple years. I have come across essential oils and have a question. I want to use an essential oil to help get rid of gas. I have been really bloated and read that juniper and cumin help to push gas downward and release it. I was wondering if these were the best to use and how to use them for this purpose. Do you use internally or externally? Thank you so much, I have been searching for an answer.” Danielle
I am delighted that you are considering the use of essential oils for your chronic discomfort! There are indeed some essential oils that may prove helpful. Before I get into my answer though, it is important to note that this article is not a substitute for medical advice, examination, diagnosis and/or treatment from a health care professional. If you have not already done so, please consult with your primary health care provider about the persistent ‘stomach problems’. It would also be wise to let him or her know that you intend to use essential oils to help relieve the bloat.
To answer the last part of your question first; the School of Complementary Therapies does not endorse taking essential oils internally, and we do not endorse the use of undiluted essential oils directly on the skin. Only high quality essential oils should be used and always check the safety information of each essential oil for specific precautions and contra-indications prior to use; e.g. juniper and cumin should not be used if you are pregnant or have kidney disease, cumin is moderately photo-toxic.To experience the full therapeutic benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy for chronic complaints, I encourage readers to see a professional Aromatherapist.
That being said, I am a strong proponent of self care and basic aromatherapy lends itself very well to improving and maintaining one’s health and wellness. I have provided some essential oil blend recipes for you to try along with an abdominal self-massage routine that I think you will find helpful. There is also a heavenly epsom salt bath blend.
Did you know that most people produce between 1 to 4 pints of gas a day and pass it by mouth or rectum about 14 times a day? Generally, gas in the digestive tract is generated by swallowing air when eating and drinking, from gases found in the food and drink, and the normal breakdown of undigested foods by harmless bacteria that are naturally present in the large intestine (colon). So having some amount of gas is both common and normal. (i)
Our diet and eating habits directly affect the production and elimination of digestive gas as does physical activity, our stress level and even the state of one’s emotions. (ii) And as you have been experiencing Danielle, gas can cause abdominal distension (bloat), mild to moderate discomfort, cramps and even pain. Ouch!
Essential oils that help settle the digestive system and promote the expulsion of gas from the intestines are said to have carminative properties. There are a number of essential oils that fall into this category including the two essential oils you specifically ask about, juniper and cumin. (ii) (The botanical names of all essential oils mentioned in this article are found at the end.)
Juniper berry is an effective essential oil for digestive issues and is very helpful for alleviating chronic gas. It is also wonderful for body aches and pains, and it is an effective detoxifier. It blends particularly well with essential oils lavender, sweet orange and lemongrass that also have carminative properties. The herb cumin (seed and powder) has been used since ancient times for its digestive and carminative properties. Cumin (white) essential oil stimulates digestion and the expulsion of gas. It has a strong aroma so use it sparingly in any blend. It blends well with carminative essential oils angelica root, Roman camomile and sweet orange. Other essential oils used to treat intestinal bloat and flatulence include black pepper, cardamom, fennel, ginger root, sweet marjoram, peppermint and spearmint.
Following are some essential oil massage blends designed to assist with bloat and flatulence. Keep in mind that although an essential oil may be ‘perfect’ for a particular ‘ailment’, if you do not care for its aroma you are less likely to experience the full benefit of its application. Choose the mentioned carminative essential oils based on your response to their aroma. And again I stress that essential oils must be diluted – blended into a carrier (base) oil for application to the skin. Fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil or grape seed oil are good choices for abdominal massage.
Using juniper berry essential oil; into 30 ml (1 oz or 2 tbsp) of the carrier oil of your choice, add 5 drops of the juniper berry, 5 drops of sweet fennel essential oil, 8 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 drops of lemongrass essential oil. If you’d rather use sweet orange than lemongrass, use 4 drops of lavender instead of 8 and add 6 drops of sweet orange instead of the lemongrass. This next recipe has the punch of peppermint. Into 30 ml of carrier oil add 15 drops of juniper berry essential oil, 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil and 5 drops of peppermint essential oil.
A little tip about peppermint essential oil; if you find it strong add it last to a blend, one drop at a time. Mix the first ingredients then sniff the blend, add your next drop, sniff and so on. Adjust the recipe until your nose says, “yes!”. You could also try spearmint essential oil which is not as sharp but has similar therapeutic properties.
