Boy, am I long-winded. I am still trying to address a question from one of my readers, K.L., about how to use aromatherapy to balance hormones. Last time, I talked about all the different ways to apply essential oils – both topically and internally – and today, I want to talk a little bit about what I would suggest for her specific issue of balancing hormones. For the sake of convenience, let me re-paste her question:
Do you…have any information on essential oils and hormones? Specifically, I am wanting to know the best way to use them. Topically? Internally? Strictly aromatherapy? I can find all sorts of information on what oils are best for hormone balancing, but not much about the best delivery method. – K.L.
First of all, I will say that until recently, I haven’t come across much in the scientific literature that connects essential oils to hormone balancing. There are many essential oils that are suggested for PMS blends in the aromatherapeutic literature – Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) are the two most prominent essential oils I came across in “hormone-balancing blends” or “PMS/menopausal blends,” but if you try to find some supporting studies for these, you don’t get THAT many. Most of the studies on Geranium are about its antibacterial activity or its chemical components. I found two studies on Clary Sage that were promising for their positive effects on dysmenorrhea, or severe menstrual pain, which suggest that Clary Sage might be useful for hormone-balancing. They are here and here, if you want to check them out. Personally, I love Clary Sage and swear by it: I have myself experienced, 10 times out of 10, that when I rub a blend of 5 drops Clary Sage and 5 drops Marjoram (Origanum majorana) in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil on my lower abdomen, any PMS cramps fade away within a matter of minutes.
The other night, however, while reading Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt’s book, “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils,” I got super-excited about a paragraph on page 86 that he wrote on Vitex (Vitex agnus castus) essential oil (also known as the Chaste tree):
Essential oil of Vitex agnus castus is today used…as a highly effective and safe agent to equilibrate progesterone and estrogen levels, significantly easing PMS and menopausal complaints.
He is basing this on a paper presented by Barbara Lucks at a 2000 conference on Aromatherapy, which I cannot find on-line. However, I found a monograph on an Australian site about Vitex that seem especially well-researched and also a webpage where it appears that Barbara Lucks herself wrote up some information on her Vitex research. On page 129 of his book, Dr. Schnaubelt goes on to say that “a single drop [of Vitex] applied to wrists or temples will provide the hormonal rebalancing effect of this plant.” I thought, Eureka! I have the answer to my reader’s question. I found an oil that helps address hormonal imbalances!
Err, not so fast. I was so interested in purchasing this seeming panacea for myself when I realized: where the heck do you BUY Vitex essential oil? I tried all my favorite usual haunts, including The Apothecary Shoppe at my school, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Floracopeia. Nothing. Zip. Nada. So then I figured I’d see if there were any sites associated with Dr. Schnaubelt, since he was the horse’s mouth, in this case, and I thought I’d look there for a gift. Sure enough, there is a site called “Original Swiss Aromatics” that he and another aromatherapist run, and they carry Vitex, and yours truly has just bought herself a bottle. We shall see what happens.
I think I’ve answered this question, but if not, let me recap:
- From personal experience, applying Clary Sage and Marjoram to the lower abdomen is great for menstrual cramping and probably also therefore has some benefit for hormonal balancing. My personal blend is 5 drops of each in 1 tablespoon of carrier. I would suggest this route if you’re looking for something safe and easily found at health food stores/supermarkets.
- From a recent book by Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, it sounds like Vitex essential oil – one drop applied to the wrist or temple – will do wonders for hormonal balancing. Later in the book, he also suggest taking a drop of Vitex in a glass of water. I am about to guinea pig this essential oil myself.
- The third part of your question is about whether Aromatherapy is the ONLY way to achieve the benefits of hormonal balancing, and my answer is NO. There are also herbs that help in this regard. But I am already too verbose again in this blog post, so let me defer that to another future post, “Herbs for Hormone Balancing.”