Endometriosis and Essential Oils October 22 2014
Endometriosis can be a brutal disease to cope with. Often, women go undiagnosed for years, suffering through pain and social misunderstandings, only to sink into the quagmire of Western medical options once they start seeking treatment. Pelvic pain and infertility can wear down the body and soul while the side effects and repercussions of hormonal medications and surgeries take their own silent toll. Having spent over half my life dealing with this disease, I felt it was time to start sharing some of the tools I have acquired in my struggle to reach good health. If there is one thing I have learned it is that we each must find out own path to healing and that this is usually comprised of many small tools that together offer relief and solace.
Aromatics and essential oils have played a huge role in my healing, on both a physical and psychological level. Topical application of essential oils has offered pain relief while aromatherapy has helped me to stay centered during some unbearably painful times. Addressing endometriosis holistically often means that scar tissue, inflammation, internal bleeding, hormonal imbalance, liver detoxification, and nervous system impact all must be taken into consideration. Self-care, on a daily basis, is critical in acute cases of endometriosis. Creating a routine that incorporates essential oils into this process is an easy, fun way to start.
Oils for Inflammation
Inflammation is often the primary cause of pain. I have found that topical application of diluted essential oils on a regular basis can help to alleviate or eliminate chronic inflammation. Helichrysum italicum, Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), German Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, Rosemary, Cistus, Green Myrtle, Rose, Tumeric, Black Poplar, Rose, and Douglas Fir are some of the oils I lean on for treating inflammation. For me, Helichrysum and Cistus have been the most effective at the lowest dilutions (1-10%.) Start at a low percentage of essential oil to carrier oil and work your way up until you obtain some relief. Be patient – quite often oils need to saturate the outer fatty layer of tissue before they start to have significant effects.
Nerve pain is often caused by inflammation and may be alleviated by the use of Roman Chamomile, Rosemary, Helichrysum, Lavender, Geranium, Roman Chamomile, Black Poplar (Populous trichocarpa), Ginger, Cistus, Frankincense and Clary Sage oil. Typically women either obtain relief from warming oils, or cooling oils. Roman Chamomile, German Chamomile, Lavender and Clary Sage are all cooling oils, while Ginger, Cistus, Rosemary and Frankincense are blood-moving warmers. Again, start with a low dilution (1%) and work your way up. Be cautious and thoughtful with essential oil application: always do a patch test prior to full application to rule out allergy and prevent possible skin irritation. Research these oils before you use them to make sure that they are not contraindicated – essential oils are concentrated chemical extracts that need to be treated as powerful medicine. For example, Cypress oil is often recommended for fluid retention but is estrogenic, making it a bad choice for anyone with estrogen-dependent disease, endometriosis included. Remember that the suggestions I make come from personal experience and that I am not a doctor giving you a medical plan, just a kindred spirit sharing advice.
Fluid retention within the tissues can cause further swelling and inflammation, exacerbating pain and physical distress. This is one area where essential oils can be incredibly effective. Grapefruit, Lemon, Cistus, Frankincense, Rosemary, Geranium and Helichrysum essential oils all have remarkable astringent effects when it comes to draining fluid from the tissue and getting the lymphatic system moving.
Muscle spasms can contribute significantly to pelvic pain and are often overlooked as a contributing factor. Lavender, Geranium, Helichrysum, Roman Chamomile, and Sweet Marjoram do a beautiful of sedating contracted muscles. I find Sweet Marjoram does a particularly great job while being very cost effecting and non-irritating. Rose essential oil also can work marvels, but the real thing is very very expensive.
Endometriosis is characterized by the formation of bands of scar tissue called adhesions. These adhesions can grow over time, cementing organs and fascia, causing considerable pain and tension. There is no overnight cure for adhesions aside from surgery, which has the negative potential to create even more adhesions. The application of regular castor oil packs can gradually soften and eliminate adhesions while detoxifying stagnant tissue. Castor oil has the ability to penetrate deep into the abdomen and pelvis and has the added bonus of being cheap. Helichrysum essential oil is remarkable when it comes to healing scar tissue. While it is expensive it is worth every single drop as it basically addresses both scar tissue, inflammation, muscle spasms, and fluid retention. If I were to recommend a single oil for endometriosis treatment it would be Helichrysum, followed closely by Cistus (Rock Rose). Cistus also does an amazing job of healing scar tissue. Cistus is also a specific for abdominal spasm and internal bleeding, both of which often occur with endometriosis. Frankincense is also a great choice for scar tissue and is cheaper than Cistus or Helichrysum. If you are having surgery it is wise to prepare a mixture of these oils prior to your procedure to use on your incisions as they heal. For healing surface scars from surgery an additional 10% of Rosehip Seed or Meadowfoam oils can also be very useful.
Nausea and Vomiting
At the root of endometriosis lies estrogen overload. This hormonal imbalance can cause nausea and vomiting. Sweet orange, mandarin, lavender, and peppermint in a diffusor can be helpful in alleviating nausea. A drop of peppermint oil on the tongue is something that helps me when I start getting hot flashes and feeling pukey.
Excess estrogen has to be cleared by the liver, putting strain on this organ. Helichrysum, rosemary, peppermint and carrot seed essential oils help to support healthy liver function and detoxification.
Mood Swings and Anxiety
Estrogen dominance also caused mood swings, as do many of the hormonal treatments prescribed for endometriosis. Finding an oil that makes you feel calm and grounded can be very helpful. I rotate through many oils for this purpose. Sweet Marjoram can be incredibly calming, as are Roman Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Red Mandarin, and Neroli. If you have been in pain for a considerable amount of time you may find your nervous system unraveling with your sanity. Supporting the adrenals during this type of stress is critical. A few drops of Rosemary, Pine, or Fir oils over the kidneys will help to nourish and support the adrenals without depleting them. I have obtained very good relief from exhaustion from these adrenal supportive oils. Of course, when it comes to fear and anxiety choosing an oil is very personal – experiment with different oils until you find the ones that ease your heart and comfort your psyche. You may find that your self-awareness starts to increase as you explore the wide and wonderful world of aromatics. At the very least, natural fragrance can bring joy even when suffering cannot be alleviated.
It is an empowering and hopeful practice to heal oneself. When you are very ill or in pain it is easy to feel alone. Remember that even if no one else is around to help, you can always be kind to yourself. Let aromatherapy become a symbol of this healing power turned inward. Endometriosis is a complicated disease with no straight forward solution. Healing often means you will have to endure and try many new things. Try to be patient with your body. Be kind to yourself. I wish you well on your parallel path.
Here is a formula for an oil I use that gives me good relief for moderate to severe pain when rubbed over my abdomen and lower back:
Medicine Bowl Oil
1oz Carrier oil (Olive, Almond, Grapeseed, Fractionated Coconut, or Sunflower)
5 drops Helichrysum Italicum essential oil (EO)
5 drops Cistus ladaniferous EO
5 drops Lemon EO
5 drops Grapefruit EO
5 drops Sweet Marjoram EO
With kindness and love,