Disclaimer: I am board certified Internal Medicine. Please follow the recommendations of your obstetrician if you are considering using essential oils or aromatherapy during your pregnancy.
I was recently asked what essential oils to use during pregnancy. I thought I could answer the question easily, since I’ve used essential oils for a few years now, and I’ve often recommended essential oils without much thought. I recently read Bottle of Lies, a chilling reminder not to take drug safety for granted. I decided that before I would answer her, I should check some references. There is always a concern about safety of a chosen drug or treatment. Even more so, pregnancy is a unique time. Fetal development can be affected by many factors, and there many historical reminders of assuming at treatment is safe during pregnancy when it really isn’t.
I was surprised to find that most of my trusted references concerning aromatherapy, essential oils and use in pregnancy are sparse, with very little information. I decided to search the database Pubmed for answers. .
I approach this subject with caution because throughout the history of medicine, treatments deemed to be safe initially are later to be found unsafe. There are many blogs and post that will give a list of essential oils to use during pregnancy, but I caution readers not start any therapy while pregnant without speaking to your physician. Essential oils are natural, but like any treatment, they are highly active within the human body.
Pregnancy is typically a time of many symptoms. Women are often seeking relief from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, insomnia, and postpartum depression. I did a general search term of essential oils/aromatherapy and pregnancy. I initially reviewed 39 medical journal articles seeking some guidance. I was able to narrow my search to a few relevant articles, any my search list can be found here.
Nausea and Vomiting Relief
This is the most common symptom pregnant women must cope with. Pregnancy related nausea and vomiting is unfortunately not very well understood. Prior to actually researching the topic, I assumed, like many people, that peppermint, ginger, and lavender are the best essential oil to relieve nausea.
When peppermint oil was tested in a small study consisting of 56 pregnant women suffering from nausea and vomiting in the first and second trimester, it was found to have the same effect as placebo for relieving nausea and vomiting(1).
I found another study here also showing that peppermint is not likely to reduce pregnancy related nausea and vomiting. A systematic review of the effects of complementary medicine conducted by researchers also confirmed that peppermint was not effective at relieving nausea (2).
Lemon essential oil was found to be effective in relieving nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy in two of the articles I found (2, 3).
My recommendations with the information I have available is that Lemon Essential Oil is a good idea to relieve nausea. I would recommend to use the aromatherapy by inhalation only, breathing the oil in on a tissue or cotton ball a few times a day to relieve pregnancy related nausea.
Aromatherapy for Easing Labor Pain
Treating labor pain is likely going to be of the utmost concern. Many women these days are opting to forgo traditional anesthesia techniques and use holistic care to assist during labor. Women choosing to forgo regional anesthesia such as epidural injections may opt to use aromatherapy during the labor process.
A study consisting of 104 young women in labor with uncomplicated pregnancies showed that overall pain levels throughout early labor were reduced in those that received aromatherapy. (4).
A small, double blinded study of pregnant women, many who were at risk of postpartum depression tested the efficacy of using Rose and Lavender essential oils to reduce the incidence of postpartum depression. This particular study I found interesting because the subjects were chosen that had risk of depression, which made gathering a large sample size difficult. Most studies tend to select subjects with no history to simplify gathering date. The researchers tested a combination of rose and lavender essential oil again sesame seed oil and sweet musk oil, and no oil at all. According to the results of the present study, it seems using aromatherapy has a significant effect on reducing depression after delivery (6).
Consider trying Lemon Essential Oil used by inhalation. I would not recommend it topically since it may cause photosensitivity (sun sensitivity). I recommend inhaling Lemon essential oils using a diffuser of choice or applying a drop to a cotton ball.
Peppermint essential oil is not shown by my evidenced based search to be effective at relieving nausea or vomiting in pregnancy, however, if you find using it helps, consider using only inhaled forms.
Consider using Rose Essential Oil or Lavender Essential Oil for improving your mood. Lavender essential oil tends tobe reasonably priced. Rose essential oils is expensive, and I would recommend investing in the purchase form a company with a good track records such as Doterra. Doterra makes a ready made Rose Essential Oil.
During my research, I discovered the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. I bookmarked this wonderful online resource. This organization is primarily for professional aromatherapists but has some wonderful resources. This link will take you to the websites recommendations on aromatherapy use in pregnancy.
Please see the citation list below. Please post any additional questions in the comments. Thank you for reading!
I frequently recommend using ginger to patients. There are ginger supplements available in many forms, but its pretty easy to find raw ginger root in the grocery store produce aisle. I use raw ginger in stir fry or make a “tea” (herbal infusion) with hot water, ginger root and water.
Ginger is a great remedy for motion sickness, Meniere’s Disease, or morning sickness. Simply inhaling the spicy scent gives you instant relief.
