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Essential Oils for PCOS

Over the years, I’ve been asked about the use of essential oils for PCOS a good number of times. I have never used essential oils myself and haven’t really known the answer.

Now, if you know me or have been following PCOS Diet Support for a while, you’ll know that I’m all about the science. I want to know that the things I do for my PCOS are actually working and have some kind of evidence behind them.

So, I hit the medical journals and did some homework to write this article and answer the question that I have been asked so many times.

Are essential oils helpful for PCOS?

Well, before we can get into the answer, we need to understand what essential oils actually are in the first place.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils form the basis of aromatherapy. They are made by crushing plants to release their essence (fragrance). When these essences are naturally extracted, they are called essential oils.

These essential oils can be distilled with steam or water and can be mechanically pressed. If the essence is removed from the plant chemically, it is not a true essential oil. (1)

So, basically we’re talking about the use of fragrant oils extracted from plants as a treatment for our PCOS.

Now, I do tend to be on the more sceptical side but I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak. So, let’s have a look at what the research says about using essential oils in general.

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Problems with researching essential oils

There are a couple of problems in creating a robust study to look at the effects of essential oils. For example: it’s very difficult to create a placebo for a smell or fragrance. Also, it can be difficult to prove what actually caused the outcome. So, for example, if an oil is applied to the skin using massage, was it the massage or the oil that helped the person get better (2)?

So, when looking for research articles on the use of essential oils in women with PCOS, I came up with a blank. The research just isn’t there. But that doesn’t mean that essential oils are not effective for PCOS, does it?!

How essential oils work

There are a couple of different ways to use essential oils (3).

Applied on the skin

Essential oils can be applied on the skin by massage. The thinking is that massage will increase circulation to the area and help the oil to be more readily absorbed.

It makes sense if you think about something  like natural progesterone cream. The hormone is applied topically and gets absorbed through the skin. Same thing with essential oils.

It is generally recommended to add a couple of drops of the essential oil to a carrier oil like coconut oil. Some oils can burn and irritate the skin and a carrier oil will help to prevent that.

Inhaled

The sense of smell has a powerful effect on our memory and emotions. There are times when I might walk past a bakery and the smell of the freshly made bread takes me straight back to lazy Saturday mornings spent baking with my grandmother. Or a whiff of a certain cologne reminds me of when I first started dating my husband.

But it also goes beyond memories and emotion. The sense of smell can also affect us physiologically. You see, the sense of smell is linked with the emotional centre of our brain which can also impact on breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, stress and hormone balance.

Ingested

Although essential oils can be ingested, this can be dangerous so I would avoid this unless you are working under the guidance of someone trained in aromatherapy.

So, that brings us to the next question:

How can using essential oils help us with our PCOS and which ones should we be using?

Essential Oils for PCOS

Clary Sage

Clary sage is supposed to be helpful in balancing estrogen levels. It also helps with PMS and menstrual cramping. There are a number of well-known wellness sites that make this claim but I have to say that I have found very little medical research to back this up. (4, 5)

Having said that, I did come across a study of 22 post menopausal women who were all in their 50’s. It was found that inhaling clary sage resulted in a 36% decrease in cortisol levels as well as a small improvement in thyroid hormone.

Clary sage seems to have calming properties to help with stress relief, as well as having the added benefit of boosting mood.

Now, as I’ve already mentioned, there is little research when it comes to using Clary Sage for PCOS. But, having read what research there is, I would suggest that Clary Sage would be helpful in improving the following symptoms of PCOS:

  • Depression
  • Estrogen dominance
  • Stress and high cortisol levels

Thyme Oil

Dr Anna Garret suggests that Thyme oil is helpful in balancing and improving Progesterone levels. This could be helpful for women with PCOS because we tend to struggle with low progesterone. Progesterone is mainly produced by the corpus luteum once we have ovulated. If ovulation isn’t happening, we aren’t getting the progesterone that we should be getting.

Low progesterone levels can present with the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes

Lavender

Lavender is a really common essential oil that can be used in a number of ways and to treat a number of conditions. Some of the symptoms lavender could be helpful with are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Improve sleep

Sandalwood

Again, I can find little medical research but Sandalwood oil is supposed to be helpful in balancing out testosterone levels in both men and women (4). Obviously this would be helpful as we tend to have testosterone levels leading to symptoms like acne, male pattern baldness and hair where you don’t want it.