Now for the cumin essential oil. Keeping in mind that cumin essential oil has a strong aroma, into 30 ml of carrier add 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil, 6 drops of lavender essential oil and 4 drops of cumin essential oil. Similar to the tip for peppermint, add cumin essential oil one drop at a time. This next recipe’s aroma has some interesting layers to it. Into 30 ml of carrier oil, add 7 drops of cardamom essential oil, 5 drops of sweet orange essential oil, 3 drops Roman chamomile essential oil and up to 5 drops of cumin essential oil. Nice!
Aromatherapy massage combines the healing properties of essential oils with the healing of touch. Massaging the abdominal area using firm but gentle rhythmic, circular pressure to the intestines promotes peristalsis; a fancy word used to describe the constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestine, creating wavelike movement that pushes the contents of the canal forward. ‘Contents’ in this case is intestinal gas.
You may find it helpful to do this routine first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening to help manage the bloat. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for the full routine. Lying flat on your back on a semi-firm surface, stretch your legs out straight and place a pillow under your knees for lower back comfort. Begin with some deep abdominal breathing. As you inhale feel your belly expanding and as you exhale feel it fall. Each time you exhale allow your whole body to relax. This part of the routine is important. It is a reminder that the pressure you will apply is almost zero while inhaling, with pressure increasing when you exhale. The pressure should be just enough to move the skin lightly and to allow for you to feel the soft tissue of the intestines beneath your touch. (iii, iv)
Although you will only be working the area below your navel (belly button) disperse a small amount of your essential oil blend into the palm of your hand and distribute it all over your abdomen using both hands in large, gentle clockwise circles. Keep breathing! Now place one hand palm down flat on your lower abdomen just inside of your right hip bone (appendix area) with your thumb pointing in the direction of your chin, and place the other hand’s palm on top of the first hand, with its thumb pointing in the direction of your chin. Your hands are now gently resting one on top of the other. The first hand will be your guide by staying in touch with your abdomen’s skin, the other will be used to help apply pressure to the other.
You will begin your self massage by making small clockwise circles with the flats of the fingers of the first hand, slowly, rhythmically kneading straight up the ascending colon toward your waist. Once you reach the right side of your waist, continue the small clockwise circles and work your way across the waist line (transverse colon) until you reach the left side of your waist. Continue with the same massage movement, down the descending colon on your left side stopping just inside the top of your left hip. With reduced pressure gently move from the left hip area across the soft tissue just above your pelvic bone area to the right hip area to begin again. Repeat this 6 times without interruption. Then using the palms of both hands as you did when distributing the massage oil, make large clockwise circular massage movements over your full abdomen adding more oil at this time if you wish. This makes one cycle. Check in! Are you still breathing? Take a few deep breaths and begin again. Repeat the cycle at least 3 times, increasing the number of cycles as you become accustomed to the movements.
A warm, relaxing, therapeutic bath can go a long way to ease the discomfort and bloat of intestinal gas. Into a sealable container add 500 ml (2 cups) of quality epsom salts. Into the epsom salts add 30 ml (1 oz or 2 Tbsp) of grape seed or olive oil. Next add, 12 drops of angelica root essential oil, 7 drops of cardamom essential oil, 6 drops of sweet orange essential oil and 3 to 5 drops of Roman chamomile essential oil. Roman chamomile is strong so use the 1 drop at a time tip. Shake or mix the container contents thoroughly to evenly distribute the carrier and essential oils. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes in a warm tub of water into which one cup of the therapeutic bath has been dispersed. This bath blend is quite relaxing so I suggest you use it in the evening before bed or at a time when you can lie down for a rest afterword.
I trust that there is something in this information that you will find helpful. If you have a moment, I would love to know which of these essential oil blends work for you, or which blend(s) you create that help with your situation – Barbara Power
Article Resources Referenced
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Salvatore Battaglia, 2nd Edition, 2003
Article Resources Consulted
Introduction to Human Anatomy and Physiology, Eldra Pearl Solomon, 2003.
Medical Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt, 1999.
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood, 1991.
The Complete Book of Massage and Aromatherapy, Catherine Stuart, 2005.
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy, Julia Lawless, 2001.
Common and Botanical Names for Essential Oils
Angelica root – Angelica archangelica; Black pepper – Piper nigrum; Cardamom – Elettaria cardamomum; Cumin (white) – Cuminum cyminum; Ginger root – Zingiber officinale; Juniper berry – Juniperus communis; Lavender – Lavendula angustifolia; Lemongrass – Cymbopogon citratus; Peppermint – Mentha piperita; Roman chamomile – Anthemis nobilis; Spearmint – Mentha spicata; Sweet fennel – Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce; Sweet marjoram – Origanum majorana; and Sweet orange – Citrus sinensis.