In a series of articles, I explored the connection between hormones and mood. This link between emotional and hormonal harmony is not only reciprocal, but many of the factors which impact them are also shared. Although this makes their interactions complex and far-reaching, it also demonstrates the connectivity between all the systems of the body. When a naturopathic and functional medicine doctor holistically addresses nervous system or sex steroid signaling issues, achieving balance with one will also benefit the other, and the whole body. This is because integrative medicine not only address symptoms, but also their contributing and underlying conditions.
This post is the second part of a summary on supporting mood and hormones with essential oils. The first highlighted oils to use to support emotions and mental health. In this article, I will address using them to promote hormonal wellness. Specifically, I will highlight various essential oils that have been shown to influence the hormonal-brain axis and the research on their effects on estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormones, oxytocin, and cortisol.
Due to the hormone-mood association, the impact of these oils will also benefit emotional health and many other wellness aspects. It is my hope these reviews will help you to integrate all the information in a simplified, applicable way that will allow you to cope with today’s uncertainty with more resilience, well-being, and calmness.
The Hormonal-Stress Brain Axis, Estrogen, and Essential Oils
Essential oils’ effects on the hormonal-stress-brain axis are due to their aromatic and bioactive properties. With one sniff, their odor can instantaneously change mood as their chemical constituents modulate molecular pathways that result in easing tension, balancing biochemistry, and soothing the mind. This makes them the perfect intervention to concurrently impact hormones and mood.
Below are some excerpts from the research that explore how essential oils accomplish this hormonal and stress modulation in an all-inclusive way.
- One small study with twenty-two menopausal women in their fifties found that clary sage oil inhalation decreased cortisol, increased 5-hydroxytrptamine (the monoamine, serotonin), and elevated mood.
- In a randomized study of sixty-three healthy postmenopausal women, researchers reported that inhaling the essential oil of neroli had positive effects on menopausal symptoms, stress, and estrogen levels.
- Another small study evaluated ten essential oils (clary sage, frankincense, geranium, lavender, jasmine absolute, neroli, rose otto, ylang ylang, orange, and roman chamomile) and their impact on salivary estrogen levels. Researchers reported that there was an “increase of salivary estrogen concentration induced by exposure to geranium and rose otto compared to control odor.” *
*It is important to note that this study’s participants were postmenopausal women. Their levels of estrogen were most likely already decreasing. Essential oils modulate estrogen levels to what the body needs. This is a different mode of action than estrogen replacement or “estrogenic” compounds. (See more below.)
Essential Oils for Balancing Cortisol, Estrogen, and Progesterone
By changing the balance of cortisol, the major “stress hormone,” to optimal levels, the sex hormones of estrogen and progesterone will be affected favorably. Some of my favorite oils for supporting healthy cortisol levels include lavender, bergamot, rose, citrus oils, clary sage, neroli, and jasmine. For an overview on how cortisol impacts the brain and body, please refer to my preceding essential oils’ series. (Part 1, Part 2)
The Hormone-Heart-Brain Connection
A full list of references on using essential oils to decrease stress which impacts the heart, brain, and hormonal response can be found here.
A well-known oil for its calming effect on the heart-brain-hormonal connection is ylang ylang. It has a traditional historical use as an aphrodisiac and clinical evidence for its calming properties on the mind as it soothes the heart and whole body.
Essential Oils for Thyroid Health
In a previous post I detailed which essential oils I consider when I am supporting someone with a thyroid imbalance. To accomplish this, I arranged this blog in categories of what I often see as “top offenders” to thyroid and hormonal balance. Within every section, I have provided examples and/or links to which essential oils I reach for in each instance. Click here to read more.
Essential Oils to Support Testosterone
The evidence for changing testosterone levels with essential oils is scarce. There have been a few case studies which reported on the benefits of using blue spruce oil and balsam fir oil for increasing testosterone levels in males, which was associated with fertility and libido. These reports can be found here.
There are also indirect actions of certain essential oils (sandalwood, clary sage, and rose) that may be helpful to support healthy testosterone ouput.
