Tag Archives: essential oil for indigestion

Black Pepper Oil as a Warming Energizer and Analgesic

Black peppercornsBlack pepper is one of the most ubiquitous spices in the world, and its pungent, slightly spicy flavor is used to bring out the complexity in everything from roast meat to soup to green salads. However, it turns out that black pepper can do more than stimulate the taste buds: black pepper essential oil is also used therapeutically to promote circulation, treat indigestion, relieve chills, and energize the whole body [1].

Although black pepper is now the second most-used seasoning in the world after salt, in ancient times black pepper was a rare and valuable commodity, so much so that it was used as currency in some regions of the world! The black pepper plant (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine with broad, heart-shaped green leaves and clusters of tiny round green fruits. Native to South India, black pepper is now grown in many tropical regions of the world, with the foremost producer being Vietnam. The green fruits, called peppercorns, are processed in different ways to produce black, white, green, and red pepper. The differences depend on how the peppercorns are processed: black pepper comes from peppercorns that have been dried and cooked; green pepper is made from dried, uncooked corns; and white pepper is made from just the seed of the fruit [2]. Black peppercorns are typically ground or powdered into the familiar spice, although they can be purchased whole in many grocery stores.

Black Pepper Oil as a Warming Energizer and Analgesic

Peppercorns change color and texture depending on how they are processed, producing the four different types of pepper.

The history of black pepper truly spans the globe: one of the earliest trade spices, black pepper has been found in preparations used to embalm Egyptian mummies, and there is evidence it was available (though expensive) in ancient Greece. When the Roman Empire established a trade route from Italy to India, black pepper quickly became so in demand that the Roman chronicler Pliny wrote critically about the vast sums of money the empire was spending on the condiment. Rome also gave us the modern word pepper, derived from the Latin piper and related to the Dravidian word for the plant, pippali. Probably due to its spicy, bracing flavor, the word pepper also came to mean spirit, energy, or verve—and in English, this was later shortened to simply, “pep”. Later on, black pepper influenced the course of history as one of the South Asian spices over which European trading powers tried to gain a monopoly, along with nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon.

There’s no denying that black pepper adds life to countless savory dishes, but it was also highly valued as a medicine in Asia and Europe. For one thing, piperine, the compound in black pepper that gives it its “pep”, has also been observed to enhance the body’s absorption of nutrients such as selenium, B vitamins, and beta-carotenes [3]. Not bad for something it takes just a second to sprinkle onto your food!

The therapeutic uses of black pepper essential oil are even more expansive: black pepper oil has thermogenic properties, meaning it raises body temperature and promotes circulation [4]; in a massage, this action makes black pepper oil incredibly useful for easing the pain of arthritis, rheumatism, and sore muscles, as well as reducing chills and feelings of coldness in the hands and feet [4]. Black pepper essential oil is also used to reduce a fever by promoting sweating, to stimulate appetite, and to treat indigestion [5].

Black pepper oil is also emotionally stimulating and energizing; its woody-spicy aroma can be helpful in addressing nervous exhaustion and emotional coldness, and to spur the mind into a more proactive state. Because of its circulatory stimulant action, minute quantities of black pepper oil can also serve as an overlooked yet inexpensive aphrodisiac, especially in a gentle massage.

Despite its spicy reputation, black pepper essential oil is generally non-sensitizing, though it may be irritating to sensitive skin and should always be diluted in a carrier oil before use. Our preferred way to use this warm, woody-spicy oil is to blend minute quantities with other essential oils in specialized blends. Try a spicy-floral combination of black pepper, geranium, lavender, and ylang ylang for an unforgettable exotic perfume, or combine black pepper oil with other energizers such as ginger, bergamot and coriander oil for a scent that will have you leaping out of bed in the morning. With a little experimentation, you’re sure to find your favorite use for this versatile exotic oil!


1. “Black Pepper Essential Oil Profile, Benefits and Uses”. Aromaweb. Accessed May 7th, 2014. http://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/black-pepper-oil.asp.

2. “Black Pepper.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 7th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pepper.

3. Dudhatra GB, SK Mody, MM Awale, HB Patel, CM Modi, A Kumar, DR Kamani, BN Chauhan. 2012. “A comprehensive review on pharmacotherapeutics of herbal bioenhancers”. The Scientific World Journal.  

4. Heep, Alexandra. March 17th, 2010. “Uses of Black Pepper Essential Oil”. http://voices.yahoo.com/uses-black-pepper-essential-oil-5635588.html?cat=5.

5. “Health Benefits of Black Pepper Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed May 7th, 2014. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-black-pepper-essential-oil.html.

