In recent years, there has been a spotlight on using essential oils as a tool to support everything from stress relief, to immune protection and sleep aid. Though they have been used for millennia, the science behind essential oil use is becoming better understood, and their application for a variety of ailments and conditions is becoming more and more mainstream. They may even be a helpful lifestyle intervention to relieve stress, balance hormones, and ease some of the symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants via distillation or mechanical extraction, such as cold pressing. These compounds contain the plants’ aromas and flavors, or “essences,” in an ultra-concentrated form.
Extracted oils can be inhaled, applied topically, or ingested, depending on the type of oil and concentration. Some oils will need to be combined with a carrier oil (such as coconut or olive oil) to dilute it before topical application, as they are too potent on their own.
It’s important to note that certain oils are contraindicated for use around pets, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children. Additionally, those with multiple chemical sensitivities and asthma may need to avoid essential oils altogether. However, most people are able to use essential oils, and for many, they have become an important part of a daily routine that has helped them overcome stress — which in turn, has made an impact on their overall health.
What is Stress, and How Does It Affect Our Health?
Chronic stress is one of the greatest factors influencing our hormonal health, and essential oils have been an effective lifestyle intervention for some people who are looking to lessen the burden of stress on their bodies.
Stress affects so many different bodily functions, including metabolism, hormone production, immune system regulation, and emotional response.
When we encounter stressors, whether physical or psychological, the body’s systems spring into action. First, adrenaline is released, forcing the body into “fight-or-flight” mode as one’s heart rate and blood pressure are increased. Next, cortisol (the stress hormone) raises glucose levels in the bloodstream to produce energy for the “fight.”
In “fight” mode, the adrenal glands produce adrenaline and control your response to stress. They cannot, however, identify the sources of your stress — are you being chased by a bear, or are you stuck in traffic? — so they will pump out cortisol, no matter the situation. When this type of stress response happens on a chronic basis, as is common with our modern, hectic lifestyles, the result is a constant cycle of adrenal activation, with elevated (and imbalanced) hormones.
There are several common symptoms of imbalanced hormones, including:
- Fatigue: Chronic stress and too much cortisol lead to adrenal fatigue, and can cause an imbalance of thyroid hormones, as well as issues related to energy levels and metabolism.
- Weight Issues: Chronic stress puts the body in a state of famine, where it feels it needs to eat every time it encounters food. This leads to food cravings, binge eating, blood sugar imbalances, and weight gain.
- Sleep: Cortisol affects your ability to fall asleep and sink into that deep, restful REM sleep you need to recharge.
- Low Libido: Stress causes the body to go into survival mode and signal the body that it’s not a good time for intimacy. If the reproductive system isn’t producing the proper amounts of estrogen and testosterone, one’s libido will be lowered in favor of survival.
- Cognitive Issues: Stress affects the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which decreases our memory formation, increases anxiety levels, triggers inflammation, and disrupts sleep patterns. There is some evidence that this type of stress also increases the risk for brain-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
- Digestive Issues: Chronic, excess levels of cortisol can cause the digestive system to shut down in favor of dealing with the particular stressor at hand. This can lead to a number of digestive difficulties, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and ulcers. Additionally, chronic stress directly impacts the trillions of healthy gut bacteria and weakens the lining of the gut, leaving it susceptible to leaky gut and nutritional deficiencies.
These symptoms of hormone imbalance (which are often experienced by those with Hashimoto’s) can eventually lead to more serious conditions, like Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and heart disease.
How Stress Impacts Thyroid Hormones
In stressful situations, the body also decreases thyroid function in order to preserve energy to deal with the issue at hand. In an acute stress situation, this can be a good thing! “Fight or flight” mode can save us from danger and help us tackle the challenging situations in life. However, problems arise when this type of stress is ongoing and the body is constantly suppressing thyroid function to preserve its resources.
