The following is a review of carrier oils, enriching oils, and essential oils for sexual and reproductive health. A broad range of essential oils were chosen across notes and uses to cover a wide range of sexual health needs. It is worth noting that any oils could be pertinent to one’s sexual health depending on what aspects of a person’s life is getting in the way of their sexual functioning.
Oils not included below that I also consider to be quite relevant to sexual health are: any base note oils and especially patchouli, ylang ylang, and sandalwood, as well as grapefruit, tangerine, palmarosa, clary sage, and neem oil.
Coconut Oil Cocos Cocos nucifera
Coconut oils unique combination of antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties as a carrier oil make it perfect for vaginal health. Coconut oil not only prevents a variety of vaginal infections but it also balances the microbiotic composition of the vagina. Not to mention, it is deliciously edible, so feel free to use it liberally during sex! However, if using coconut oil directly on the vulva and vagina, note that all oils are incompatible with latex and polyisoprene condoms, and silicone items such as dildos, menstrual cups, diaphragms, or cervical caps. Oil increases the chances of a condom breaking and degrades silicone materials due to the lauric acid content. Polyurethane condoms can be safely used with all oils, including coconut.
Coconut oil’s antifungal property has many benefits for newborn babies, as well. Coconut oil can be used for cradle cap, diaper rash and keeping little baby vulvas and penises clean and healthy between diaper changes.
Hemp Seed Oil Cannabis sativa
Hemp Seed Oil is excellent for those working on hormone-balancing and especially helpful during pregnancy. In order to maintain good fatty-acid balance and hormone functioning it is important to pay attention to omega-3 intake. A ratio of 3:1 omega 6 to omega 3 can have many benefits (such as acting in an anti-inflammatory way), however, many north americans have a ratio of 16:1 due to the high omega-6 content in many vegetable oils. A ratio of 10:1 or higher can start to have detrimental effects to health (such as acting in a proinflammatory way).
Its 3:1 omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids help the body regulate hormone production. Hormones are the messengers in the body. For example, during menstruation the spike in estrogen production in the middle of the month initiates egg production. Decreasing estrogen production and increasing progesterone production at the end of the cycle communicates to the body it is time to release the unfertilized egg. Hemp seed oil’s 3:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio improve cell membrane health and facilitates good cell communication, thereby improving hormone regulation. By assisting in hormone-regulation, consumption of hemp seed oil can reduce chances of postpartum depression, preeclampsia, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and breast cancer.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids have also been found to aid in conception by increasing blood-flow to the uterus and decreasing premature birth by increasing blood-flow to the placenta, which also aids in fetal growth.
Sunflower Seed Oil Helianthus annuus
This oil is all about heart health and skin healing! The high omega-9 (oleic acid) content in sunflower oil reduces the chances of heart disease by increasing good cholesterol and decreasing bad cholesterol, which eliminates plaque build-up in the arteries. High quality, organic, sunflower seed oil also has a 3:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid content like hemp seed oil, making it another good oil for helping hormones stay in balance. Poor quality sunflower seed oil can have much higher omega-6 content. A ratio of 10:1 or higher can start to have detrimental effects to health (such as acting in a proinflammatory way).
It is also worth noting that this oil can be used on babies to prevent viral and bacterial infection by strengthening membrane barriers.
Evening Primrose Oil Oenothera biennis
Evening primrose oil is a classic female reproductive health oil due to its essential fatty acid content and gamma-linolenic acid for prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are responsible for the regulation of hormones, inflammation, and calcium movement. Prostaglandins also control cell growth and induce labour. The essential fatty acid content in evening primrose oil maintains healthy tissues and is used in skincare for its anti-aging effects. This oil has been used externally and internally to treat symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Mixed with hemp seed oil, they make a powerful duo. I like to use these oils with an essential oil blend of 5ml Lavender, 4ml Marjoram, and 1ml Ginger for relief from menstrual cramps. First, I mix 100ml of hempseed oil with 20ml of evening primrose oil. Then, I add 3.6-6ml of my essential oil blend and shake the bottle. I rub the oil clockwise on my abdomen or pour some into a bath and visualize my muscles softening as the pain melts away.