Caraway Seed Oil as a Digestive Tonic and Appetite Stimulant

Caraway seeds in a bowlCaraway seeds are best known as the distinctive flavoring agent in rye bread, but their usefulness actually goes much further. Caraway seeds have been with us literally since the Stone Age: archaeologists working in Europe have postively identified caraway seeds in the middens (wastage pits) of pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers [1]. When you consider caraway seed oil’s benefits in stimulating digestion and appetite as well as treating indigestion and gas [2], it’s no wonder our pre-modern ancestors made room for it in their diets.

The caraway plant (Carum carvi) belongs to the same family as the carrot and fennel, with similar thread-like, feathery leaves and white or pink flowers that grow in an umbrella-shaped cluster [3]. It is native to Europe, North Africa and West Asia as far east as India; some scholars have suggested the name caraway dervies from the Sanskrit term for the seeds, caravi.

Caraway seeds—which aren’t actually seeds but achenes, dry crescent-shaped fruits [3]—have been used to flavor various cuisines in ancient Rome, and in Europe and the Middle East since medieval times. Though we usually associate caraway’s sharp licorice flavor with savory dishes, one popular dessert during Muslim Ramadan is sweet caraway seed pudding. Caraway seeds have remained especially popular in Germany, where they’re used to add a sweet-spicy hint to everything from rye bread to meats, aged cheeses, and pickles. There’s even a type of German brandy called Kümmel that is flavored with caraway seeds!

Over time, magical properties and folk beliefs also became attached to caraway seeds: in medieval Germany and other parts of Europe, caraway seeds were used in spells to protect children from harm. Other beliefs held that caraway seeds could be placed with valuables to prevent theft, and that the seeds worked as a charm to prevent lovers from losing interest in one another.

Therapeutically speaking, caraway seed essential oil is primarily used to stimulate appetite and ease digestion, especially when someone is suffering from gas, bloating, or constipation [2]. Caraway seed oil’s antispasmodic action on intestinal cramps and stomach upset make this oil a natural choice at times when overeating or indigestion causes discomfort. Applied topically, caraway seed oil may also be helpful in regulating oily skin [4]. Its sharp, licorice-like scent is thought to relieve mental and emotional fatigue and have expectorant properties [5], making caraway seed oil a great complementary therapy for people suffering the winter doldrums or the aftereffects of a cold. Fans of fennel and anise essential oil’s fruity camphoraceous scent and energizing aura will find a lot to like in caraway seed oil!


1. Bull, HF and E Bull. Some Account of the Blackmore Museum. 1868. Devizes: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.

2. Wong, Cathy, ND. “Caraway – What Should I Know About It?” Altmedicine. Last modified August 2nd, 2013. http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/Caraway.htm.

3. “Caraway”. Wikipedia. Last Modified June 3rd, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caraway.

4. Stratford, Sarah Jane. “Caraway Seeds in Skin Care”. Love to Know: Skincare. Accessed June 9th, 2014. http://skincare.lovetoknow.com/Caraway_Seeds_in_Skin_Care.

5. “Aromatherapy: Caraway (Carum carvi)”. Herbs2000. Accessed June 9th, 2014. http://www.herbs2000.com/aromatherapy/a_caraway.htm.


Coriander Seed Oil Elevates the Senses and Tones Digestion

Whole Coriander SeedsCoriander appears in so many different cuisines that it can be hard to determine where the plant first originated. We know by its Latin name, Coriandrum sativum, that coriander has been cultivated by humans for a long time (sativum means “cultivated” in Latin). The seeds have been found in ancient Greek and Egyptian ruins that are thousands of years old. Coriander seed essential oil  is commonly used today as a appetite stimulant, energizer, and detoxifying oil for the whole body.

An annual herb in the carrot family Apiaceae, coriander is a soft plant with feathery roundish leaves and small pale pink or white flowers that bloom in clusters called umbels. Coriander is native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia. As a testament to its status as an ancient food, preserved coriander seeds have been recovered from the Stone Age level of the Nahal Hemel cave system in Israel; today, coriander seeds, leaves, and even roots are widely used in cooking, especially in Indian, Southeast Asian, and Mexican dishes. In fact, the common English word for coriander leaves, cilantro, is taken from the Spanish word for the plant.

The word coriander most likely comes from the ancient Greek koriadnon. It may be related to the Greek word koris, meaning “stinkbug”, since the Greeks believed that the smell of crushed coriander seeds had a similar pungent aroma! Interestingly, modern studies have suggested that genetic factors are at the root of some people’s dislike for the smell and flavor of coriander when used as a garnish or cooking spice: a minority of people are sensitive to unsaturated aldehydes in coriander, which causes them to perceive an offputting “soapy” smell or taste in coriander leaves and seeds.

However, history attests that most people love the smell and taste of coriander: the ground seeds are used as a spice in classic Indian and Southeast Asian curries, and even added to Belgian beer during fermentation to impart a hint of citrus to the completed brew. The seeds are also used to flavor Chartreuse liqueur, and may be added to rye bread as a substitute for caraway seeds when those aren’t available.

