We are driven consciously and unconsciously by rhythms and cycles; day and night, seasons changing, growth and decline; internally we have our cycles of digestion, respiration and circulation. All these aspects undulate and flow depending on our current environment and our health and wellbeing. Aromatherapy and essential oils can play a very supportive role in all of those, but it’s our hormonal journey that I’d like to focus on today and explain how to use essential oils for hormone support.
Our hormonal system or endocrine system is governed by our pituitary gland, often called the ‘master gland. It sits at the base of our brain and communicates directly with the hypothalamus, which is responsible for a lot of our basic survival needs, like heat regulation and telling us if we are hungry or thirsty. The pituitary and hypothalamus communicate what hormones to release and when. It also includes the limbic system where smells are processed in our brain. The hypothalamus is the link between the nervous system and our endocrine system.
So, let’s start with puberty, which is the process of physical changes by which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. A time of enormous transition. Young people will experience physical changes like growth and change to their bodies. But accompanying this may be fear, anxiety, developing awareness, questioning and denial. For girls, it’s the start of menstruation.
As we move on, women who wish to have a family will go through pregnancy, another great change to the hormonal system as the female body adapts to the incredible changes that pregnancy brings. Again, a huge transformation physically and emotionally, mostly governed by the delicate balance and adjustment of our hormones. And then even further down the line, perimenopause and into menopause, when menstruation stops and hormone levels change once again, all with physical and emotional consequences. These three transitions of life are magnificent but can also be challenging!
Essential oils that are recognised to support us on this journey are many, but I would like to draw your attention to three groups of essential oils that can play a role in supporting this passage of time. Essential oils that soothe the emotional upheaval that can accompany these changes and essential oils that encourage physical harmony.
Wood and Resin Oils
All have an affinity for offering us strength and guidance on an emotional level. When we think of wood we naturally think of trees: strong, tall and steady. Trees have a deep-rooted symbolic meaning across many cultures that reflects fortitude and patience, and that is exactly what the tree oils give us: strength, tenacity, calmness, purpose and a sense of stillness. All wonderfully supportive properties for any period of transition.
Sandalwood – Santalum album, Frankincense – Boswellia carterii or Cedarwood Atlas – Cedrus atlanticus are capable of offering you fortitude and vitality. They also have wonderful skin tonic properties to soothe changing skin.
Sweet orange – Citrus sinensis, Bergamot – Citrus bergamia, Grapefruit – Citrus paradisi, and Lemon – Citrus limonum, to name just a few. Just thinking about these oils makes me happy! All the citrus essential oils are known to uplift you emotionally, encourage you to feel lighter both physically and emotionally, perfect for when you feel tired, heavy, tearful even. They also have physical properties: cleansing, clearing, and settling your digestive system.
Aromatically potent and sensual. Hugely symbolic in poetry, paintings and myths to symbolise love, joy, gratitude and friendship. And the flower essential oils offer us a wonderful range of therapeutic properties that are nourishing, intensely supportive and harmonious.
Rose Absolute or Otto – Rosa damascena, Neroli – Citrus aurantium, Jasmine – Jasminum officinalis, Ylang Ylang – Cananga odorata and Roman Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis, all have properties that soothe and balance emotions, particularly around the menstrual cycle. They encourage us to feel self-love and boost self-worth. They nourish our skin and bring harmony to our senses, and they have the ability to cool overstretched emotions.
The hormonal changes that we all go through are vast and everyone will have a different passage. Essential oils can be helpful and supportive as you travel this path, but if you have any concerns about your hormone levels, please consult your GP.
About Jo Kellett
Our essential oil expert, Jo Kellett TIDHA MIFPA CIMI, graduated from the Tisserand Institute of Holistic Aromatherapy in 1996. She returned to the college in 1999 as Essential Oil Therapeutics Tutor, where she taught until the college closed. Jo runs a successful private Aromatherapy practice in Brighton, specialising in Women’s health. Jo is also an internationally published author and has lectured on the subject of Aromatherapy both in the UK and abroad.