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Home > Learn > Pregnancy > >Essential Oils for Nausea During Pregnancy

Essential Oils for Nausea During Pregnancy

Jul 20, 23 7 min

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Essential oils have a mixed reputation- some people love them and use them as a cure-all, while others ward them off and deny any potential benefits. So what’s the truth behind essential oils, and can they really help with some symptoms? Let’s find out! 

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are extremely concentrated plant extracts- including flowers, herbs, trees, etc. There are countless types of essential oils coming from many different plants, but they are all obtained through mechanical pressing or distillation. [1] The composition of essential oils can vary widely depending on the extraction process, the origin of the plant, etc. [2] Essential oils are popular amongst some holistic and alternative medicine enthusiasts and have received both praise and concern from different medical professionals. While some research shows positive health effects from essential oils, others show potential negative consequences. [1-2] This is why speaking to your healthcare provider directly before using any alternative therapies is so important. 

How do Essential Oils Work?

So how are essential oils actually used? There are a few different ways to use them, but the most common method is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy refers to the inhalation of essential oils (often mixed with water) through an air diffuser or other method. [3] This is used as a complementary health approach for conditions such as insomnia, pain, anxiety, etc. Some people have also used essential oils directly on the skin, or have ingested them through teas, supplements, or drops. [4] As far as how essential oils actually work, that’s dependent on how the oils are absorbed into the body and what compounds they are made of. Some oils interact with certain nerves, hormones, or cells to interact with the body in different ways.  [3] 

Are they Safe for Pregnancy?

It’s difficult to determine what oils may be safe or unsafe for pregnancy, as there are countless essential oils on the market and very few randomized studies to prove safety or efficacy. While data suggests that some oils can be very helpful during pregnancy, others may have questionable or negative effects. [5] You should always speak to your healthcare provider before using any product during pregnancy. 

Best Essential Oils for Nausea

Peppermint oil is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). [6] Multiple studies have observed the effects of peppermint oil during pregnancy and have found it to be a safe and effective remedy for controlling morning sickness as well as some skin conditions. [6-7] There are also peppermint teas, supplements, candies, and more that may aid in the treatment or management of nausea and vomiting. 

Ginger is also GRAS by the FDA and ginger oil is another useful essential oil for managing nausea during pregnancy. [8] Ginger oil or other forms of ginger have been shown to be safe and effective for reducing symptoms of morning sickness. [9-10] This includes the aroma of ginger as well as ingesting it in the form of tea, chews, candies, etc. While both ginger and peppermint can be purchased as essential oils, there is no data to suggest that aromatherapy is more effective than consumption through diet or supplements. 

How to Use Essential Oils

Essential oils can be used in a few different ways, often in the form of aromatherapy, and occasionally used topically or ingested. [1-3] Ingesting oils or using oils topically is generally not recommended during pregnancy in order to limit fetal exposure. [5] Smelling essential oils can be done using steam, such as with an air diffuser, or by placing a drop or two on a cotton ball to sniff. Essential oils are very concentrated and a little can go a long way, especially if your sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy. Although some oils such as ginger and peppermint are thought to be safe, it’s important to check with a healthcare provider before using any products not medically prescribed to you. 

Natalist call to action featuring nausea relief gummies and coupon code

Tips and Products for Nausea Relief

Morning sickness can be difficult to manage. If you haven’t already, read up on some foods to fight nausea during pregnancy. Eating bland foods, changing meal times, and more have been helpful for some when managing nausea and vomiting. Outside of essential oils, there are many different products available that may be useful for those battling morning sickness. Products such as herbal morning sickness teas or anti-nausea gummies and supplements can be a great addition to your pregnancy routine. Be sure to speak to a healthcare provider before using any oils, supplements, or other products while pregnant. If you are experiencing severe morning sickness or need help managing your nausea and vomiting, your provider may be able to prescribe or suggest specific medications. 

