When you’re hugely pregnant and feel like you’re ready for this baby to get out of your belly, you’ll try just about anything to induce labor. But did you know that essential oil, in particular clary sage, might be able to help you on your quest to naturally get things moving along?
There’s even some discussion that essential oils may help improve your labor experience, reducing overall time in labor and discomfort levels. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Clary Sage?
Clary sage, also known as salvia sclarea, is a Mediterranean flowering herb. It grows best in areas with high temperatures and is typically grown to make tea. Traditionally, clary sage has been used to treat eye health and is also known as “eye bright” or “clear eye” for this reason
To make clary sage essential oil, the buds and leaves are processed to extract the oil. It has a refreshing, clean scent that can be diluted and used directly on the skin or in aromatherapy and inhaled for its benefits.
What Are The Effects On Labor?
In holistic medicine, clary sage has long been used as a natural uterotonic, which means that it has been used to cause contractions in the uterus. It can both improve the effectiveness of the contractions during labor and promote a sense of calmness, as it relaxes the nervous system which has a pain-relieving effect. It can also help with the birthing of the placenta and preventing excessive bleeding after giving birth.
These claims have been to put to the test through research studies, with varied results. In one study, three of five women who inhaled a solution containing clary sage between 38 and 40 gestation weeks experienced an increase in salivary oxytocin.
Salivary oxytocin is a hormone that helps the uterus contract during labor. Meanwhile, the other two women had unmeasurable results. A control group of six other women inhaled a similar solution without clary sage and two women in the control group’s oxytocin also increased.
Clary sage is also used in aromatherapy and massage to promote relaxation and release stress. It also helps ease breathing issues such as asthma and bronchitis by opening up your airways, so it appears it would have the same properties when applied topically around your uterus: opening up your cervix and causing contractions. While there is no evidence to clary sage oil is effective when applied topically, it’s certainly possible.
When inhaled or used in a bath or foot soak, clary sage can calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety and stress during labor. This is true whether you give yourself a full aromatherapy massage or just add the oil to your favorite bath salts and soak for twenty minutes while playing music and listening to relaxing sounds on an MP3 player.
The same goes for taking home remedies: if you use them in the days leading up to labor, they may help prepare things naturally so that labor happens faster when it comes time.
One study even showed that women who inhaled clary sage experienced 30-38% shorter labors than women who did not inhale the same solution.
While these results are inconclusive, clary sage is still a very useful essential oil for pregnant women. It has a chemical structure similar to estrogen, which provides it with estrogen stimulating and regulating properties.
Midwives have reported that clary sage reduces anxiety and pain during labor which is an added benefit.
Additional Benefits of Clary Sage
Even if you’re not pregnant, clary sage can be used to aid in reducing menstrual cramps and the pain associated with them. One study found that women who used a topical cream with essential oils, including clary sage, on their lower stomachs between periods experienced significantly fewer cramps than the control group who did not get access to the cream. All women prior to the study experienced severe pain due to their menstrual cycle and cramps.
Sclareol, a component of clary sage, mimics estrogen in the body. Since menopause is brought on by the lowering of natural estrogen levels in the body, clary sage can be potentially helpful for dealing with the symptoms of menopause. For example, it can be diluted and rubbed to the bottoms of feet to help reduce the effects of hot flashes.
Clary sage is also a powerful stress reliever, which explains why it can calm women during labor. Clary sage brings on a feeling of wellbeing which can relieve stress and calm anxiety. This works because the olfactory system, or your sense of smell, directly impacts the part of the brain that regulates emotion. Using clary sage for aromatherapy directly regulates your emotions and calms you down.
Studies have shown that clary sage may have antidepressant effects. In two separate studies, one on rats and another on menopausal women, the anti-stress effects of clary sage helped to bring on an effect similar to that of an antidepressant. In the women, the stress hormone cortisol was significantly reduced.
Finally, clary sage is also known to have antibacterial properties, making it an effective treatment for wound care. Studies have shown that it can help heal dermatological infections, even those that are difficult to treat and respond poorly to antibiotics. One study in particular found that diluted clary sage oil helped heal a few different strains of staphylococcus bacteria (staph infection) in wounds caused by surgical procedures, diabetes, and burns.
Other Natural Ways to Help Bring on Labor
While there is some debate as to whether clary sage brings on labor, there are plenty of other natural methods to apply to try to help induce labor. Various studies have shown that other essential oils may also be helpful for labor.
Other Essential Oils
● Citrus blossom oil can help reduce stress and lower pain levels.
● Jasmine oil can help alleviate pain and may even speed up labor.
● Lavender oil has been used to help relax pregnant and laboring women, while also aiding in sleep before and after birth.
● Peppermint oil is a well-known natural remedy for nausea, dizziness, stress, and headaches. It can be used during labor to help restore the feeling of comfort.
Although exercise may be the last thing you want to do in the final days of your pregnancy, it can help bring on labor. It doesn’t have to be anything very intensive – just enough to get the heart rate up. It can be as simple as going for a walk or trying out a yoga class on YouTube.
When the nipples are stimulated, production of oxytocin is also stimulated. As mentioned earlier, oxytocin is a hormone that helps make the uterus contract, which means it might help bring on labor. Oxytocin also causes the breasts to eject milk, so just beware of that before you start. Interestingly, breastfeeding the baby right after delivery provides the same stimulation, but instead, it causes the uterus to shrink back to its previous size.
Whether you’re a regular essential oil user or this is a new route of care for you, clary sage oil is a great place to start when looking to bring on labor. Applying it with other natural methods, like those listed above, can increase your chances of inducing labor and (hopefully) be on your way to holding your new baby in no time!
What are the Side Effects?
There appear to be no problems in using clary sage during pregnancy or labor. However, there is always a possibility that an essential oil could cause skin irritation when applied topically, so it’s best to dilute clary sage with carrier oils when you use it topically. This merely reduces any risk of skin irritation, but doesn’t eliminate it entirely.
Dislaimer* Always check with your doctor before using any essential oils.
Clary sage may not necessarily help you bring on labor, but it does work to ease the symptoms of menopause and is an effective treatment for bacterial wounds. If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, be sure to check out this article on which oils live up to their hype!