I’d never thought much about my hormones until YEARS after I began tackling the many and various health implications I now realise had clear links to imbalances in my body on a hormonal level. The complexity and intricacy of our bodies never ceases to amaze me.
Men and women alike feel the effects of hormone imbalance. Essential oils work in our bodies in their ability to heal and balance, and bring our bodies back to a state of balance (HOMEOSTASIS). They work to support the hypothalamus, the body’s control centre, responsible for ensuring homeostasis in the brain. The hypothalamus produces thyrotropin-releasing, gonadotropin releasing, growth-hormone releasing and corticotropin-releasing hormones, as well as somatostatin and dopamine, and is responsible for behavioural, autonomic, and endocrine system related processes.
All kinds of things can get this balance out of whack – toxins, stress, diet, illness. Essential oils are so small molecularly that they effectively permeate the skin and achieve full body effects as they are absorbed into the bloodstream and cross the blood brain barrier.
Oils are incredible in their efficacy on the body as a whole, taking just 22 seconds for molecules to reach the brain, 2 minutes to reach the blood stream, and 20 minutes to affect every cell in the body. By using a variety of oils we can achieve different effects on the body, in the same way that eating a colourful/varied diet powerfully impacts the health of the body’s various systems. The primary systems where we tend to see the impact of hormone imbalance include:
- mood (especially PMS for women) / stress / anxiety
- skin / hair / nails
- hunger / thirst (and weight loss)
- menstrual cycle
- body temperature
There are a few key terms you should know when it comes to balancing healthy hormones:
PROGESTERONE: progesterone is a neuroprotective hormone, the calming hormone. Balanced progesterone will enhance GABA receptor activity, GABA being a calming neurotransmitter.
OESTROGEN: oestrogen metabolism is an important factor to consider in balancing hormones, most simply achieved by increasing fibre and other appropriate micronutrients in your diet.
SEROTONIN: serotonin is the body’s happy hormone, and an estrogen dependent neurotransmitter.
OILS FOR HEALTHY HORMONES
A few oils you should have in your collection if balancing hormones naturally is something you’re looking to achieve. I choose doTERRA essential oils, the very best on the market right now.
CLARY SAGE: Balances out excess oestrogen in the body. Various conditions have been linked to excess oestrogen, including PCOS, infertility, oestrogen based cancers. Clary sage is also beneficial in the treatment of hormone conditions.
THYME: Improves/increases progesterone production. Lack of progesterone has been linked to infertility in both men and women, as well as PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and depression.
SANDALWOOD: Naturally balances testosterone in men and women (great especially for men!). An aphrodisiac, (often used in perfumes and colognes in the fragrance industry).
ROSE: Also an aphrodisiac, mood lifting (increases serotonin and other neuropeptides in the brain – good mood hormones).
PEPPERMINT: A great cooling oil, fantastic for hot flashes.
CLARYCALM (women’s monthly blend): pre-diluted with fractionated coconut oil so great on sensitive skin. Apply over ovaries and to pulse points during your menstrual cycle, or daily to support hormone imbalance. Can also be used as a natural deodorant in combination with a crystal stick or natural deodorant of choice.
WHISPER (blend for women): use in place of commercial perfumes. Designed to interact with your individual chemistry for a unique personalised fragrance, and supports hormonal balance and emotional wellbeing. Apply a drop or two to pulse points.
Rollerblends to try:
MOOD BALANCING BLEND
2 drops Geranium
2 drops Ylang Ylang
2 drops Clary Sage
Drop into a 10ml rollerball
Top with fractionated coconut oil.
Roll on pulse points, up and down spine, and along soles of the feet.
SKIN CLEARING BLEND
2 drops Frankincense
2 drops Tea tree
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Myrhh
Drop into a 10ml rollerball
Top w. fractionated coconut oil/jojoba
Roll under eyes, along lines/wrinkles/problem areas of skin.
A FEW OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS
Balancing hormones have been strongly linked to dietary factors like having a whole food based, well-rounded diet. You can help your body come back to a state of balance by decreasing or even eliminating inflammatory foods such as alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy, by increasing your intake of leafy greens, incorporating adaptogens such as maca into your diet, increasing healthy fats like flaxseeds, avocado, wild caught salmon (I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind about eating KETO - I tend to follow a “keto-ish” model), and by working towards alkaline urinary pH. All of these things are about improving your internal physiology in such a way that your body comes back to a state of homeostasis and can focus its energies on working out other imbalances that may be getting you down!
This is one I need to preach to myself! The key is to seek routine - try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day where you can, so that your body knows what to expect and can get into healthy rhythms. Sleep hygiene is a big one - I love this podcast by an old naturopath of mine, Angela Busby, the second of a two part series on understanding sleep and improving your sleep quality. Sleep quality is a highly influential factor when it comes to managing stress and healthy hormones.
