Essential Oils and Auto-immune Disease - Everyday Essentials

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Essential Oils and Auto-immune Disease

What is an autoimmune disease?

We hear this word so often as part of our current culture. I began to wonder just exactly what an auto immune disease was. So I looked it up, and according to Wikipedia:

Autoimmune diseases arise from an abnormal immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body (autoimmunity). 

In other words, your body fights itself and the natural functions that occur daily. Yikes, no wonder it’s such a large concern! There is a huge list (more than I ever knew) of autoimmune diseases online. Frankly, I was shocked. I did recognize some of the disorders on the list, but had no idea they were autoimmune disorders. Some of these include:

  • Thyroid disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Lupus
  • Gluten, dairy or soy intolerances
  • Multiple sclerosis and
  • Atopic dermatitis just to name a few.

What do we need to be concerned about when dealing with autoimmune diseases and essential oils?

We want to be conscious that we are not further inflaming or boosting immune function since auto-immune diseases are the immune system attacking your body. You don’t want to double your body’s effort in attacking itself! Essential oils you may consider leaving out of your stash are: Palmarosa, Rosalina, Immune Aid or Immune Boom. Any essential oil that is listed as an immunostimulant should be avoided or used only occasionally in low doses.

It’s a good idea to understand that while essential oils are very useful, they are not the perfect solution for every situation. Sometimes using a hydrosol or an herbal preparation are necessary and safer! Before using a new product always consult with a Naturopathic Physician, Certified Aromatherapist or other qualified health professional.

Put in the time to do the research, keeping in mind that marketing is a powerful tool. Seek out sources other than a company website or salespersons. There are many books, websites and other information you can find that are not linked to any one company. Learn more about the concern you want to address and ask professionals who will consult with you before beginning any new regimen.

So can you still use essential oils?

Short answer, yes. Choose oils that do not have an immune-stimulating effect. This is a challenge, as many essential oils can stimulate the immune response to varying degrees. Here is a limited list of essential oils that you can consider using with no (or very little) boost to the immune system.

