The Science to Set the Saga Straight…Hormonal Effects and Essential Oils
Last week, I continued in soapbox-style to set the saga straight regarding essential oils and hormonal support. I further debunked the negative claims inferred by the latest study that labeled lavender and tea tree oils as potential endocrine disruptors. I summarized what factors to consider when determining if an essential oil will impact hormonal balance by relating them to several of the pitfalls in this study. Knowing these determinants is applicable to understanding these secondary metabolites’ specific effects and if they apply to human beings and/or oneself.
In the introduction to my next series of articles on “estrogenic” essential oils that highlighted clary sage, I also provided a list of resources for safe use and potential medication interaction information (found here).
The weekend’s oily tip summarized the key findings of my research that demonstrated that clary sage oil has diverse actions, but there is NO evidence that it is estrogenic. I also gave my take-home tips on how to use essential oils for hormonal balance safely. These included:
1. Reviewing the Evidence with a Critical Eye
Don’t be scared by sagas and media hype. Ask yourself these key 3 questions when researching an essential oil and getting frightened by unfounded headlines:
- Was it using essential oils or isolates?
- Was it done in humans?
- Was it following the proper use of the essential oil?
2. Proper and Safe Use
Use this link to learn more on how to use essential oils wisely and safely and about potential medication interactions. Here are some key points:
- use proper dosage and application
- monitor any drugs that need to remain at specific levels
- consider the fact that lab testing has limits, so base your decisions on the whole clinical picture
3. Remembering the Synergism of Essential Oils for Balancing the System
Essential oils act differently than isolated, synthetic compounds in the body. Those of high quality and therapeutic action, when used properly, have an innate intelligence that seems to always promote health.
In the weekend oily tip blog, I also provided my experience of how I use essential oils in my clinic and with my team members. (You can now access a 12-minute video review of all these concepts on YouTube.)
Now, I will provide more clinical studies on clary sage which further support the safe use of essential oils for balancing women in hormonal havoc.
Clary Sage for Mood Support and Stress in Menopause
One small study that included 22 menopausal women in their 50’s examined how inhalation of clary sage would impact changes in neurotransmitter concentrations, cortisol, and thyroid stimulating hormone. The researchers reported those who sniffed clary sage had decreased cortisol levels (the “stress” hormone), increased 5-hydroxytrptamine (the monoamine, serotonin), and alleviated mood. All of these were balancing for the individuals effected.
Aromatherapy and Menstrual Discomfort
In a 2012 study, researchers tested an essential oil blend of lavender (Lavandula officinalis), clary sage (Salvia sclarea), and marjoram (Origanum majorana) in a 2:1:1 ratio diluted in an unscented cream at 3% concentration. The researchers sought to determine this blended cream’s effect on pain relief for menstrual cramps. The subjects massaged the cream on their lower abdomen from the end of one menstruation to the beginning of the next. The author’s concluded:
Aromatic oil massage provided relief for outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea and reduced the duration of menstrual pain in the essential oil group. The blended essential oils contain four key analgesic components that amount to as much as 79.29%; these analgesic constitutes are linalyl acetate, linalool, eucalyptol, and β-caryophyllene. This study suggests that this blended formula can serve as a reference for alternative and complementary medicine on primary dysmenorrhea. (source)
In a preliminary study with high school girls the effectiveness of essential oils for menstrual pain was compared to acetaminophen. According to the authors, “The abdomen was massaged once using clary sage, marjoram, cinnamon, ginger, and geranium in a base of almond oil.”
The article states, “Using multiple regression, aromatherapy massage was found to be more highly associated with reduction in the level of menstrual pain than acetaminophen. These finding suggest that aromatherapy massage may be an effective treatment for menstrual pain in high school girls. However, it could not be verified whether the positive effects derived from the aromatherapy, the massage, or both. Further rigorous studies should be conducted using more objective measures.” (source)
Clary Sage and Labor
Clary sage and chamomile essential oils were evaluated for its efficacy in labor discomfort in midwife care in a study that took place over an eight-year period and included over 8,000 moms. The authors concluded:
The evidence from this study suggests that aromatherapy can be effective in reducing maternal anxiety, fear and/or pain during labour. The use of aromatherapy appeared to facilitate a further reduction in the use of systemic opioids in the study centre, from 6% in 1990 to 0.4% in 1997 (per woman). Aromatherapy is an inexpensive care option.
Three Other activities of Clary Sage
- Clary sage has been found to induce relaxation in female patients undergoing urodynamic assessments for urinary incontinence (ouch!). The clary sage oil used was high in linalyl acetate, at a higher percentage than the lavender oil also assessed in the study. This may have accounted for these two particular oils differing effects, as chemotype and quality are important indicators of constituents and actions of essential oils.
According to the authors, “Inhalation of clary oil vapors resulted in significantly reduced systolic blood pressure compared with inhalation of lavender oil vapors, similar to findings in patients with gingivitis,13 and suggesting that linalyl acetate, the main component of clary oil, directly relaxed vascular smooth muscles and reduced blood pressure.18” (source)
(Note, the main constituent was not sclareol, more about that here.)
- In a rat study, clary sage was found modulate dopamine and have mood elevating properties. (source)
- Clary sage has also been found to be an antioxidant and microbe-inhibiting. (source, source)
I feel that most essential oils influence hormonal balance, but not because they are “estrogenic” or “endocrine disruptors.” It is because they are synergistic and contain many constituents that act in harmony to simultaneously affect the body and brain.
If used safely and responsibly, a blend with clary sage may be helpful to support hormonal issues or symptoms. Be sure to review this weekend’s oily tip to learn more of these reasons and the points above on synergism.
Now, I will continue with my next hormonal oil to review, fennel oil. Click here to read it.
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.
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