Affecting approximately 30,000 Americans, cystic fibrosis is a rare but serious disorder that affects the lungs, gastrointestinal system and more. There are many challenges to staying healthy with this disorder, and we often get asked if essential oils can help.
In this guide, our experts discuss the ins-and-outs of aromatherapy and CF and answer the question, can essential oils help with cystic fibrosis?
What Is Cystic Fibrosis?
Most individuals have thin, slippery mucus and fluids which help lubricate organs such as the lungs and digestive tract, but in individuals with cystic fibrosis, mucus is thicker and more sticky. This is the result of the body being unable to metabolize salt in one’s cells and it can lead to a host of problems. Common symptoms of CF include:
Difficulty gaining weight
Cystic fibrosis is caused by a mutated gene that is passed on from both parents and is thus considered an inherited disease.
At this time, there is currently no cure for CF but there are treatments to improve one’s quality of life. And aromatherapy users may wonder if essential oils can assist.
Due to the severity of this disorder, we suggest consulting with your doctor and an aromatherapist to create an individualized plan for addressing symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Information about essential oils in this article is also not intended for everyone such as children and those in critical condition.
Common concerns for people with cystic fibrosis are that essential oils could make breathing more difficult or worsen CF symptoms.
We recommend consulting with your doctor before using essential oils.
Can Essential Oils Help With Cystic Fibrosis?
While research on essential oils’ effects on cystic fibrosis is limited, the research that is available looks promising.
Scientists from Italy examined Oregano (Origanum vulgare) oil’s action against multi-drug resistant strains of bacteria, commonly found in CF patients. To various extents, Oregano was effective against all strains. The study concluded that Oregano oil may be a potential antimicrobial agent in CF.
A 2020 study on essential oils and bacteria strains common in CF found that Cinnamon Bark and Birch showed strong antibacterial potential against the bacterial strains tested.
It’s important to note that these studies were done on strains of bacteria and aren’t conclusive on whether or not these oils would work on humans or other live organisms. In the future, we hope to see more studies on essential oils and those that are cystic fibrosis patients.
According to doctors at Stanford Medicine, essential oils may be helpful to those with CF–specifically oils with anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties to assist with inflammation of the gut and breaking up sticky mucus.
One of the leading problems individuals with CF face is respiratory problems caused by sticky mucus blocking airways as well as frequent lung infections. Experts suggest that these decongestant essential oils may aid the respiratory system.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus is rich in a compound called 1,8-cineole that can clear respiratory inflammation. Less airway inflammation means less congestion and tightness and more open airways. There’s no wonder why Eucalyptus oil is such a popular additive to chest rubs, cough drops and other cold remedies.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Rich in a natural component called alpha-pinene, Frankincense oil helps to alleviate cough and inflammation when inhaled, especially when paired with other pinene-rich oils like Cypress and Spruce. For this reason, it’s often used for a variety of respiratory conditions. Frankincense oil also helps to soothe the body and mind.
Helichrysum Essential Oil
Not to be confused with the Italicum variety, Helichrysum Gymnocephalum is rich in respiratory supportive 1,8-cineole. Though, when paired with Helichrysum Italicum, this oil can work to both soothe inflammation, open airways and act as a mucolytic.
Thick mucus may block enzymes that help the body digest food, leading to problems in individuals with CF such as cramping, gas, bloating and constipation. While medication may be the best way to move enzymes and aid digestion, these essential oils may be able to help alleviate digestive symptoms.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Few aroma therapeutics are quite as effective at quelling nausea as Peppermint. In fact, Peppermint oil is frequently used as a dietary supplement for irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive problems. When Peppermint essential oil is diffused or used topically, it too can help ease stomach aches.
Ginger Essential Oil
Feeling blocked up and crampy? Ginger essential oil has been used to help soothe an upset stomach for centuries. Ginger essential oil stimulates the digestive system, which increases gastric activity, thus helping to prevent and alleviate constipation.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is rich in antioxidants which help fight inflammation and fortify your digestive system. This helps ease the digestion process and prevent constipation from occurring. A recent study found that abdominal massages using Lemon essential oil helped alleviate constipation.
Staying healthy is one of the top concerns of those with CF, but it’s not always an easy task. These essential oils may be able to help.
A warm blend of Lemon, Cinnamon Leaf, Moroccan Rosemary, Clove Bud, Eucalyptus Globulus and Eucalyptus Radiata, diffusing Fighting Five is like enjoying a warm cup of coffee on a cold day. Each oil in this blend encourages the immune system to perk up and work hard. With powerful active ingredients like Cinnamon Leaf and Clove Bud, Fighting Five is always on defense.
Similar to Fighting Five, Guardian is a rich blend of Orange, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Bark, Cinnamon Leaf, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary. With the addition of Orange and a higher content of Clove Bud and Cinnamon oils, Guardian has a denser and more complex aroma than Fighting Five. It works in the same way as Fighting Five, though higher amounts of Clove and Cinnamon lend this blend to be more aggressive at defending your health.
An invigorating and citrusy blend of Sweet Orange essential oil, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Moroccan Rosemary, Tea Tree oil and Frankincense, Immunity is here to defend and protect your health. With oils of Tea Tree and Frankincense, Immunity provides healing and soothing properties that make this blend a top choice for everyday wellness. Immunity also has a more neutral, earthy aroma unlike Fighting Five and Guardian which have spicy aromas.
Have a question about essential oils and cystic fibrosis? Let us know in the comments or contact our aromatherapists here. We’re always happy to help!
Essential Oil from Origanum vulgare Completely Inhibits the Growth of Multidrug-Resistant Cystic Fibrosis Pathogens. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27534136/
Why Essential Oils in CF? https://med.stanford.edu/content/sm/cfcenter/CFEducationDay/_jcr_content/main/panel_builder_155489393/panel_0/download_1477011813/file.res/Herbs%20and%20Oils%20What’s%20the%20latest.pptx