The Bottom Line

Having looked at all of the research and read a number of articles, it would seem that there may well be some benefit to using essential oils to manage some of the symptoms of PCOS.

Would I rely solely on essential oils? Absolutely not. I see essential oils as a helpful adjunct; something to try over and above the way you eat, your supplements and exercise.

It may have benefits for your symptoms but I don’t think it would be nearly as effective as food, supplements and exercise.

If you have had any success with using essential oils for your PCOS, I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below and let me know what worked and what didn’t!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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23 Responses

23 Responses

  1. Please share anything you know about dealing with hair loss. My daughter has PCOS and although she doesn’t say much about this particular symptom, I know it bothers her a great deal. Interested in essential oils, diet/exercise, anything that may lead to turning this around or a the very least lessening it. Grateful for anything you can share.

  2. I used a blend of clary sage, lavender, betgamot, and geranium. I massaged on my pelvis 2x a day and was able to get a period naturally (after not having one without the pill) and I got pregnant with my son (after years of trying and fertility clinics). I’m now using the same blend and got my first natural period this month and I’m hoping to get pregnant again 🙂 hope this helps

    1. Do yiu do it every day of your cycle, or just when you want your period? How ling did it take to get pregnant doing that? In a similar boat, so I am curious. 😊

  3. Hey Tarryn, I tried looking into your link for the essential oils recipes (near the bottom of your article) with no page found. Just a heads up 🙂
    I’ve used YL’s Progessence Plus and am going to be adding clary sage and thinking of trying Thyme due to what symptom relief you’ve listed. Has anyone else used thyme??

  4. Hello,
    Have your doctor prescribe spironolactone. Is the only thing that have worked for my acne and facial hair.

  5. I agree strongly with the benefit of sage as I personally benefit from it to ease my PMS and pain of the first two days of the cycle. I drink it as herbal tea, I buy it from Mediterranean supermarkets and soak it for three minutes in hot water covered then stive it and sip my hot healing drink.

  6. I have been using lavender oil to help with anxiety and find that it’s definitely calming. I like to order from a company called WOOLZIES. I have also regularly used eucalyptus which is also mood stimulating and good for breathing issues. I have yet to try any essential oils that help with hirsutism but would love to find one as that is my only ‘visible’ PCOS symptom but I’m so sick of shaving like a man every other day, my skin is too sensitive for waxing and I can’t afford laser hair removal.

  7. I use lavender to help me with my sleep. I tend to toss and turn because I struggle to calm my mind before bedtime and lavender really helps. I put a few drops on my chest and soles of my sleep and I end up sleeping more soundly.

  8. Tarryn
    I absolutely agree to not solely depend on essential oils. Though they may add additional support they are not 100% especially if your diagnosis is much more extreme than others. I used Clary sage once and I personally did not feel or notice any difference asside from the not so pleasant odor of it but still followed through until the bottle was completely emty which was close to 2 or more months. I did and still do use Dotera’s Serenity and Balance Oils. Serenity is a calming oil which OMG IS AMAZING for stressful days. The friend in which introduced me to essential oils had me use it on a bad day and referred to it as liquid zanix. Lol I must say it calmed me QUICKLY. Then I started reading and learned about Balance. I blened the two to save a few bucks as they tend to run a but high but well worth it. Balance helps with balancing your moods and when the two are combined the smell is lovely and calming. I also use frankensense for healing which is also amazing, lavender mixed with coconut oil for smoother skin and a few other benefits. All and all food is the answer to everything as you have mentioned. But will continue the use of these 4 as they have shown to be the most noticeably and effective for myself.

  9. I have essential oils and have tried to do as much research as possible. It’s hard because there are questions of quality as well as several marketing groups that sell oils that claim oils are a “cure all.”

    I would highly discourage ingesting oils. There is a resource on aromatherapy that talks about why this is Bad (eats at stomach lining or something…) but I don’t have the full name (Robert something, yellow book, like the Bible on aromatherapy.) also, the oils for hormone related things are not typically safe for kids (lavender yes but definitely not clary sage.)

