6 Essential Oils To Quickly Relieve Constipation + How To Use Them
When you can't go, you just don't feel like yourself. Over-the-counter laxatives may provide relief from constipation, but they can also cause side effects1, as reported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That's why many people turn to natural options after missing a day or two of going number two.
What causes constipation?
Constipation can be a result of dehydration, a side effect of a prescription medication, or a part of an underlying medical condition, says Ken Perry, M.D., FACEP, an emergency physician in Charleston, South Carolina. "Problems with evacuating stool, although usually a problem of material making it through the GI tract," he adds, "can be from a problem in the muscles of the pelvic floor or the rectum." It may also come as a result of imbalanced gut bacteria and a diet low in fiber.
An increase in stress, a change in routine, dietary issues, or a sedentary lifestyle are all additional culprits of constipation, according to Elisa Song, M.D., a holistic pediatrician and pediatric functional medicine expert. "Physical activity, especially getting those legs pumping, is very important to get your bowels moving," she adds.
6 essential oils for constipation relief:
Fennel has a phytotherapic compound made up of essential oils that may help get things moving. A randomized clinical trial published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that a tea made of the compound had a laxative effect. And a review published in Bio-Med Research International reports on fennel's antispasmodic properties for cramp relief.
Ginger helps relieve bloating and gas and increases gastrointestinal motility, according to a systematic review of clinical trials published in Food Science & Nutrition.
Peppermint, with its monoterpene compounds, has been shown to be helpful in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a meta-analysis published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Peppermint oil contains L-menthol, which can ease digestive tract cramping, the report says.
Chamomile has also shown promise in the relief of IBS symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain, according to research published in Der Pharma Chemica.
Rosemary essential oil aromatherapy combined with abdominal massage has been shown to relieve constipation in two studies, both published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing2, one focusing on senior patients3 and another on college-age women2.
2 combinations to try.
Rosemary, lemon, and peppermint offer an uplifting combination when your body is feeling a little sluggish. In a study3 focusing on older patients, this combination of oils used in conjunction with abdominal massage brought constipation relief.
A chamomile, fennel, and mint combination may help provide soothing relief for bloating, gas, and abdominal cramping, according to research in Molecular Medicine Reports4.
How to use essential oils to ease constipation.
The best way to use essential oils for constipation is to dilute a few drops of your EO of choice in a carrier oil like jojoba or argan oil and use that to give yourself an abdominal massage while taking deep breaths to inhale the scent.
The International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork5 recommends a dilution rate of 1.5% to 3% for adults. That translates to about 10 to 20 drops per ounce of carrier oil, according to the National Holistic Association for Aromatherapy (NAHA). (For children, stick to 3 to 6 drops.)
"Massage along the entire length of the colon with clockwise and counterclockwise circular motions for about five to 10 minutes," says Liz Simons, P.T., DPT, a pelvic health rehabilitation expert and owner of Terra Wellness Physical Therapy in Long Island.
Before applying to a larger area, test the oil on a small patch of skin to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction.
Other home remedies for constipation.
"The best home remedies are things that do not necessarily cause the expulsion of stool, such as a laxative," Perry says, "but rather things that can help with keeping water within the stool and make it easier to expel. These would be things like fiber or psyllium." Certain forms of magnesium can also help with constipation.
Simons also recommends going for a walk or engaging in other types of movement. "Try some twisting yoga poses," she says, "like supine or seated spinal twist, low-lunge twist, and wind-removing pose."
And Song says, "Load up on probiotic-rich fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha, but hold the yogurt for now." And add a probiotic if necessary.
Perry says a halt in bowel movements isn't considered constipation unless you've gone three days without relief. "If constipation persists," he says, "it sometimes can lead to an obstruction that requires mechanical assistance to remove," Perry cautions. So talk to your physician if symptoms don't improve. And if you have a known medical condition that can lead to constipation, make sure to check in with your doctor if you're having trouble going.
The bottom line.
Bloating and the inability to go number two happens to all of us at one time or another. If you sense your bowels are getting sluggish, try an essential oil abdominal massage or another home remedy to help your body along.
Jennifer Chesak is the author of The Psilocybin Handbook for Women: How Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelic Therapy, and Microdosing Can Benefit Your Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Health. She is a Nashville-based freelance journalist, editor, fact-checker, and adjunct professor with two decades of experience and a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill. Her byline appears in several national publications, including the Washington Post. Follow her on socials @jenchesak.