Other Uses for Essential Oils

Aside from nausea relief, research shows that some essential oils have been useful for improving sleep, anxiety, inflammation, headaches, pain, and more. Other pregnancy symptoms that may be managed with essential oils include hemorrhoids, muscle aches, insomnia, stress, depression, and others. [11-12] 

Essentials Oils to Avoid During Pregnancy

While some essential oils have been shown to be effective and generally considered safe for pregnant people, others may have negative health effects. Some examples of potentially toxic or harmful essential oils during pregnancy include [13]:

  • Anise
  • Basil oil
  • Australian lemon balm
  • Black seed (cumin or caraway)
  • Blue cypress
  • Buchu
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon tea tree
  • Spanish lavender

It’s important to note that this isn’t a comprehensive list, and not all of these oils will result in negative health effects. Data shows that these oils may have the potential to disrupt reproductive hormones, pregnancy, or may have cancerous or toxic side effects. [13] 

What to Keep in Mind 

While essential oils can be useful for some people, alternative remedies should never be used to treat any conditions or replace any prescribed medication without the approval of a healthcare provider. Not all essential oils are created equal- some may be made with other added ingredients, stronger concentrations, etc. so be mindful of what you’re using and where it came from. [1-2] Some people can experience negative health effects or allergic reactions to specific ingredients, so proceed with caution when trying any essential oils for the first time. Avoid ingesting any oils or applying oils directly to the skin, unless told otherwise by a healthcare provider. [5] While ginger and peppermint oil are considered generally safe and have been shown to improve morning sickness, there are still very few studies available on the use of essential oils. These can also be consumed through the diet or in the form of herbal teas, supplements, etc. Read 5 Medications and Supplements to Help with Morning Sickness

To Summarize

There are mixed feelings about essential oils in the medical field, partly due to the lack of studies we have focused on the safety and efficacy of alternative therapies. Essential oils are concentrated plant oils that can be used on the skin, ingested, or used for aromatherapy. Some studies have found beneficial effects from some essential oils, while others warn of potential negative consequences. When attempting to remedy nausea, it’s important to speak to a healthcare provider directly about what treatments are safe for you. Some data suggest that peppermint and ginger can be useful for reducing nausea and improving morning sickness. If you're looking for holistic solutions, you might consider exploring options like a soothing pregnancy gift basket of curated pregnancy-symptom relief products.


References:

  1. Essential Oils. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Reviewed February 17 2022. URL. Accessed July 2023. 
  2. Ramsey JT, Shropshire BC, Nagy TR, Chambers KD, Li Y, Korach KS. Essential Oils and Health. Yale J Biol Med. 2020;93(2):291-305. Published 2020 Jun 29.
  3. Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work? Hopkins Medicine. URL. Accessed July 2023. 
  4. Lin, Y. 11 Essential Oils: Their Benefits and How To Use Them. Cleveland Clinic. December 14 2021. URL. Accessed July 2023. 
  5. Dosoky NS, Setzer WN. Maternal Reproductive Toxicity of Some Essential Oils and Their Constituents. Int J Mol Sci. 2021;22(5):2380. Published 2021 Feb 27. doi:10.3390/ijms22052380
  6. Joulaeerad N, Ozgoli G, Hajimehdipoor H, Ghasemi E, Salehimoghaddam F. Effect of Aromatherapy with Peppermint Oil on the Severity of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy: A Single-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled trial. J Reprod Infertil. 2018;19(1):32-38.
  7. Akhavan Amjadi M, Mojab F, Kamranpour SB. The effect of peppermint oil on symptomatic treatment of pruritus in pregnant women. Iran J Pharm Res. 2012;11(4):1073-1077.
  8. Food Additive Status List. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. URL. Accessed July 2023. 
  9. Lete I, Allué J. The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integr Med Insights. 2016;11:11-17. Published 2016 Mar 31. doi:10.4137/IMI.S36273
  10. Memon, Nazneen. Uttekar, P. How Do You Use Ginger for Nausea? Ginger Health Benefits. Medicine Net. Reviewed February 16 2022. URL
  11. Shirazi M, Mohebitabar S, Bioos S, et al. The Effect of Topical Rosa damascena (Rose) Oil on Pregnancy-Related Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017;22(1):120-126. doi:10.1177/2156587216654601
  12. Igarashi T. Physical and psychologic effects of aromatherapy inhalation on pregnant women: a randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2013;19(10):805-810. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.0103
  13. Dosoky NS, Setzer WN. Maternal Reproductive Toxicity of Some Essential Oils and Their Constituents. Int J Mol Sci. 2021;22(5):2380. Published 2021 Feb 27. doi:10.3390/ijms22052380
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