Despite thousands of years of historical use, decades of modern research, and thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies describing the benefits of essential oil, understanding the most effective methods of application (particularly internal use) and the amount needed to achieve these benefits to experience itself still in the early stages. The FDA does not classify essential oils as “drugs”, but because of their effects on the body, to develop effective utility models, we must use the same framework that is used to research drugs: pharmacological research. dr. Cody Beaumont PhD, Sr. Director, Research and Quality Control, discussed some of the early findings of doTERRA's groundbreaking pharmacology research.
The two branches of pharmacological research
There are two main branches of pharmacological study. Simply put, pharmacokinetics is the study of how an organism (in the case of doTERRA's studies, a human) affects a substance. Pharmacodynamics is the study of how a substance affects an organism. Like dr. Beaumont says, “pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) are like anatomy and physiology or quality assurance and control; you cannot really know one without the other.” In pharmacological research, we mainly look at how a substance (essential oils) mimics or influences normal physiological (normal human function) or pathological (related to a disease state) processes. This generally concerns seven specific actions: stimulating the effect, the depressant effect, the blocking or antagonizing effect, stabilizing an effect, exchanging/replacing or storing substances as a reserve, directing beneficial chemical reactions or directing harmful chemical reactions.
Pharmacology Research at doTERRA
The study design of the pharmacological work performed at doTERRA is simple and standardized, yet groundbreaking, as it has never been conducted with essential oils. The participants in the study are given a certain dose (for internal use), then blood samples are taken at specific times and analyzed for three measurements:
Cmax: The highest concentration of the substance in the blood within a given area of the body after administration and before a second dose.
Cmin: The lowest concentration of the substance in the blood within a specified area of the body after administration and before a second dose.
Half-life: The time it takes to reduce the concentration of the substance in the blood by half.
During the preparation of the agreement, data collection for three substances containing essential oils was completed: Turmeric, Copaiba Softgels, and a 300mg Lavender Capsule. The combination of turmeric essential oil and turmeric extract proved to be a valid answer to the biggest problem with most turmeric extract supplements: high bioavailability without the toxicity risk. We also found that complete absorption of Copaiba Softgels take place within two hours. With the Lavender capsule, the dominant ingredient, linalool, achieved a shockingly rapid elimination, with a half-life of one hour.
What does this mean for me?
With a better understanding of the concentration (max and min) and half-life of the active therapeutics or compounds of interest, doTERRA can more accurately evaluate dosage. With the half-life data, we can determine the dosing interval to maintain the desired effects in the most effective way. Once we know the pharmacokinetic parameters of a compound, we can tailor the benefits specifically to the needs of everyone using the essential oil. And this information is not only valuable for people who use essential oils at home, but also provides a basis of evidence for use in a clinical setting. With this information available to physicians, they can feel comfortable using essential oils as a supplement or even an alternative to current treatments, knowing that they have undergone the same scientific evaluation to determine efficacy and safety.
The future of essential oils
The next step is to continue collecting data, collecting this pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data for more essential oils and for the individual compounds that make up essential oils. Then a series of publications that will enable the scientific and medical community to evaluate and share the findings. This powerful research will change the way essential oils are experienced, used and viewed and will enable doTERRA to develop evidence-based usage models and continue to deliver the most effective essential oils on the market.