There’s another very good reason why coriander is so popular in cuisines worldwide: coriander seed has beneficial regulatory effects on digestion, and can relieve wind and indigestion [1]. Coriander seed essential oil may be used in massages to address digestive complaints, ease muscle and joint pain [2], and act as a general detoxifier for the body [3]. A warming, uplifting oil, coriander essential oil is also inhaled to stimulate the senses and clear away mental fog; its energizing aroma can banish weakness and fatigue, and may be helpful in treating tension headaches [4]. Blend it with woody or spicy oils such as cypress, cinnamon, ginger, pine, and sandalwood for a truly memorable fragrance that leaves you feeling clearheaded and ready to tackle your day.


1. “Supplements – Coriander Seed”. Whole Health MD. Last modified January 31st, 2012. http://www.wholehealthmd.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=Reference+Library&type=AWHN_Supplements&mod=&mid=&id=D9238582508B46AC904444CA24C434A5&tier=2.

2. “Health Benefits of Coriander Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed June 17th, 2014. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-coriander-essential-oil.html.

3. “The Health Benefits of Cilantro”. Global Healing Center: Natural Health and Organic Living. Last modified May 5th, 2014. http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/health-benefits-of-cilantro/.

4. Victor, David. December 30th, 2009. “Use Herbal Remedies for Headaches”. NaturalNews: Natural Health News and Scientific Discoveries”. http://www.naturalnews.com/027830_headaches_herbal_remedies.html.

Star Anise Oil for Digestive Issues and Stomachache

Star Anise Seed PodsNamed for its distinctive star-shaped seed pod, star anise has been used as a cooking spice and medicine in East and Southeast Asia for hundreds of years, especially in the treatment of digestive disorders such as upset stomach and wind [1]. Star anise essential oil is clear to pale yellow with a strong licorice-like odor reminiscent of anise seed oil, although the two species are not closely related. Its familiar aroma comes from the presence of anethole, a compound with beneficial regulating properties for the digestive system [2].

The star anise (Illicium verum) is a small evergreen tree native to Southwest China and Northeast Vietnam. The genus name Illicium comes from the Latin verb illicio, meaning to entice, because star anise’s sweet-spicy flavor was believed to attract anyone who smelled it. Not surprisingly, star anise seed pods are popular in East, South and Southeast Asian cooking, especially in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Star anise seed pods add dimension to Chinese Five Spice, Indian garam masala and biryani rice, and Vietnamese phò noodle soup. In the West, star anise seeds are often used as a more economical alternative to anise seed for flavoring baked goods and liqueurs such as Anisette.

In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is considered a warming and moving herb that is stimulating to the stomach, spleen, gall bladder and liver [3]. Star anise essential oil and star anise tea were used to treat ailments resulting from blockages in these systems. Star anise seeds were chewed after meals in China and Japan to sweeten the breath and aid digestion, and the tea made from the seeds was sometimes employed against rheumatism. Today, aromatherapists use star anise essential oil in massages to treat indigestion, colic and gas, rheumatism, and menstrual cramps []. Star anise oil may also be diffused and inhaled to treat congestion, persistent coughs, colds and chills, to relieve mental fatigue, and to balance the emotions [4].

Interestingly, traditional and modern medicine also cross paths in the star anise tree: star anise seed pods are the main commercial source of shikimic acid, a precursor of the drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is used to treat influenza [5]. Shikimic acid is extracted from star anise seeds in a 10-stage process that takes a year to complete!

While star anise seeds are safe for human consumption, the seeds of a related species, Illicium anisatum, are toxic: native to Japan, this species contains the neurotoxic compounds anisatin, neoanisatin, and pseudoanisatin, which can also cause inflammation of the kidneys and digestive tract if the seeds are consumed [3]. Illicium anisatum seeds were once burned as a ceremonial incense in Japan, but today it is recommended to avoid using this species in any application. Always buy your star anise essential oil from a reputable vendor that lists the genus and species (Illicium verum) on the label to make sure you are getting a true, verified star anise essential oil.


1. Lawless, Julia. 1995. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Rockport, MA: Element Books, 61-66.

2. Pujar, A. “Pathway: t-anethole biosynthesis”. MetaCyc. Last modified March 3rd, 2010. http://biocyc.org/META/NEW-IMAGE?type=PATHWAY&object=PWY-5867.

3. “Illicium verum– Medicinal Uses” Wikipedia. Last modified June 8th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illicium_verum#Medicinal_uses.

4. Ali, Naheed Shoukat. “Star Anise Perfume Ingredient: Illicium verum“. Fragrantica. Accessed June 17th, 2014. http://www.fragrantica.com/notes/Star-Anise-100.html.

5. Wang, G.W., WT Hu, BK Huang, LP Qin. 2011. “Illicium verum: a review on its botany, traditional use, chemistry, and pharmacology.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 136 (1): 10-20.