11 of the Best Essential Oils for Detox
By Dr. Eric Zielinski


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Everything from the polluted air we breathe to the additives in the foods we eat can introduce a plethora of toxins into our bodies. And, sometimes our immune systems can become overwhelmed which is when toxins cling to the opportunity to settle into our bodies. Thankfully, there are things we can do to enhance our natural detoxification system, and there are even strategies (such as essential oils for detox) that we can implement to keep our immune system working efficiently!

The Importance of Detoxification

Research shows that the human body can easily process and eliminate a normal level of toxic exposure. But the real question is, what’s normal? We put so much junk into our bodies these days, intentionally and unintentionally, that even the healthiest people can be overwhelmed. If left untreated, these toxins can lead to any number of diseases, including cancer, allergies, immune disorders, hormonal imbalance and mental health, which is why doing a regular detox so our bodies can maintain optimal health is a good idea.

Toxins in all shapes and sizes are attacking our bodies on a daily basis. Defined as a foreign substance that leads to disease, they are nearly impossible to avoid. Fortunately, our immune systems are war machines when it comes to battling the toxins that plague our bodies, and thankfully, we have natural substances like essential oils that can help give our bodies the added boost they need to fight off and cleanse our bodies from harmful elements!

3 Ways to Incorporate Essential Oils into Your Detox Protocol

Using essential oils during your next cleansing regimen can be a great way to clear all the junk out of your system, but you should know that detoxing is a way of life, not a one-time thing. Since toxins live in literally everything we come in contact with, we must continually fight to keep our bodies and minds healthy and functioning. It is important to combat free radicals with immune-boosting foods, and to apply antioxidant-rich body care products on our skin. This is where essential oils make all the difference in the world.

Here are 3 ways essential oils can be incorporated into a detox protocol:

1. DIY Topical Application

By making your own health and beauty products, you can protect the skin microbiome, promote cellular detoxification and prevent toxins that would otherwise be in the conventional (chemical-filled) products that you may be using.

2. Daily Aromatic Use

By inhaling antioxidant-rich compounds in essential oils, you’ll be fighting free radical toxicity at the cellular level!

3. Safe, Occasional Internal Use

The jury is still out on whether internal use of essential oils can actually help chelate heavy metals, but safe, diluted ingestion may help for a short period.

A Special Note about Essential Oil Reactions

If you use essential oils correctly, your skin should NOT break out in hives. There are some absurd claims saying inflammation and hives, pain, and other issues are “normal.” This is not true. Nothing that hurts is natural or good for you. This is an important point to remember.

Citral-Containing Oils

The antioxidant capacity of essential oil compounds helps induce detoxification enzymes and is even known to prevent cancer in cell line models, research has shown. The compound citral is the perfect example of this because it can increase the activity of a key phase II detoxification enzyme known as glutathione-S-transferase, and researchers suggest this has a possible role in skin cancer prevention.

The four essential oils with the most citral have the potential to be the most detoxifying agents:

1. Lemon Myrtle – Backhousia citrata (90-98% citral)

2. Lemongrass – Cymbopogon citratus (75-85% citral)

3. Lemon Teatree – Leptospermum citratum (from Australia (80% citral)

4. May Chang – Litsea cubeba (65-74% citral)

Application: Add 5-6 drops of citral-rich oils in your diffuser for an aromatic detox!

5. Lemon

Lemon is a natural go-to when the topic of detoxing with essential oils comes up. Not because of the extensive research done on the subject, but because of the popular lemon detox drinks consumers rave about in the health community. It may seem logical to assume that lemon essential oil is detoxifying because the juice is so powerful, but that is not necessarily the case.

We need to remember that the chemical constituency of the lemon rind (which the oil is made from) and the oil itself are quite different from the juice.

Lemon is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and the peel is useful in detoxifying the liver. According to Indian researchers, hesperidin (a bioflavonoid found in lemon oil) has the ability to do even more by preventing lipopolysaccharide-induced endotoxicity in rats. As noted, “Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a major trigger of septic shock resulting in multiple organ damage through excessive stimulation of the host’s immune cells resulting in the release of cytokines. Previous studies have shown that hesperidin has several beneficial properties against inflammation and oxidative stress.”

Moreover, key enzymes linked to neurodegenerative conditions have been seen to slow down with the introduction of hydrodistilled lemon oil, which is a strong antioxidant as evidenced by its ability to chelate iron.

Application: During your next cleanse add 1 drop of lemon oil to some honey and coconut oil and swallow.

