Aromatherapy, or the use of naturally derived aromatic oils from various plants as a health and wellness aid, is another tack to try.
“Studies have shown that ingredients in essential oils used in aromatherapy may have anti-inflammatory or analgesic [pain-relieving] properties, and some may help boost your mood and energy,” says Hallie Armstrong, ND, a naturopathic physician at Beaumont Health in West Bloomfield, Illinois. “It may be that these properties can help you manage symptoms, like pain and fatigue, that come with UC.”
There is research to support the effectiveness of aromatherapy in treating a range of medical conditions. A review published in August 2015 in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine found that essential oils extracted from plant parts can effectively reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms of indigestion, and treat skin infections, among other benefits.
Most essential oils should not be ingested. Instead, you can try adding a few drops of an essential oil to a neutral carrier oil, such as jojoba, and massaging that into your stomach. Or you can pour the oil into an aromatherapy diffuser to enhance well-being through inhalation of essential oils.
Here are some essential oils you can try using to relieve symptoms of UC:
Patchouli Used as a medicinal aid in Eastern cultures for centuries, patchouli oil may be helpful for ulcerative colitis sufferers. A study published in July 2017 in the journal Pharmacological Research found that mice with induced colitis that were given patchouli (in the form of patchouli alcohol) had better repair of their intestines than those treated with an anti-inflammatory drug.
Peppermint Oil This aromatic oil helps with general digestive symptoms, mostly because it has anti-spasmodic (soothing) properties. It can also ease complaints like gas and bloating, says Dr. Armstrong. Peppermint can be sold as oil or as a supplement that you take orally. If using peppermint as a supplement, Armstrong says to be sure you choose enteric-coated capsules for best absorption.
Basil Oil The essential oil derived from this delicious herb acts as a carminative, which means it can help ease gastric upset, potentially by calming intestinal spasms. Eating basil leaves or making basil tea may also have stomach-soothing benefits.
Turmeric Oil You may know and use this spice, often enjoyed in Indian dishes, but turmeric can also be used as an essential oil. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, a key factor in ulcerative colitis. A report published in September 2011 in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology found that oil of turmeric offers significant anti-inflammatory properties.
Finally, notes Armstrong, be sure the oil you buy is pure. To find out, “release a drop on a white piece of paper. After it evaporates, a pure oil won’t leave a stain.” Also, she adds, don’t stop taking medication, and tell your doctor about any essential oils or supplements you may try.
Any alternative therapy is a complementary therapy, which means that it should work alongside your conventional treatment. Check with your doctor before trying any alternative therapy, including aromatherapy, says Armstrong.