Normally, T4 converts to T3, while a small portion gets converted into Reverse T3 to keep your system balanced. An increase in stress causes our bodies to convert too much T3 into Reverse T3. This, in turn, causes the body’s metabolism to slow down to preserve energy.
Additionally, high or low cortisol levels, caused by chronic stress to the adrenal glands, can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). If left unmanaged, these blood sugar imbalances can lead to hypothyroid symptoms.
An increase in cortisol will also disrupt the balance of the HPT (hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid) axis, which the body relies on to keep thyroid levels steady.
Essential Oils for Calming Stress
So, how do we reduce stress and alleviate the hormonal imbalances that can wreak havoc on our thyroid and whole-body health?
Self-care is vital for lowering stress levels and bringing our bodies back into balance, which will allow us to address the other areas of our health that need our focus.
Studies have shown that, when cortisol levels are high, inhaling essential oils can calm the mind and relax the body, leading to lowered stress levels and more balanced hormones. While there may not be a “magic” essential oil that will cure your hormone imbalances, certain properties found in essential oils can allow hormone levels to reset themselves. It’s important to note that, even though essential oils exhibit specialized properties, they are not hormones themselves. Instead, they may help to create an environment where the body is able to produce the hormones it needs to heal itself.
While there are hundreds of different essential oils with different applications, some of the most popular oils used to combat stress are:
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Most widely studied essential oil
- Soothes the mind, calms the nervous system, and relieves tension/anxiety
- Supports restful sleep
- Frankincense (Boswellia carterii, B. frereana, and B. sacra)
- Promotes feelings of calm and relaxation
- Supports the immune, nervous, and digestive systems
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
- Dissolves anxious feelings while uplifting one’s emotions
- Cleanses and purifies the mind and body
- Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana)
- Soothes the mind and body to promote vitality and relaxation
- Aids in emotional balance and overall wellness
- Allows the body to find a natural calm and increases confidence
- Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
- Provides calm and relaxation to the mind and body
- Alleviates muscle tension and cramping
- Supports a restful night’s sleep by calming mental chatter
- Wild Orange (Citrus sinensis)
- Uplifts and energizes the mind and body
- Eases digestive discomfort
- Purifies and stimulates the body’s system, especially the immune system
As you can see, essential oils can provide a multitude of different health benefits!
The Essential Oils Hormone Solution
I’m excited to share that my colleague, Dr. Mariza Snyder, just released a new book full of useful information to help you utilize essential oils to reduce stress, balance hormones, and boost your health.
In The Essential Oils Hormone Solution, you will learn how to heal hormonal chaos and revitalize the body from the inside out with the support of high-quality essential oils. You’ll learn how essential oils work on a cellular level to mitigate the toxic loads we carry. You’ll also learn how to use essential oils to reduce cravings, get deep, restful sleep, ease stress, improve mood, banish the worst symptoms of PMS, regain focus and concentration, boost libido, and increase energy.
Featuring a 14-day plan to jumpstart your hormonal health, with over 100 essential oil blends, daily self-care rituals, and delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes, this book will teach you how to reset your body and pave the way for improved hormonal health.
In The Essential Oils Hormone Solution, you will learn:
- What hormones are, what their roles are in our body, and how they
- How essential oils work to reset and improve hormonal levels, and how they can mitigate the toxic load that we’re carrying — and likely don’t even know exists.
- The specific therapeutic properties of the oils most commonly used to treat hormonal symptoms.
- How to best use different essential oils and create everyday rituals to enhance your health and well-being.
- Over 100 recipes for essential oil blends created to implement specific solutions for your individualized needs.
- How to jumpstart your hormonal health in just 14 days with meal plans, exercise recommendations, rituals, and supportive essential oils.
Getting to the root cause of hormonal imbalance takes some time and introspection, but this book will give you a step-by-step system to balance your hormones and leave you feeling energized, joyful, and revitalized. I encourage you to pick up your copy of The Essential Oils Hormone Solution today!
I hope this information helps you on your road to reduced stress and better hormonal health. I’d love to hear how essential oils have worked for you!