Seabuckthorn Oil Hippophae rhamnoides
Seabuckthorn oil reduces the chances of heart disease by increasing good cholesterol and decreasing bad cholesterol, which eliminates plaque build-up in the arteries. Seabuckthorn oil has a high omega-6 and omega-3 content (2:1) effective for hormone-regulation similar to hemp seed oil (3:1) and sunflower seed oil (3:1). Seabuckthorn oil can cause gastrointestinal upset in some individuals when consumed. Consuming this oil for prolonged periods of time can also have adverse effects on the kidneys, therefore I recommend using this oil on the skin. If you want to add a hormone-regulating oil to your diet, I recommend uncooked hemp seed oil. NOTE: vegetable oils should not be cooked. For cooking, use animal fats.
Seabuckthorn oil’s carotenoid, tocopherol, and vitamin content make it a very enriching skin care oil with sunscreening effects. I like to use this oil in a face exfoliant at night (for sunscreening benefit, use it in a lotion or cream during the day). I mix 1tbsp hemp seed oil, 1tbsp honey, 1tsp seabuckthorn oil, with 14 drops of a high quality lemon essential oil. After I’ve mixed the oils, I add 1-2tbsp of baking soda depending on whether I want a more oily texture or scrub texture. I find this scrub very successful in reducing little bumps and whiteheads. NOTE: this will stain your face orange if not thoroughly rinsed off and you will need a cloth you don’t mind getting orange-red stains on.
Wild Yam Root (infused oil) Dioscorea villosa
Western medicine has used this plant in making the hormonal birth control pill: “This herb once was the only source of raw manufacturing materials for contraceptive hormones, cortisone, and contains a steroid hormone called dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which may be useful in treating various diseases” (The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines by Charles W. Fetrow, Pharm D., and Juan R. Avila, Pharm Do.) Traditional medicine has used the wild yam root infused in oil to treat conditions pertaining to low progesterone production. Though there is no scientific study to date to support the use of creams applied to the abdomen made with wild yam root to encourage progesterone production, at Anarres we have found this remedy to be effective for clients. We make our cream with a 5:1 ratio of wild yam root tincture to cream. Other makers of wild yam root creams add a synthesized progesterone. Susan S. Weed suggests taking wild yam root internally through the form of a tincture. It is preferable to take a wild yam root tincture over a synthesized hormone. As explained by Dr. Mercola: “Natural hormones can be swiftly broken down after they have performed their function. They don't just continue hour after hour like the synthetics or the xenoestrogens, which are given in sledgehammer amounts called pharmacologic doses. Big difference.” [http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/18/oral-progesterone-and-progesterone-cream-complications.aspx].
Chamomile, Roman Chamaemelum nobile/arthemis/nobillis
When there is inflammation in the mind or body, chamomile is an excellent antidote. Chamomile is well-known for its soothing effects across many of the body systems thanks to its high ester content (75-80%), the chemical responsible for chamomile’s calming, anti-inflammatory, sedative, and antispasmodic qualities.
This is oil is often used for soothing heightened emotions of anger and irritability. By calming and relaxing our mind and spirit, this oil is effective at lulling us into sleep. It is equally soothing on irritated, inflamed skin in balms, creams, and lotions. Chamomile is also gentle enough to use in body care products for babies and children (i.e., diaper rash creams) in small quantities when properly diluted into a carrier oil. Because of chamomiles effects across the body systems, this makes it a very valuable oil in treating symptoms of hormonal imbalance. For example, someone struggling with inflamed painful acne can benefit from the use of chamomile essential oil applied in a creams, lotions, or face washes, while the irritating mood-symptoms of PMS can be treated by smelling chamomile from the bottle, putting it into a diffuser, or directly into a bath (approximately 6 drops).
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
Fennel really knows how to get things moving! It is a very stimulating oil due to its high phenol and ether chemical content. Similar to geranium, fennel encourages estrogen production in the body and is therefore applicable for instances of estrogen deficiency (and consequently should be avoided in individuals with estrogen-dominance). The seeds can be made into a tea (1tsp to 1 cup of boiling water let stand for 5min) to increase milk production during breast-feeding. The same tea can also be used for gastrointestinal symptoms of menstruation, particularly symptoms of bloating caused by gas build-up. One tsp of fennel tea can be given to treat babies with colic.
Fennel’s ability to encourage movement within the body systems brings the body into the forefront of our minds. Fennel reminds us to listen to our bodies bridging the mind-body gap. This is especially helpful for those who may benefit from being aware of the relationship between their mental and physical ailments.