6. Rosemary

As a known iron chelator, rosemary essential oil has been proven to protect DNA. In fact, rosemary outperformed other superstar health and detox essential oils oregano, sage, clove, and thyme, in one study. Here is what the researchers concluded:

“All the essential oils studied were capable of chelating iron, however the rosemary essential oil produced the highest effect (76.06%) in this respect. The oregano essential oil also had the highest antioxidant activity index in the Rancimat test.”

Application: Make a detox, antioxidant blend with cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, orange, and rosemary and then add 1 drop of the blend oil in some honey and coconut oil for use during your next cleanse!

7. Clove

Clove essential oil is another iron chelator, and is arguably the most potent antioxidant available on earth. While researchers are still discovering just how powerful antioxidants are and how important they are to our health, they have known detoxifying agents.

The National Institute on Aging developed a way for us to quantify antioxidant capability in the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) system of measurement. Within the ORAC system, cloves come in as one of the highest valued antioxidants, towering over sorghum, the next on the list, by a difference of more than 50,000. As a concentrated essential oil, there is simply no comparison. However, some sources claim the following:

Disclaimer: once hosted by the USDA website, a peer-reviewed table of ORAC valued peer-reviewed resources is no longer available. The above chart is from BioSource Naturals.

8. Valerian Root

Yet another ferrous iron chelator is valerian root essential oil. Interestingly, research suggests that methanolic extract of Valeriana jatamansi possesses the best chelation activity (76%), whereas aqueous extracts (43%) and essential oil (31%) do not perform as well in clinical studies. However, this in no way means that valerian root essential oil is useless, because 31% chelation is still powerful. It simply means that other non-oil forms can be just as effective.

Application: Diffuse 3 drops valerian, 2 drops vetiver, and 1 drop cedarwood for a calming balancing blend to detox your emotions and spirit from negative feelings and hurt.

9. Mint Family

While ginger mint extract stands out, several mint family oils have proven effects when it comes to detoxing iron, most likely because of ginger mint’s antioxidant capacity. Assumptions can be made that the antioxidant capacity is linked to the principal chemical compound present in each essential oil.

The foremost study in this area says, “The ability to chelate iron (II) species is dependent on the chemical composition of each variety and was more effective with the extract of M. x gentilis L., followed by M. piperita L. We are assuming that the ability to chelate iron (II) species is linked to the principal chemical compound present in each essential oil: M. spicata L. is rich in pulegone (55.49%); M. x gentilis L. in linalyl acetate (45.59%); M. crispa L. in carvone (60.88%); M. piperita L. in l-menthol (32.43%) and M. x piperita L. in l-menthol (42.70%).”3

Application: Diffuse 2 drops each of ginger mint, spearmint, and peppermint for an invigorating energy boost during your next cleanse!

10. Nees & Mart

Nees & Mart is a weed from the family Lamiaceae. It grows in places such as vacant lots and has been used in folklore medicine for treating cough, fatigue, pain, infections, and inflammation. Derived from the species Rhaphiodon echinus (Nees & Mart) Schauer, it is an essential oil with which you are probably not familiar with. Nees & Mart contains significant antimicrobial and antioxidant activities, as well as anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, research studies on echinus have shown.

Research has also uncovered that the essential oil from R. echinus leaf is rich in sesquiterpenes, mainly bicyclogermacrene and trans-caryophyllene. Most recently, scientists have discovered that aqueous and ethanolic extracts of Nees & Mart are rich in polyphenols and is truly a therapeutic oil. The iron (II) chelation potential of Nees & Mart essential oils has also been investigated in vitro.

11. Myrrh

There is little doubt that stress wreaks havoc in our lives. Researchers continue to identify stress as an underlying cause of many illnesses and discomforts. That is why is comes as no shock that a powerful antioxidant could have so many benefits. One of the most powerful of all is Myrrh.

Myrrh emulsion exhibits an antioxidant effect strong enough that it can actually protect the liver – the “detox” organ that is bombarded with toxins every day – from oxidative damage.

Application: Apply a healing, detoxifying ointment over your kidneys and bottoms of feet by adding 3 drops myrrh, 2 drops frankincense, 2 drops spikenard, and 1 drop valerian with 1 ounce coconut oil and 1 tablespoon pure aloe.

Tips on How to Detox with Essential Oils

Safety first. That’s my motto when it comes to handling essential oils for any purpose − including detoxing. That means it is not a great idea to just squeeze a couple drops of essential oils into your water every morning because you saw something on the internet.

Essential oils are powerful. Handle them with extreme care, so firstly ensure you are only using the highest quality organic essential oils.

Here are some effective ways you can start using these powerful detoxifying agents to help you flush all the junk out of your body:

• Follow the application tips above.

• Take a detox bath two to three times a week.

• Try oil pulling with essential oils three to four times a week.

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