What about for women? According to one review on the therapeutic effects of rose oil, the authors reported on a study that implicated it caused a decrease in both testosterone and cortisol in female college students. This may indicate that rose was balancing stress and androgen levels in overwhelmed students.
Essential Oils for Oxytocin
Oxytocin, aka, the “bonding” hormone, has been studied for its role in social attachment, maternal bonding, lactation, and induction of labor. This neuropeptide is also being evaluated for its effect on mood, psychological issues, addictions, relationship health, social behavioral patterns, and trust. I highlight a few studies that evaluated the use of oils for modulating oxytocin’s effects below.
One small study with eleven pregnant women found that inhaling diluted clary sage oil modulated oxytocin levels in select subjects. All participants also experienced a decrease in cortisol. The method of delivery and dilution could have altered outcomes less favorably, and it would be interesting to see what results would be achieved by a more effective application.
In another small study with fifteen postmenopausal woman, ten essential oils were evaluated for their impact on oxytocin. The experiment consisted of 20 minutes using a control and 20 minutes of one oil exposure to each individual per day. Saliva was collected before and after the control and experiment conditions. The authors concluded: “salivary oxytocin concentrations increased significantly more after exposure to lavender, neroli, jasmine absolute, roman chamomile, clary sage, and Indian sandalwood than after exposure to the control odor.”
Finally, constituents in fennel have also been studied for balancing hormones and assisting with lactation. This may be through modulation of oxytocin.
Essential Oil Safety for Hormones
Thankfully, essential oils’ ability to modulate hormones and estrogen are NOT because they are estrogenic. Unfortunately, researchers that have isolated a compound from an essential oil, in high doses, in order to study its mechanisms in petri dishes has led to this misconception. (source, source, source)
I have previously written about ten factors from my articles that I felt were imperative to consider with any study to determine if it is applicable to human beings in general, and to you. Please skim through it so you won’t get bamboozled by hype and media headlines on essential oils and will be better able to determine when a true safety issue is present.
It is also important to realize that essential oils are not inert, must be used appropriately, and be of high quality. I have several articles on safe, effective usage and determining quality in my essential oils database.
To summarize, each essential oil has different properties but will generally result in bringing the body and mind back into balance. When working with clients, I select an oil based on their particular situation.
For example, clary sage is ideal for a menopausal woman struggling with symptoms of low serotonin, high cortisol, and mood issues. Neroli can provide a positive impact on menopausal symptoms, stress, and estrogen levels. Rose and geranium can also be helpful to modulate factors that can cause low estrogen levels.
Finally, ylang ylang is my go-to oil for women and men who have cortisol imbalances and strain on their heart and high blood pressure due to emotional and physical stressors. It can assist in easing their mind and can allow the body to recover from overwhelm, which impacts hormonal levels.
I hope this information was useful and that you will consider, with your health provider, to incorporate essential oils into your hormonal and mood support protocols.
What are your favorite oils to support stress, hormones, and brain?
Share them and your comments below!
Mental Health Resources
*If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and/or are suicidal, please seek professional mental health support:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
- Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org
Other Helpful Resources
Below are some of the highlights of the many free resources on this website:
- Four Essential Oils Blends for Supporting the Mind-Body and Easing Tension
- VIDEO: How Your Brain and Body Suffer with Too Much Stress & Naturopathic Medicine Tips for Calming the Mind and Relieving Overwhelm
- Video Recap: Essential Oils to Ease the Stress & Anxiety of Back to School
- The Importance of Fun, Music, & Play for Mental Health
- Video Recap: Essential Oils for Brain and Mental Health & Soothing Stress
- 10 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress and Calm the Mind-Body During Trying Times
- A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Thyroid Health Using Essential Oils: Video Recap & Additional Resources
Additional Supportive Techniques & Tools
- The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress- Podcast interview by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald with Nick Ortner.
- Stress management tips and resources
Disclaimer: 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.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
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 Canva.