Essential Oils Synergy and Medications: Part I

Listen to this blog in about 7 minutes below.


Listen to Part II in about 5 minutes below.


Last week, I started my discussion on the final of the three factors to consider when choosing an essential oil for mood support and/or general wellness. Having knowledge of these concepts combined with the science of our beloved secondary metabolites, provides you with empowering insight on how to select the perfect essential oil for your body’s unique biochemistry, needs, and health state.

To review, these three important aspects include:

  • The complexity and multifactorial actions of essential oils (i.e., biological versatility and mind-body effects)
  • Essential oils individualized properties and epigenetic impact (i.e., how our lifestyle and biochemical differences alter how essential oils behave in our bodies)
  • The concept of synergy, the present focus

What started out as a simple list, has become a typical Dr. Sarah biochemical and mind-body explosion of nitty gritty details. First, I provided an overview of all of these considerations a few weekends back which you can read here. I also released a more detailed summary of the first two factors last weekend.

The topic of synergism is my favorite. It explores why an essential oil is more than just the compounds found within it. Furthermore, essential oils synergy doesn’t stop within the oil itself. It also occurs with a carrier oil or the product used with it and when single oils are combined. This is why deeming the actions of an essential oil based on one or a few of its main isolates is not scientific. (My articles on hormonal harmony point out the many reasons for these research mistakes.)

Last weekend, I  gave an example of  how to apply this concept of synergy to fully embrace a healthy summer by using select essential oils. You can watch the video and/or read the article here.

Now, I will dive into the final characteristics of synergism and essential oils. These include:

  • essential oils in combination with medications- three main points that highlight the power of synergism.
  • essential oils synergism based on manufacturing
  • essential oils synergy within your body

I will start with the first two points of essential oils synergy with medications in this article.



Essential Oils Synergism Versus Medications: Three Main Points

Antibiotics and Oils

Due to their many beneficial actions, essential oils have been studied to see how they would augment certain medications. Although clinical trials are lacking, many in vitro and several in vivo experiments demonstrate their ability to enhance drug efficacy. Essential oils also have promise for alleviating the urgent threat of antibiotic resistance, (source, source, source, source, source, source) which I previously discussed in several blogs that you can read here and here.

In a 2014 article titled, “Essential Oils, A New Horizon in Combating Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance,” the authors beautifully outline three main points regarding the concept of essential oil synergism with antibiotics.

First, the authors explain that essential oils’ versatile properties make them a novel approach for a “drug compound,” as essential oils would have more than one therapeutic effect due to their many biological impacts. This contrasts a drug’s mechanism which is skewed to act on one pathway in the body. This is its “main effect” or indicated use, but results in many accompanying side effects. The authors state:

Various essential oils have been reviewed to possess different biological properties such as anti-inflammatory, sedative, digestive, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant as well as cytotoxic activities [20, 27]. These findings highlight an exciting scientific interest whereby essential oils warrant special attention because they represent a distinctive group of possible novel drug compounds due to their chemical and structural variance that makes them functionally versatile.

If you want a great article that explores not only the microbe-inhibiting of essential oils, but their other simultaneous benefits and synergistic effects, this review provides an excellent overview! Although it is focused on dentistry, it highlights the effect of an oil beyond the body and how they can be incorporated for holistic care. For example, lavender could be used for calming, while potentially impacting microbes beneficially in the oral region. (source)

Next, the authors explain that using the essential oil versus the isolate may be more potent for acting on microbes:

Due to their chemical diversity, the ongoing hypothesis is whether their biological effects are reflected only in the main molecules at the highest levels according to the compositional analysis or that these biological effects arise from the synergism of all molecules present. In most cases reviewed, only the main constituents of certain essential oils such eugenol, thymol and carvacrol were analyzed [28, 29]. Several reports have demonstrated that these compounds exhibited significant antimicrobial activities when tested individually [26, 30]. Dorman and Deans (2000) demonstrated that the individual oil components (mainly with phenolic structures) were able to exhibit a wide spectrum of antibacterial activity and that the chemical structures greatly affect the components effectiveness and their mode of antibacterial action [31]. Bassole et al. (2010) pointed out the synergistic effects on the growth inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes, Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in eugenol/linalool and eugenol/menthol combinations [32]. Although the biological properties of essential oils are found to be closely related with the major components of the oils, the amplitude of their effects could be attributed to their high concentration comprised in the original oil, masking the effects of minor components or when the high concentration components were isolated and tested alone. Thus, interactive functions of the various components contained in an essential oil, in comparison to the action of one or two main components of the oil seem unresolved. The other side of the coin is that whole essential oils exert greater antibacterial activity compared to the major components alone [27]. It has also been postulated that the function of the main components is regulated by other minor molecules which help in potentiating synergistic effect [32]. (source)

This concept of synergism with essential oils and how this differs than antibiotics and other medications further proves they are balancing to the body and can’t be understood based on the action of one constituent alone. Furthermore, they can impact and enhance medication effects.

Next, I go into the third main point about essential oils and medications. Click here to read it and how this concept provides evidence that essential oils can offer support for many of your wellness regimes.



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This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

Thanks Pixabay and iStock purchases.