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Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the uterine lining grows in areas outside of the uterus. Treatment usually involves hormone therapy, pain medications, and surgery, and some people also use complementary treatments, such as essential oils.
Proponents of essential oils argue that the oils can help alleviate the symptoms of endometriosis safely and effectively. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support this treatment.
Keep reading for more information about essential oils as an endometriosis treatment, including possible risks.
There is not enough scientific evidence to support the claim that essential oils have any effect on endometriosis.
However, some research indicates that aromatherapy — which involves inhaling essential oils or using them in massage — can help relieve endometriosis symptoms. For example, a 2018 meta-analysis found that a variety of essential oils may help with painful periods.
In other words, some evidence suggests that aromatherapy may be a complementary therapy, helping to alleviate some symptoms, but not constituting a cure.
Research in this area has focused on cramps and pain during menstruation, which are common symptoms of endometriosis. However, some people with the condition also experience pain and other symptoms between periods.
Also, the studies that we mention below did not include participants with an endometriosis diagnosis, so the evidence only applies to the cited symptoms.
Some researchers have looked into whether particular oils or mixes can help people manage symptoms of endometriosis. Individual oils and combinations that may be effective include:
Clove, cinnamon, lavender, and rose
The study involved aromatherapy massage on the abdomen with the combination of oils and an almond oil base. A control group received the same massage but without the essential oils.
The group that had received the essential oils massage reported a reduction in the duration and severity of pain during the first 3 days of their period.
Lavender is a common essential oil that proponents recommend to alleviate various symptoms and to encourage relaxation and sleep.
Research from 2015 indicates that, when diluted and used in massage, lavender essential oil may help reduce pain associated with menstruation.
This study also included a control group who received massage without the essential oil. Those who had received the lavender essential oil massage had lower pain scores than those in the control group.
Marjoram, sage, and lavender
In a 2012 study, participants with diagnosed menstrual pain rubbed a mixture of oils in a nonscented cream onto their lower abdomens. A control group used a cream with a synthetic fragrance. Both groups used the cream every day for a month.
The group that had used the cream with the essential oils reported less pain during their next menstrual cycle, as well as reduced duration of pain, from 2.4 to 1.8 days.
Clary sage, rose, and lavender
None of the participants had any diagnosed systemic or reproductive conditions, such as endometriosis, and they were not taking any contraceptive drugs.
Manufacturers derive essential oils from plant leaves, flowers, roots, and seeds. Before using an essential oil in a massage, it is important to dilute it in a carrier oil. This makes the essential oil safe to apply directly to the skin.
Examples of carrier oils include:
A person may apply the mixture to the chest, neck, or under the nose, to breathe in the vapors. Alternately, a person could rub the mixture directly onto the lower belly.
People can also use drops of oil in a diffuser or pot of steaming water to help spread the aroma throughout the room.
There are several potential issues to consider before trying essential oils. The fact that these products are natural does not mean that they are safe for everyone.
Never apply an undiluted essential oil directly to the skin. Also, never ingest an essential oil, as some can be toxic when swallowed.
It is best to discuss using essential oils with a doctor before starting. Some oils can interfere with medications.
Also, some people who use essential oils have adverse reactions, such as skin rashes or headaches. If this happens, stop using the oils and seek advice from a doctor.
Small children, pregnant women, older adults, and pets may be more sensitive to essential oils. In addition, some oils are toxic to animals, even when a person uses the oils in a diffuser, so it is vital to research each oil before trying it.
Finally, it is important to be aware that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate essential oils. Companies that manufacture them may not follow strict guidelines, so the quality and contents of these products can greatly vary.
Limited evidence suggests that essential oils may help ease symptoms of endometriosis, such as pain and cramping during periods.
A person should discuss their condition and treatment options with a doctor before using essential oils.
Many people believe that because essential oils are natural, they are safe. This is not always true. Never swallow an essential oil or apply it undiluted to the skin, and make sure to choose oils from reputable sources.
The essential oils that we list above are available in many health stores and online.