  • Cajeput essential oil has long been used for sore throats and it’s antiviral action makes it a great option for cold sores. Use Cajeput to help with pain such as muscle stiffness, muscle cramping, and menstruation. Diffuse Cajeput essential oil to help relieve the symptoms from the flu or cold. It is also great to add to a bath or massage oil to help with aches and pains. For relief from an insect bite or skin ailment, add a small amount to your favorite carrier oil and apply twice a day.
  • Cinnamon Cinnamon Leaf essential oil has been used as an anti-inflammatory and local anesthetic for many years. It is very therapeutic and if used in the right dilution, can be an effective essential oil for acne, chronic pain and inflammation. Combine Cinnamon Leaf and Clove Bud at 0.6% dilution in your favorite carrier oil to help with chronic pain. Cinnamon Leaf is also a great oil to ease the symptoms of cold and flu. Diffuse in the air to help combat a sickness.
  • Citronella essential oil to help combat cold and flu, diffuse into the air equal parts of Citronella and Cinnamon Leaf. Add to your favorite carrier oil to help with perspiration. Add 1 drop of Citronella and 2 drops of Tea Tree to 1 Tablespoon of Coconut oil to use on fungal skin infections.
  • Clary Sage essential oil is the perfect hormone balancing oil to help ease symptoms caused by women’s issues. Use to treat PMS, hot flashes, depression, anxiety and insomnia. For menstrual pain, combine Clary Sage with Geranium, Marjoram and Carrot Seed. Research suggests that for some people, Clary Sage essential oil is more effective anti-stress oil than Lavender. Add to your favorite carrier oil and use as a daily moisturizer or diffuse into the air for its mood-enhancing properties
  • Cypress essential oil can be used to ease breathing and may be helpful for people with asthma. Use to relieve tight muscles, rheumatism and the swelling and pain of varicose veins. It is also useful as a deodorant. For this, add equal parts of Cypress, Sandalwood and Lavender to your favorite carrier. Diffuse Cypress into the air to help ease breathing.
  • Ginger  Traditionally used for its warming action, Ginger essential oil aids digestion, stimulates blood flow and helps relieve nausea, muscular or menstrual pain. Add 2 drops Ginger essential oil with 2 drops Coriander to 2 tablespoons of bubble bath along with a 1⁄2 cup Epsom salt and run into a warm bath to help relieve lethargy, nausea, colds and sickness. When added to a carrier oil or lotion, it can help with joint pain, muscle aches, poor circulation and to disperse bruises. Use in a 2% – 5% dilution for topical use.
  • Geranium The therapeutic properties of Geranium Bourbon essential oil include the being used as an astringent, hemostatic, diuretic, antiseptic, anti-depressant, tonic, antibiotic, anti-spasmodic and as an anti-infectious agent. This uplifting oil has a great all-over balancing effect and this extends to the skin, where it helps to create a balance between oily and dry skin. Use Geranium Bourbon to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of inner peace.
  • Juniper Berry When diluted into the air Juniper oil can be used for the treatment of addictions, nervous tension, over-indulgence of food and to stimulate the nervous system and bolster the spirit. Add 2-4 drops diluted in a tablespoon of bubble bath to a warm bath to help with arthritis, cellulite, nervous tension, cystitis, pain in passing urine, gout, swollen joints, liver problems, muscle fatigue and overweight.
  • Laurel Leaf essential oil has antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and can be used to treat scars, acne pimples, boils and scabies. Use as a tonic to the hair to aid with dandruff and stimulate hair growth. Laurel Leaf Oil has strong effects on the nervous system. Its anti-spasmodic and analgesic properties making it mildly narcotic. Along with its sedative properties, it is used for neuritis, depression, anxiety, fear, and psychosis. Its stimulating and warming properties produce fire and warmth in one’s emotions, bringing awareness, courage, and confidence.
  • Patchouli  For acne, dermatitis, and eczema, add a few drops to a carrier oil or lotion and apply directly to affected area. Use Patchouli as a deodorant or antiperspirant by adding 2-3 drops to a carrier oil and dabbing your underarms. Diffuse Patchouli essential oil into the air to help alleviate anxiety. For athletes foot or fungal infection, add a few drops to a carrier oil and apply to infected area.
  • Roman or German Chamomile – Chamomile Roman essential oil is greatly known to help with insomnia. Use to ease aches and pains in muscles and joints. It is a relaxing oil and is great to help with stress. Diffuse Chamomile Roman essential oil into the air to help with stress, migraines, and depression. Add 1-3 drops each of Chamomile Roman and Chamomile German and 1 drop of Peppermint into a bath or favorite carrier oil to assist muscle aches or arthritis. Chamomile German (Blue) essential oil has calming properties. In research involving teenagers with ADHD, German Chamomile oil had a therapeutic effect. All evidence shows that this essential oil reduces stress. Chamomile German is also an excellent anti-inflammatory and can assist with nasal allergies, cuts, wounds and muscles, tendon and ligament pain. It is one of my favorite oils to dilute in a bubble bath and add to a warm relaxing bath. Add equal amounts of German Chamomile, Roman Chamomile, and Peppermint to your favorite carrier oil and gently massage to ease muscle or joint pain.

As always, direct any questions to our Certified Aromatherapist at [email protected] We welcome questions, comments or concerns. Please check out our Facebook page Safe Essential Oil Recipes.

85 thoughts on “Essential Oils and Auto-immune Disease”

  1. I’ve been using essential oils for years. I was diagnosed with MS around the same time I started using them. I never really noticed an issue until recently. I MUST avoid immune boosting oils that most of you are so desperately seeking. It causes my symptoms to flare up and makes me feel much worse than I already do. Unfortunately, one of my good friends is an MLM believer and tried in the beginning to get me to fall for her crap. I refused to do it right from the beginning. She continues to this day to “treat” her ex-husband’s MS with her MLM oils. We are no longer friends/. There are very few oils I can now use without an immune response. Please be very, very cautious if you have ANY auto-immune disease. The majority of essential oils are immunue boosting so we have to limit ourselves to a very select few.

  2. I have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism! yesterday I bought the Kit KidSafe Wellness (Germ Destroyer, Immune Boom, Snnifle Stopper) all the kit included Palmarosa and Rosalina (the 3 bottles ) I bought it to use with my daughters (8,7and 2), They do not have (yet) the same as me. Now what do I do? Is there any way I can use it, and not be so harmful?. Maybe with a diffuser? This is too too sad. I had so many ideas with these eo (soaps, creams, cleansers, etc), please help.