I often recommend ginger to help stabilize blood sugars. Ginger has been shown to reduce A1c (blood sugar average) and fasting blood sugars in diabetics.¹
Ginger essential oil has a much longer shelf life than the root, and its easy to carry when you travel. One very strong recommendation is that ginger is a “hot” oil, meaning it has a lot of kick. I strongly recommend diluting essential oil in a carrier oil if your going to use it topically.
1. The Effects of Ginger on Fasting Blood Sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, Apolipoprotein B, Apolipoprotein A-I and Malondialdehyde in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. (n.d.).
According to researchers, suffering from asthma or hay fever may put you at an increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. The study reports over a 15 year period, 10.8% of people with allergies developed psychiatric disorders, compare to 6.7% of people without allergic diseases.
This article appeared in my feed and I find it very fascinating. I thought I might use this in my own blog as a way to start introducing the logistics of the Mind-Body Connection.
Pathophysiology of Allergies (Allergic Rhinitis)
I see patients with some form of allergies throughout most of the day. This should be no surprise since allergic rhinitis is “the most common chronic disease in the United States, affect[ing] between 10 and 30% of adults and up to 40% of children”¹.
The symptoms of allergic rhinitis start at Mast Cells;
Mast Cells are an important part of the immune system that also play a role in allergies. Mast Cells are equipped with receptors for antigens (a signal to the immune system that an invader is within the body). Someone that has allergies produces antibodies (IgE) which function to tag antigens as they enter the body. An antigen tagged with IgE circulating in the blood stream will land on a mast cell, causing the mast cell to launch its weapons (histamine, cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals), These chemicals will land in the nasal passage, sinuses, and lungs leading to allergy symptoms.
Energy Imbalance leading to Allergic Rhinitis
One of my favorite books is by Margaret Ann Lembo’s Chakra Awakening. This is one of the first books I read when I became curious about energy medicine. This is a wonderful starter for anyone who is wanting to learn about the Chakra system, and as well as using essential oils and crystals as part of their healing routine. I have adapted a chart from her book which summarizes each Chakra’s function, and how imbalances show up. I use this chart personally when I’m working with energy medicine and for myself and find it to be a very handy tool in energy medicine.
When I first started learning about the Chakra system, I was fascinated with how blockages within a Chakra could contribute to disease. Chakras comes from Ayurveda, and I think of it as anatomical representation of energy centers within the body.
Media by LordtNIS
Most people suffer allergies in their noses, sinuses, eyes, ears, throat and sometimes chest. Symptoms of allergies are usually runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, sinus pain and pressure. These organs are within the throat, third eye, and crown chakra. These organ are also associated with psychological dysfunction, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Additionally, allergies are generated within the body when the immune system becomes overactive. Knowing that these energy centers correlate with our physical and emotional health, it would be expected that a person suffering from allergies is likely at increased risk of a psychological issues. In particular, if an individual is feeling like they can’t express themselves (blocked throat chakra) they may be particularly prone to allergies.
There are a number of ways to handle allergies.
Over the Counter Medications:
Naturally I’ll have to remind readers to consult with their personal physician if you are suffering from allergies. Most people can tolerate antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra very well. The addition of a nasal steroid such as Fluticasone (Flonase) can also help to control symptoms.
Anyone suffering from severe symptoms, such as a rash or wheezing needs to consult with their physician.
Reiki for Allergies:
If you are already Reiki attuned, you can simply treat your sinuses. Consider treating the neck and chest. Your Reiki manual from your attunement is also a good resource for a treatment sequence.
If you are considering seeking Reiki to treat allergies, you may opt for a shorter session, but understanding that a combination of stress and chemical cascades are leading to your symptoms, you may be due for a full Reiki session.
Essential Oils to use:
Anyone with experience using essential oils to support their health can attest to how wonderful they can be to relieve symptoms. There is simply no better pleasure than your first whiff of Breath from DoTerra when your suffering from allergies.
DoTerra offers a wonderful line of products that can be used for allergies, and are good for colds, or to augment your meditation. The essential oil comes in a 15ml or a roller bottle, and either one is excellent. A drop or two on your chest of neck quickly alleviates symptoms. Consider a patch test on your inner arm before using routinely. Of course, Breathe is amazing in a diffuser.
The vapor stick is neat, clean and ready to go. You can quickly apply some to you chest or neck to soothe your sinuses.
The dōTERRA Breathe® Respiratory Drops are my personal favorite cough drops. You get all of the benefits of the oils without concern of others being affects by your essential oil use. You will still get the cooling sensation in your sinus passages that is wonderful.
You can find more information on essential oils here.
1. Goldman, L., & Schafer, A. I. (2016). Goldman-Cecil medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier/Saunders.