Constipation happens thanks to slower than normal movement of food and wastes in the digestive tract.
Signs of constipation include bowel movements that occur less often, hard stools that make going to the bathroom painful, having to strain, abdominal pain, and bloating.
Constant straining during bowel movements can lead to hemorrhoids.
Possible causes of constipation:
- Unmanaged stress & anxiety
- Lack of physical movement
- A diet lacking sufficient fiber, prebiotics, probiotics, and healthy fats
- Specific medications
- Microbiome imbalances
- Mineral deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalances
While occasional constipation is normal and often resolves on its own chronic constipation may be a sign of a deeper problem with the digestive system.
If you’re experiencing constipation daily or for weeks or months you should go see your doctor and assess the situation.
People often take laxatives as a first response or go-to to relieve this problem but beware that chronic laxative use can cause further dehydration and electrolyte imbalances which can make constipation worse.
Laxative abuse can also create long-term and even permanent damage to your colon and digestive system.
Many people are turning to home remedies for constipation relief as a first-level response.
If you’re looking for a natural option to help ease your discomfort essential oils can help.
Essential Oils As A Natural Remedy
Essential oils (EOs) are highly concentrated plant compounds that are extracted from different parts of plant material such as tree bark and resin, roots, leaves, flowers, nuts, and even fruit.
Because they possess many medicinal properties that can support physical healing on many levels they’ve been used as natural remedies for hundreds of years by various cultures around the world.
The therapeutic application of EOs is referred to as aromatherapy.
Recent research suggests that the safe and mindful use of EOs can help aid many different health issues such as:
- Boosting immunity
- Decreasing stress and anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Relieving pain and discomfort
- Soothing eczema and other skin conditions
- Treating colds, coughs, sinus infections, and sore throats
- Addressing allergy symptoms
- Soothing headaches and migraine
The 5 Best Essential Oils For The Relief Of Constipation
Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
- Peppermint essential oil is one of the most effective oils to use for digestive problems.
- It’s an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, and antispasmodic which means it helps relax the muscles of the GI tract which can help facilitate bowel movements.
- Menthol, the main active compound in peppermint offers a cooling and soothing effect.
- It’s also believed to be helpful in the treatment of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms.
- A 2008 study published in the BMJ found peppermint oil to be useful in relieving the constipation of IBS patients. (1)
- A few years ago Canada approved the first peppermint oil natural health product for IBS patients. (2)
Ginger oil (Zingiber officinale)
- Ginger essential oil is a powerful digestive stimulator that can increase motility which leads to more bowel movements. (3)
- It has a high content of gingerols, an active compound with high anti-inflammatory properties.
- Ginger oil is also a good digestive aid that helps create inner warmth and soothes nausea and indigestion.
Lemon oil (Citrus limon)
- Lemon essential oil offers multiple health benefits as it’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that is rich in Vitamin C.
- It’s a digestive aid that soothes indigestion and can also serve as a laxative and diuretic.
- It’s also antispasmodic which can help loosen stool.
Fennel oil (Foeniculum officinale)
- This essential oil is extracted from fennel seeds.
- Fennel is often used for digestive issues as it can soothe and purify the digestive tract and intestines.
- According to a study published in Biomed Research International, fennel oil has the power to alleviate both constipation and diarrhea along with flatulence, gastritis, irritable colon, and stomach aches. (4)
Marjoram oil (Origanum majorana)
- Marjoram oil is antispasmodic and can improve digestion by promoting looser stools.
- It also has calming and relaxing effects on the body and nervous system which can facilitate the reduction of the stress response while activating the “rest and digest” response.
Other EOs that may provide digestive relief are:
- Chamomile oil
- Lavender oil
- Sweet Basil oil
- When used safely and properly EOs usually offer little to no side effects.
- Long-term use of essential oils is considered safe for most individuals, unlike chronic laxative use.
- When used topically as a natural aid for constipation EOs must always be diluted in a carrier oil in order to prevent skin irritation and reactions. This is especially true for sensitive skin types.
- It’s advisable to perform a patch test on a non-affected area of the skin and wait at least 24 hours to confirm that there is no allergic reaction.
- If you experience any adverse reaction to any oil discontinue use immediately and consult your healthcare provider.
- Be aware of the contraindications for each oil you use. For example, you should avoid applying ginger and all citrus oils directly onto the skin if you’re going to be exposed to the sun as these oils are considered phototoxic.
- You will also want to always choose high-quality, certified organic, and therapeutic grade products to avoid diluted batches and the addition of potentially harmful chemicals. This is especially true if you’re planning on ingesting them.
- Do not ingest EOs without the supervision of an experienced aromatherapist or without prior consultation with your doctor, especially if you’ve got a chronic health issue like digestive problems or diabetes.
How To Use EOs for Constipation
Always dilute your essential oil blends with a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil if you’re applying directly to the skin.
Try giving yourself a daily abdominal massage for 10-15 minutes.
Add 3 drops of peppermint oil and 3 drops of lemon essential oil to 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil and gently massage the abdominal area.
You can turn it into a meditation ritual by coupling the massaging motion with gentle, deep belly breathing and bringing mindfulness to your breath and awareness.
Pro tip: One great thing about EOs is you can mix and blend different oils to enhance their healing and therapeutic effects.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a comprehensive list of EOs that are considered ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS) for ingestion provided the oils are undiluted, solvent-free, and consumed in an appropriate quantity and as described. (5)
This list is not exhaustive.
The FDA doesn’t regulate EOs so it’s on you to do your own research and make up your own decisions when looking to purchase any oil.
It’s a good idea to only ingest supplement-grade, certified organic EO products as you don’t want to make symptoms worse to ingest pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
It’s also a good idea to use vegetable gel capsules that you can add the EO too.
Dilute the EO with MCT oil or olive oil if you’re going to use the capsule method.
You can use either an inhaler for a more direct application or a diffuser for a less direct application.
Inhalation of essential oils is not as effective as topical application or ingestion for constipation or digestive purposes.
If you’re going to inhale or diffuse your oils be sure to couple it with an abdominal massage for best results.
4 Other Lifestyle Practices For Healthy Digestion
- Hydrate – Aim to drink 1.5 – 2 L of water daily and even more if you’re consuming caffeine or doing high-intensity workouts.
- Adjust your diet – Aim to eat 65-80% raw, whole, organic vegetables like leafy greens as these are rich in fiber. You can also consume healthy fat such as avocado, wild salmon, coconut oil, and raw nuts. Take a daily probiotic. Eliminate or minimize alcohol, sugar, and processed or fried foods as these can dehydrate you and negatively impact your gut flora.
- Breathe Deeply – With your lower belly. This kind of breathing provides a gentle massage to your digestive organs and glands and helps to activate the body’s “rest and digest” response.
- Manage your stress and anxiety – There is a direct correlation between stress and digestive issues such as constipation. Your brain and gut are interconnected and managing stress by learning how to increase inner calm will help ease your constipation.