  3. At the end of the article there is a line that says:

    Does this mean you have to avoid those oils forever?
    No, probably not. Here are a few links that may help explain why using items (be they herbal or otherwise) to “boost” immune function can be counterproductive when dealing with autoimmune disorders.

    But there are no links posted. Help?

    1. Hi Robin, those links were removed to make sure we’re giving our readers the best possible information. We updated the post to remove any confusion.

  4. I’ve recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and a friend warned me about using essential oils with autoimmune disease. This post has helped to clear up some of the confusion. Thank you!

  5. Thyroid AutoImmune here! This is all brand new info to me! Will be adding some to my daily routine to help boost my immune system. Thank you for being there for us!

    1. Hello Carolyn,
      I believe you may have missed the conclusion behind the article. You should AVOID boosting your immune system as this will cause it to further attack your thyroid, making more problems, not fixing them. 🙂 Good luck

  6. Thank you, Plant Therapy, for being a wealth of information on essential oils. I am new to oils and have spent the last year learning about them as well as making many mistakes along the way. It’s a relief to have found a company that encourages their customers to use oils wisely and provides so many resources to help in their journey. As a customer diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, I was so glad to find this blog on oils and auto-immune disease. The list of oils that should not cause issues is especially helpful and the oils that I don’t have are now on my wish list. Thank you!

  7. I love that this company is transparent enough to write a post cautioning the use of an oil even if that means a subset will not purchase it. I am grateful for the information shared in this post

  8. Thank you so much for this article. I would have never thought that certain oils could have made my autoimmune diseases worse. Although it makes sense. I now need to mark the ones that I have that could affect it. Also I have a new list of oils I will need to purchase. Once again Thank you.

  9. Very interesting. I didn’t know certain oils can affect autoimmune diseases. My sister uses oils and has a autoimmune disease. I will pass this info on to her. Thank you for the info.

  10. This post is so interesting and informative. I actually just sent the plant therapy aromatherapist a specific question prompted by this post. Thank you for the educational post!

  11. Thank you so very much for this information. I was diagnosed with MS in 2011. I would have used these oils to help support during the cold and flu season. Having an autoimmune disease you tend to take care to shield yourself against viruses that could present bigger problems if infected. This blog could have saved an unnecessary flare up. Thank you Plant Therapy.

  12. I’m so glad that I’ll saw this blog as my dad has MS. It was very helpful info on what to avoid and what he can use. Thank you!!

  13. This is great information!! My question is what of your body isnt producing antibodies? I have a son who’s autoimmune is from not producing them, not from it attacking him.

  14. Thank you so much for this information!! I have Sjogrens disease and had no idea about this…although it makes sense. Thanks for always looking out for your customers and trying to educate us PT!!! This is why I’m in love ❤️ (And now to go clean out my collection)

    1. Angeline, you are not alone. I have Graves and Hashimotos comorbid, too. It creates a difficult balance.

      Thank you, Plant Therapy, for posting this article!

  15. I’m so glad I happened to stumble onto this article. I have rheumatoid arthritis & had no idea about not using oils to boost my immune system. I didn’t realize about non oily immune boosters either. Really opened my eyes. Thanks for the info!

  16. I bought Laurel Leaf to help with my acne and multiple scalp problems. Can you help to advise me on how i should use it? Should i use it in a shampoo? Do you have recipes that could guide me? I’m still new to using oils and not super confident creating my own blends etc.

  17. Thank you for this informative article. I learned something today. My husband was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism years ago and then hypothryroid months after his surgery. Im new to this oil journey and been using rapid relief on his leg and helichrysum for spider veins everyday after coming home from work. Will have to check if the ingredients from rapid relief is safe for him.

  18. The list of essential oils provided are ones that you can consider using with no (or very little) boost to the immune system… And not the opposite? Clove is then noted to be an immune booster, so want to be sure I’m reading this right.

  19. So would alpecia universalis be considered auto-immune in these regards? And would an individual avoid oil blends such as OnGuard and thieves types for this reason??