    I made a roller with coconut and the balance oil from Plant Therapy. Affordable oils who will help provide good instruction on how to use them. I use it very rarely and many recommend using hormones oils near where your ovaries sit.

    Aromatherapy all works with your senses so it does help I think with anxiety, depression and other ailments that help your body relax. Who doesn’t need that, right?

  10. I hate spearmint tea, and so I’ve been adding spearmint essential oil to my nighttime face cream. I’ve read that spearmint can help with hirsutism. I’ve only been doing it for a couple weeks and haven’t seen results yet, but I was wondering if anyone else has had success with this? I’m so tired of facial hair — it’s my main PCOS complaint. I had over 50 laser hair removal treatments in my 20s, and it always came back (or never went away in the first place) and it’s so expensive! I also have tried no!no! and Tria. Nothing seems to work!

    1. Try spearmint capsules. They worked well for me. They smell strong but the taste isn’t there. Amazon has them.

  11. Hey. I been using daTerra balance and clary calm and have noticed a huge diffence in pain anytime of the cycle and night sweats.. balance i have been using for headaches and i actually find it works faster than panado/panadol.

  12. I am all for Young Living essential oils. I love Dragon Time, Lavender, Grapefruit, Progressence Plus and Ocotea. These are clearly my go to oils.

    1. Progessence plus is great. I used it for 2 cycles with letrozole 7.5mg and fell preg both times (after 8months of nothing with letrozole alone).

  13. Hi Tarryn

    Thanks for this! I have been using Lavender, especially for insomnia. I also find that inhaling citrus oils (especially grapefruit, but also lemon) is very helpful to lift my mood, especially when I need to work and stay focused.

  14. I have been using essential oils for years. Clary sage is excellent for cramps, PMS and mood swings. I’m never ceased to be amazed at how well works on an emotional level. I would also recommend bergamot for an emotional pick me up. There are several different chemotypes of Thyme oil so it’s very important that you know which chemotype you’re using as they are not all the same. I would start with Thyme ct. linalool as it will be the most gentle. I would also recommend ylang ylang, neroli and jasmine for emotional support. Because there is no FDA regulation of essential oils, terms like therapeutic grade or pharmaceutical grade are completely meaningless and are marketing terms created by essential oil companies. Essentials oils should be tested (by a third party) for purity and to determine the specific levels and which chemical constituents they contain. Because essential oils are derived from plants, those things can vary from season to season depending on weather and soil conditions.

  15. I love essential oils. I primarily use doTERRA oils. I have used lavender (for relaxation, sleeping, and to help with anxiety. Be careful not to use too much though as it can also act as a stimulant), digestzen (for heartburn), clary calm (which is a mixture of oils to help with menstrual cycles, and balances mood. I use the roll on and apply to lower abdomen when I feel menstrual cramps). LOVE LOVE LOVE them! I agree with Tarryn that oils should be used as an adjunct with diet/exercise/supplements. Hope this helps anyone looking to try essential oils.

  16. I use a lot of essential oils and supplements. I personally use Young Living and have been having semi-regular periods for about a year now. I also know a few ladies who have even had babies with PCOS. My recommendation is to do your homework. Not all essential oils are created equal and there are little FDA regulations. A pure therapeutic grade essential oil can be ingested while not so good quality oils may pose higher risks.

    1. If you don’t mind me asking? Do you control your PCOS solely with oils and supplements? No prescription meds? I’ve just started using P+ and DragonTime and EndoFlex for my PCOS and am looking at trying Estro and FemiGen supplements. I would love to get off Spironolactone if possible.

      1. I personally only use YL oils and supplements. However, having bariatric surgery for weight loss has been a huge help. I know people who do of each method or the other and some with combination of medical and natural. I would agree to work with your medical providers always. Every person is different and you need to keep working and learning until you find what works for you. I love Endoflex and Endogize pills.

  17. I have already been using Lavender essential oil for sleep, anxiety, and ddepression and it definitely makes a difference. Looking forward to trying the others listed. I prefer doTERRA oils due to their pure therapeutic grade and their humanitarian efforts.

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