Clary sage oil for pain and stress October 27, 2015 21:44

Aromatherapists have used clary sage oil for a long time to calm and lift the mood. And, it seems, for a good reason: inhaling this essential oil can reduce the level of the stress hormones, increase the amount of serotonin, reduce blood pressure in stressful situations and even ease pain of menstruation and labour.

One study showed that inhaling clary sage oil can lower the level of the stress hormone cortisol in menopausal women, especially those prone to depression (Lee et al., 2014). The oil also increased the amount of serotonin, a chemical messenger whose deficiency is thought to be involved in depression. However, the study had some disadvantage: it lacked a comparison for clary sage (a different oil) and the studied group of people was quite small (twenty two).

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Feeling stressed can reflect in our blood pressure and respiration rate, and what stressful situation is better to study than an unpleasant medical procedure? Women undergoing a urodynamic examination were divided into a group that inhaled clary sage oil, a group that inhaled lavender essential oil and a group that inhaled almond oil (Seol et al., 2013). Those breathing in vapours of clary sage showed a reduction in blood pressure and in rate of respiration. Participants who inhaled lavender and almond oils did not show such benefits.

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Pain can also affect not only the way we feel physically, but our psychological wellbeing. Clary sage essential oil seems to help women with painful cramps during menstruation (Ou et al., 2012). Here it was blended with lavender and marjoram oils in a cream that the women used to massage their lower abdomen from the end of the last menstruation to the beginning of the next one. Those who used the essential oil blend suffered on average 1.8 days instead of 2.4 days. Ladies who used cream with a synthetic fragrance experienced a smaller improvement (2.1 instead of 2.4 days).  

Finally, scientists dared to test the essential oil on the greatest pain of all: labour contractions. Hundred and fifty six women in labour used an incense mask with either clary sage essential oil, jasmine essential oil and water for 15 min (Kaviani et al., 2014). Women who inhaled clary sage experienced less pain and shorter first and second stages of labour half an hour after inhaling the essential oil. However, after an hour there were no differences in pain between the three groups. This study involved only women who had given birth before.

These results suggest that clary sage oil can help to relax, lift our mood and bring down blood pressure and pain. Recently I started using it before going to bed and I’m pretty sure I sleep better... As long as does no harm, I figure it’s worth trying!


Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Always use essential oils and extract as advised by the manufacturer or a qualified therapist.



Kaviani, M., S. Maghbool, S. Azima, and M. H. Tabaei, 2014, Comparison of the effect of aromatherapy with Jasminum officinale and Salvia officinale on pain severity and labor outcome in nulliparous women: Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res, v. 19, p. 666-72.

Lee, K. B., E. Cho, and Y. S. Kang, 2014, Changes in 5-hydroxytryptamine and cortisol plasma levels in menopausal women after inhalation of clary sage oil: Phytother Res, v. 28, p. 1599-605.

Ou, M. C., T. F. Hsu, A. C. Lai, Y. T. Lin, and C. C. Lin, 2012, Pain relief assessment by aromatic essential oil massage on outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial: J Obstet Gynaecol Res, v. 38, p. 817-22.

Seol, G. H., Y. H. Lee, P. Kang, J. H. You, M. Park, and S. S. Min, 2013, Randomized controlled trial for Salvia sclarea or Lavandula angustifolia: differential effects on blood pressure in female patients with urinary incontinence undergoing urodynamic examination: J Altern Complement Med, v. 19, p. 664-70.

Seol, G. H., H. S. Shim, P. J. Kim, H. K. Moon, K. H. Lee, I. Shim, S. H. Suh, and S. S. Min, 2010, Antidepressant-like effect of Salvia sclarea is explained by modulation of dopamine activities in rats: J Ethnopharmacol, v. 130, p. 187-90.