    1. Phaedra, we are speaking of autoimmune diseases in general and one should consult your dr,consider the suggestions in this article, and research about this issue, to help sensitive systems keep in balance.

  20. I have never had any issues with autoimmune but 4 years ago I started using essenial oils as I was directed by classes and books. I have since been diagnosed with granuloma annular. Once diagnosed I went to an oil class and was directed to apply increased amounts of oils and have only increased amounts of spots. I was such a believer in my oils I found it so hard to believe they could have actually caused my issue in the first place? Do you have any recommendations for granuloma annular?

    1. Kimberly, if you are experiencing skin issues, you might want to take a break from essential oils to see if that helps clear it up. Check with your Dr to make sure you would be fine using essential oils. Some with autoimmune have to be especially careful not to overstimulate your system with some essential oils. If you get the ok, and all is well to use eos, then I would suggest either of our synergies, Soothe or Skin Soother with a helpful carrier blend, such as our Dermisoothe or Near Perfection.

  21. I’m researching hair growth assistance for my friend who is suffering from Alopecia. From reading many questions and replies, diet can contribute to healing (I don’t know what she had tried yet), but I’m looking for an oil or a combination of some oils in a salve or something to help promote hair growth. Any suggestions?

  22. Wow so much information! Thank you Plant Therapy! I always enjoy reading your posts and learning something from each one. I truly believe if you are interested in essential oils but hesitant about using them, contact their certified aromatherapists because they are always so helpful and I believe they truly do wish to help people not just make money. Any questions I have had they have been very quick to answer and very polite. Please keep these types of posts coming Plant Therapy!

  23. Could you tell me which oils in the immune aid in particular should be avoided? It has Frankincense which I thought was good for everything plus, tea tree, Rosemary, lemon, eucalyptus and sweet orange. I do t see any of this oils listed singularly to avoid. Is it the combination of these oils that make them unsafe with autoimmune disorders? Thanks.

  24. I have MS and have not really limited my use of essential oils and have not seen any adverse affects from using them. If anything they have only helped me.

  25. I’ve been dealing with an autoimmune disorder (IBD) for the last few years and have found that, in moderation, some of the oils like Immune-Aid (my favorite) works ok for me. I’ve also been on a lot of immune suppressent drugs during that time so I felt an extra need to protect myself from picking up germs and sickness from others. So I really like oils that have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Essential oils are not a one-shot cure all… sometimes they help, sometimes not. You really have to pay attention to what your body is telling you, and the less you know, the more you should be working with your dr, naturopath, etc. (Not necessarily always the person selling you the oil!) But really, listen to your body.
    BTW- this comment is not directed at the article. I think it’s great. Just thought sharing my personal experience would be helpful to those asking questions.

    1. I think your approach is exactly right – we all must listen to our bodies and know what will and won’t work. This is going to be different for everyone. Thank you so much for your comment 🙂

  26. Before the lust you say these are ones you CAN use but after the list you say we don’t have to AVOID these forever??? So the list is of SAFE choices or AVOID choices???

    1. The list are ones that have little or no immune enhancing action and should be fine for use with auto-immune concerns. The comment regarding “not having to avoid essential oils forever” was meant in a general sense. If you have had good results with essential oils and deal with an auto-immune issue, this was meant to help educate and give options rather than to scare you off using them !

  27. Oh….I have multiple sclerosis and have been using essential oils for the past year. I don’t use them or the products I put them in every day but I do use them in lotions, creams, body sprays, cleaning solutions and I diffuse them occasionally. Now I feel like I need to stop and that makes me really sad.

    1. As noted in the article, you don’t have to completely cease essential oil use – this was meant to help educate and give some options when choosing to use essential oils. I wish you all the best!

  28. Thanks for your post, my daughter has MS and I would like to be able to read this again. I am not very commuter savvy, what would you suggest I do to be able to find this again?

