Plant Power

Botanical Research Indicates Essential Oils Reduce the Toxic Load

Our bodies are designed to process naturally occurring toxins, but the toxic load that comes with modern lifestyles goes far beyond what human physiology is capable of handling, says Tracey Tief, a natural health practitioner with the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. “Since the advent of the 20th century, we have been increasingly bombarded with new toxins from denatured foods and drinks; the regular use of intoxicants such as alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana; pesticides, herbicides and petroleum byproducts; and air and water pollutants,” 

Epidemiological research suggests that exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, solvents and air pollutants can be associated with an increased prevalence of asthma and allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, asthma diagnoses have been increasing since the early 1980s, affecting 1 in 15 Americans by 2004.

Our exposure to toxins shows up in other ways too. Tief says the body lets us know when it needs extra help to detoxify, such as fatigue; constipation; gas; bad breath; low immunity; hormone imbalances; menstrual, menopausal and fertility problems; skin problems; poor circulation; mood swings; depression; frequent infections and mucus buildup. 

While healthy eating habits, fitness and hydration are all important for eliminating toxins, medical research has shown that essential oils specifically assist with detoxification because they affect the biochemistry of our cells. 

A preclinical study published in May 2015 indicated that an ingredient in Cinnamon Bark essential oil works as an “activator” to unleash latent antioxidant activity in colon cells, says Kevin J. Jenson of the Nevada Center for Bioinformatics. “The colon is a prime target for toxic insult,” he notes. 

Some environmental toxins, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), imitate the action of steroid hormones and are known to promote endocrine and reproductive disorders in animals and humans. They interfere with the synthesis of cytokines, immunoglobulins and inflammatory mediators, and they also affect the activation and survival of immune cells.

Research has shown that certain components in essential oils, such as citral, have antioxidant properties that prevent toxicity. Found in essential oil blends such as Lemon Myrtle and Lemongrass, citral increases the activity of a key phase II detoxification enzyme known as glutathione-S-transferase. 

Rosemary, among the most researched and promising detoxification oils, is a known iron chelator that has been proven to protect the DNA structure, according to a study published in PubMed.

Clove essential oil has been identified by the National Institute on Aging as one of the most potent antioxidants (detoxifying agents) on the planet. The institute developed a way to quantify antioxidant capability with the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity system of measurement. According to the ORAC system, cloves rank among the most highly valued antioxidants compared to other herbs and foods.

Myrrh emulsion also exhibits a powerful antioxidant effect, strong enough to protect the liver—the “detox” organ that is bombarded with toxins every day—from oxidative damage, according to a lead toxicology study published in a British journal.

Additional detoxification aids include the following:

Peppermint cleanses the lymphatic system, helps the body drop extra weight and stimulates sluggish digestion. It also supports the gallbladder and eases inflammation.

Juniper Berry helps the body shed toxic waste, improves elimination and supports liver function.

Ginger is a well-known stomach soother often used to aid digestion and eliminate motion sickness and nausea.

Diana Pereira is a local educator on the uses and properties of essential oils. She will teach a detoxification workshop January 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Navarre Living Yoga. For more information about detoxification or essential oils, contact her at 850-499-3670,, or

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