BEWARE OF EVERYDAY TOXINS
We live in a world where our bodies face a continuous barrage of toxic chemicals, to a point of overload, even illness. The industrial revolution changed the way we manufacture goods as societies, and provided us with quick access to synthetics, manmade chemicals which brought us plastics, and huge changes to textiles and agricultural industries. There are over 80 000 chemicals used in commerce today, but of them all, the group of chemicals found to be of most concern to humans is a group of commonly used chemicals called ‘phthalates’.
Phthalates can be found in a all kinds of everyday products including cosmetics, fragrances, pesticides, plastics, cleaning products and clothing. They belong also to a longer list of manmade molecules known as “endochrine-disrupting chemicals” (EDCs). It is our endocrine system that controls many of the bodily functions we have already mentioned, and that relies on normal hormone function. The danger with these EDCs is that they can mimic the natural functions of our body’s systems, particularly hormones, and can interfere with hormone function by binding to the same sites and cells where hormones would normally bind instead. In this way, EDCs can wreak havoc on our bodies as they are absorbed by the skin, or enter through the nose or mouth by being inhaled or ingested. When these synthetic chemicals mimic the effects of naturally occurring ones, there can occur a whole host of ongoing repercussions, including increased uptake of calories by the intestines (linked with obesity), increased production of insulin by the pancreas (linked with diabetes), as well as sensitivities of the ovaries and testicles as sex hormone producers. EDC exposure has been linked to infertility, birth defects, learning disabilities and cancer.
Moreover, EDCs are proven ‘mutagens’, which means they hold the capacity to mutate our DNA, changing signals on the DNA molecules themselves that tell the body to turn on or turn off certain genes. The trouble is that product manufacturers are in no way obligated to disclose to consumers whether or not they have used chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors.
There are a few simple ways to reduce the toxins in your home and lessen the load on your body:
DITCH SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES
Commercial fragrances, particularly PERFUMES rate a 10 out of 10 on the toxicity scale!
Tara Bliss puts it beautifully:
“As women we are very susceptible to the beast that is the beauty industry. It is an industry which preys on our vulnerability and our most tender insecurities. It is an idustry that tells us we need to change, and that we need to aim for perfection… in these products there contains the synthetic chemicals and endocrine disruptors that attack our very womanhood…. making us infertile, shutting down our reproductive organs, and throwing our hormones completely out of whack. The irony, hu?! The price of beauty!”
Instead, we can use high quality essential oils to create our own ‘purefume’ blends, or to aromatically dress by lathering the body with oil as a part of our morning or evening routine (maybe after dry body brushing!). Geranium, jasmine, rose, ylang ylang and patchouli are some of my (hormone balancing!) favourites.
NATURAL (or HOMEMADE) SKINCARE / MAKEUP
Over recent years, lots of companies have recognised the need for simple, natural skincare and emerged with numerous options for paraben and SLS (sodium laurel sulphate) free beauty products. The simplest way is to make your own. By using essential oils, you can know exactly what goes into what you’re putting on your skin, and keep it as toxin free as they come. ZERO phalates, parabens, sodium laurel sulphates or anything else, simply hormone balancing, health fortifying oils and pure carrier oils like coconut oil and jojoba. Whats more, there are plenty of oils that have been shown to have incredible benefits on the skin.
I’ve run numerous workshops on this one. Commercial cleaning products tend to be some of the most toxic products on the market - full of endocrine disrupting chemicals that kill germs, but also do great harm tot our bodies. Cleaning with essential oils is incredibly easy and will not only save the earth and your body the detrimental impact, but will also save you $$ in the long run. doTERRA’s On Guard oil is full of clove, which has been shown to have highly potent antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Lemon, rosemary, cinnamon and orange oils have also shown effective antibacterial activity, without the detrimental side effects. They have demonstrated the efficacy in killing bacteria comparable to that of commercial cleaners.
Where possible, choosing glass over plastic can prevent your exposure to unnecessary EDCs or other toxic chemicals for no real reason. Tupperware and water bottles are a prime example, as well as water bottles, where glass or stainless steel containers can provide a toxin free alternative.
Avoid plastic wraps, plastic bags, and thermal-paper receipts. All of these could increase your body’s exposure to BPAs (bisphenol A), and leave traces of the compound in the body.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to informed consumption - being aware of toxic load in the everyday, considering environmental and lifestyle factors, and making a gradual shift from commercial to natural by slowly substituting the toxic products in your home for homemade, low-tox alternatives.