  29. Thank you for this site!!!! I did do a lot of research, but apparently not enough. I purchased several “so called” calming essential oils. I didn’t have a diffuser at first, so I used the tealight oil burner type. I realize that heating oils can degrade them. My husband was up all night and very agitated and in a terrible mood in the morning after using that method with sage one night and tea tree the next. He has Dementia. I also tried Tranquilty and Serenity or Clarity, with the same negative effects. I finally purchased an expensive, so-called nebulizer diffuser. I used grapfruit oil in it for the first time last night. It didn’t seem to cause too much upset with him, but after my granddaughter sat in my room for a while she seemed to have a coughing attack. The pressure on the diffuser was not high and set for every 15 minutes. I am becoming very disillusioned with the whole EO journey.

  30. I have RA and very much appreciate the list of oils that I CAN use. However, is there a list of what oils I should avoid to keep from inflammation and flare ups?

  31. I have Celiac Disease and from my understand, it is the gluten that fuels the disease, so is it safe to assume that as long as I have eliminated gluten from my environment, then I can use those oils without it triggering a negative immune reaction?

    I currently have Palmarosa and Rosalina in the diffuser because my kids are snotty and coughing 🙁

    1. If you are not currently having an issue with your autoimmune disease, then it’s probably fine to use the essential oils. 🙂 If you have a recurrence of symptoms – then avoid them while your body heals!

      1. Hi Christine, you have addressed every person’s question but mine. I’m thinking you probably missed it 🙂 It’s up above – the 2nd one listed. I would really like to hear what you have to say. Thanks!

      2. Awesome, thanks! I have eaten gluten by mistake in recent months and it never occured to me to avoid certain oils while my body recovered. Completely makes sense though. I would be lost without some of the oils on the “no” list so I’m glad they haven’t affected me!

    2. Just a note, Celiac is an autoimmune disease and potentially an immune stimulant essential oil could increase your cross reactivity to other molecular mimicking foods (ie. corn, yeast, rice, oats, dairy, millet) and even reactivity to gluten in skincare, etc.

  32. Are there any websites where we can read more about how the oils aggregate the autoimmune disorder? You didn’t put any links for where you got this information.

      1. Why are you recommending that last link? It’s on a site that regularly dismisses any alternative treatments as quackery. For example, one article there says “Aromatherapy with essential oils is pseudoscience, backed only with low quality studies guaranteed to show a placebo effect.” The article you recommended is just as dismissive.

        1. Ara, thank you for bringing this up. As this post was written more than 4 years ago, it is entirely possible that the link is now not representative of what it was meant to show, and was likely a personal choice made by the author. While I could not find the article you are referring to, I have decided to remove both the external links as it is hard to predict what those organizations choose to post. Thank you for voicing this concern!

          1. Ara, the links are gone on my end, so I am hoping everything looks good on your end. After going through this blog, it is clear to me that it definitely needs a freshening up! We will look into that and thank you again for your concerns 🙂

  33. This is a great list of oils to use that can help with several different issues. My husband and I love to use eucalyptus and lavender when we need help breathing at nights. Do you know if these oils have an immune stimulating effect?

  34. If I want to boost my immune system to protect myself from getting the flu, what EOs can I use? I have Thyroid disease and fibromyalgia. Thank you!

    1. Hi Kim, my apologies! 🙂 Proper immune function should be mostly diet based, proper rest, stress reduction and exercise. Using herbs to promote proper immune function is helpful as well. Finally, using essential oils to support proper immune function after making sure that the other steps are already in place. Useful essential oils are Laurel Leaf, Cinnamon Leaf or Cajeput. Diffusing these essential oils is really the best way to use them for this purpose.

  35. Awesome post! Thank you! My husband has an autoimmune disease so I have been reluctant and careful when oils around him. I heard frankincense was good for autoimmune diseases. Is this correct?

    1. frankincense , licorice ,mustard seed and Probiotics and they key to cure autoimmune diseases , and it is very important to remove gluten and milk and white sugar , it is not easy but I treated many people this way and everyone of them get totally cured ….

        1. Hypothyroidism is not an autoimmune disease in and of itself. It can be the result of many things outside
          of autoimmunity (ie virus, infection, stress, nutrient deficiency, toxin overload, etc). However, that being said, it is estimated that approximately 95% of hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimotos, which is an autoimmune condition. Same premise applies with hyperthyroidism and Graves disease, which is autoimmune.

        1. Erin, this post was not suggesting essential oils to cure auto-immune disease. We were simply providing a list of some of the essentials oils that are okay to use if you have an auto-immune disease.

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