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Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Diabetes

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy for Diabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.3% of the population in the United States has diabetes, and the percentage is predicted to increase dramatically. Of those that have diabetes, 27% of these individuals aren't even aware that they have this life-threatening disease. ["Diabetes - At a Glance" CDC.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web: Accessed 23 June 2013.]

The statistics on the CDC's site are alarming and indicative of a growing diabetes epidemic in the United States and throughout the world.

Effectively stabilizing and controlling blood sugar levels as closely to "normal" is a key goal to ensure the minimization of diabetic complications like diabetic peripheral neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy/blindness, heart attack and kidney failure.

According to a number of online sources and books, the misinformation given to diabetics by well-intentioned doctors and diabetes associations may contribute to diabetic complications --even when diabetics are doing their best to follow the medical advice they are given by their doctors and health practitioners.

It's no wonder that a number of diabetics and pre-diabetics are frightened, discouraged and outraged and are considering holistic aromatherapy as a possibility. Diabetes routinely ask me (a) if there are essential oils or holistic aromatherapy practices that are beneficial to pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals, (b) if there are essential oils that can raise or lower blood sugar levels to unsafe levels and (c) if there are any essential oils that can help stabilize their blood glucose levels.

I'll answer these questions below...

Are There Holistic Aromatherapy Practices That May Be
Beneficial to Pre-Diabetic and Diabetic Individuals?

Although there are no studies available to me that reliably indicate that essential oils directly impact blood sugar levels when used externally in ratios generally regarded as safe (see below for more on that), there are a number of holistic aromatherapy practices that may indirectly benefit diabetics.

Calming Essential Oils May Help Reduce the Stress that Can
Raise Blood Glucose Levels

A number of Web sites, books and diabetics report that blood glucose levels can increase in diabetics when their stress level rises. The following blends may help diabetics to de-stress:

Foot Baths and Massage with Appropriate Essential Oils May Help
Improve Circulation and May Reduce the Impact of Diabetic
Peripheral Neuropathy Pain

One of the complications of uncontrolled diabetes is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, a painful and serious condition, if left untreated, resulting from progressive nerve damage. Feet, especially the toes are often the first areas to become noticeably affected by the symptoms of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy.

The use of essential oils cannot cure neuropathy, but in combination with circulation-improving methods like massage and foot baths, essential oils that are said to improve circulation may prove helpful. Although AromaWeb's Aromatherapy for Massage article was not written with Diabetes or Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy in mind, diabetics many find some information within this article to be of help.

Energizing and Uplifting Essential Oils May Help Diabetics Who Incorporate Regular Fitness to Help Control Blood Glucose Levels

It is a misconception to believe that all diabetics are overweight or obese, or that obesity causes diabetes. However, weight loss and exercise are strongly encouraged as a method to help manage blood glucose levels.

Although essential oils do not directly promote weight loss, they can be uplifting and help provide the emotional support needed to maintain the energy and motivation for weight loss and ongoing fitness.

Please Note: Both of the links shown above suggest Rosemary Essential Oil. There is a remote chance that Rosemary Essential Oil could be contraindicated with those that have diabetes (see below).

Are There Essential Oils That May Be Harmful to Diabetics?

I have not personally found any reliable studies that indicate that particular essential oils, when used topically at dosages generally regarded as safe, are harmful to diabetics. However, Jane Buckle does cite a study in which Rosemary Essential Oil, specifically Rosmarinum officinalis, caused a rise in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) in rabbits "with artificially induced diabetes." Buckle cites this as the source: Al-Hander A, Hasan Z. 1994. Hyperglycemic and insulin release inhibitory effects of Rosmarinus officinalis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 43(3) 217-211. [Jane Buckle, Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Practice (Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone, 2003), 300-301.]

Are There Particular Essential Oils that May Help Stabilize Blood Glucose Levels?

Very little research or anecdotal evidence provided by reliable sources is available regarding specific essential oils that may help to stabilize blood glucose levels.

Because the internal use of essential oils is especially risky for those with minimal formal training in holistic aromatherapy, AromaWeb does not discuss or promote the internal use of essential oils. It's too easy for the general public (especially for those that only have a modest grasp of English) to misread or misunderstand important precautions, so I do not promote internal use of essential oils.

My inclination is to strongly recommend that diabetics absolutely refrain from any internal use of essential oils without being under the direct care of a qualified aromatherapy or holistic practitioner.

There are few reputable sources that mention specific essential oils for diabetes. Below is a list of the essential oils mentioned as potentially useful by diabetics. I am citing only authors that have a respected reputation for their contributions and knowledge about aromatherapy. However, please use this list for informational purposes only. I could not find supportive studies, methods of administration or an indication of the specific benefit each oil is supposed to offer diabetics (i.e. blood glucose level stabilization?).

Clary Sage

Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.


Jean Valnet, MD, The Practice of Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1990), 202.
Robert Tisserand, The Art of Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1977), 218, 299.
Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.


Internal use specified: Jean Valnet, MD, The Practice of Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1990), 133.
Robert Tisserand, The Art of Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1977), 231, 299.
Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.

Juniper Berry

Valnet's comment may actually be about ingestion of the berry, not use of the essential oil. Jean Valnet, MD, The Practice of Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1990), 87.
Robert Tisserand, The Art of Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1977), 240, 299.
Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.


Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.


Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.

Thyme (Red and Sweet)

Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.


Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.

Ylang Ylang

Shirley Price, The Aromatherapy Workbook (London: Thorsons, 1993), 270.

For Further Information

It goes beyond the scope of this article to detail the differences between the classifications of diabetes. Even though there are only four primary categories of diabetes (Type I, Type II, and I am including Type 1.5 and Pre-Diabetes), diabetes can affect individuals within the same category differently. Stimulants like caffeine can cause blood glucose spikes for some Type II individuals and not impact blood glucose levels in other Type IIs (and so on).

Doctors are not always able to provide thorough dietary and blood glucose control recommendations to their patients because it diabetes is such a complicated disease. And sadly, some doctors lack full understanding of diabetes.

For that reason, it is highly beneficial for diabetics to play an active role in the management of their diabetes by reading, researching and networking with others that have diabetes. These activities can dramatically help diabetics understand this complex disease and learn important information that can help them better maintain control of their blood glucose levels and thus reduce the chance of diabetic complications.

Online Diabetes Forums

Online diabetes forums and communities are an excellent way to connect with other diabetics. Such communities provide empathetic encouragement, support and guidance for all diabetics from the newly diagnosed to those that have been dealing with Type I or Type II diabetes for decades, and everyone in between. Online communities also provide support for pre-diabetics and Type 1.5 diabetics.

Here are two forums that are considered to be the best of the best:

Books About Diabetes

While there are no books that specifically cover holistic aromatherapy for diabetics, the two books mentioned below come highly recommended for understanding diabetes and managing blood glucose levels.

The forums mentioned above are an excellent source for obtaining book recommendations for other books about pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Book Image

Blood Sugar 101: What They Don't Tell You About Diabetes

Author: Jenny Ruhl
ISBN: 0964711613 / 978-0964711617
Summary: Normally I'm not a fan of books that have hyped-up names, but this book is an exception. In taking a good look at this book, it is written by diabetic that has conducted extensive research into diabetes. She shares that research and her experiences as a Type II diabetic who has achieved excellent control of her blood glucose levels. It's very enlightening and comes highly recommended.

Book Image

The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed

Author: Gretchen Becker
ISBN: 1569242658 / 978-1569242650
Summary: "A patient-expert walks you through everything you need to learn and do."

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