Frankincense Boswellia caterrii
It is no surprise that the frankincense essential oil and resin has been used in religious and spiritual practices around the world given its powerful effect on the mind and body. Its combination of soothing (anti-inflammatory, calming, antispasmodic) and uplifting qualities (analgesic, immunostimulant, antidepressant) cultivates the mental serenity and focus needed for psychological and spiritual healing. In this way, frankincense is a sexual health aid by helping us stay present for sexual experiences with our partner(s).
The oil made from this tree resin is also a strong skin-healer for a variety of skin conditions and ailments and an excellent lung healer. Frankincense is particularly helpful for those who have struggled with chronic respiratory symptoms who are in need of long-lasting respiratory healing beyond acute conditions. In this way, frankincense reminds us again to come back to the breath.
Geranium Pelargonium graveolens
Geranium is often described as hormone-balancing, but this only applies to individuals who are deficient in estrogen production. Otherwise, if you are estrogen dominant (a much more common hormone imbalance in our xenoestrogen-rich world), this oil should be avoided during childbearing years. This does make this a useful oil during menopause, when estrogen and progesterone levels naturally drop after the cessation of egg production. Sometimes when the levels drop too quickly it can cause an uncomfortable-degree of vaginal dryness. Using geranium essential oil in a natural lubricant can help with these symptoms without disturbing the bacterial culture in the vagina, due to its antifungal properties.
Geranium’s alcohols content (63%) makes it a very warm and uplifting essential oil but not as stimulating as fennel. Considered a sexual tonic, traditionally geranium has been used to help individuals open their hearts and make intimate emotional and physical connections while encouraging playfulness and sensuality.
Geranium is also an effective ingredient in anti-aging creams thanks to its cell regeneration/cell renewal promotion and sebum regulating properties.
Ginger Zingiber offiinale
Ginger essential oil is all about lighting a fire in our bellies, literally and figuratively! Ginger is predominantly known for its aid in digestion due to its ability to increase blood-flow to the digestive system. Ginger’s ability to stimulate our circulatory system is particularly notable for sexual health. Stimulation of the circulatory system can be helpful during menstruation as well as during a sensual massage between lovers. It’s no wonder ginger is considered an aphrodisiac and sexual tonic. If you’re looking for motivational inspiration (in and out of the bedroom), ginger may be the oil for you.
Jasmine Jasminum sambac
Jasmine essential oil is a powerful aphrodisiac and uterine tonic. It is suspected that smelling jasmine essential oil causes oxytocin production in the brain. Oxytocin is released in the brain to encourage bonding after prolonged intimate contact with a partner, orgasm, immediately after birth, and during breastfeeding. During labour oxytocin is produced to create stronger and longer contractions. This explains why jasmine has been traditionally used to induce labour and why it is associated with sexual pleasure, connection, and love.
Jasmine’s strong, deep, warm, and slightly citrus scent has been traditionally used to unlock our greatest desires and encourages us to relax and indulge.
Juniper Berry Juniperus communis
Juniper Berry is the urinary tracts best friend. One of the few essential oils that can be safely ingested, this oil can be used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) under the care of a qualified aromatherapist.
Sometimes sexual activity can be the catalyst to UTIs. Because people with vulvas have a shortened urinary tract, they are at higher risk for getting bacteria into their urinary tract system. Ejaculation and urination are opportunities for bacteria that may have entered the urethra to be pushed out. After sexual activity it is recommended that people urinate to push out any bacteria that may have gotten into the urethra from hands, mouths, or genitals. However, if all else fails and you wind-up with a UTI, juniper berry is there to help. Its antiseptic and diuretic actions stop the growth of microorganisms and flush out bacteria in the urinary tract.
Juniper berry essential oil can also be used to regulate menstrual cycles, stimulate secretions of the endocrine system, and aid in reducing lymphatic congestion.
Lavender Lavendula angustifolia/officinalis
Lavender essential oil is such a good all-around oil, it’s an aromatherapy staple. One of very few oils that can be applied directly to the skin for mild burns and cuts with just about every “anti” you can think of: antibacterial, anti-infectious, antiviral, antiseptic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and anti-anxiety. Lavender is a powerful healer for the mind, body, and spirit. It’s safe for babies, children, and adults. With its strong anti-anxiety and calming effects on the psyche and ability to soothe ailments across the body’s systems, lavender takes care of it all so we don’t have to worry about it!
Lavender has many applications in regards to our sexual health. With its antiseptic, antiviral, and anti-anxiety properties, it is particularly helpful during herpes outbreaks and can be used directly on the blisters, soothing both the sores itself and the inevitable emotional distress that comes with an outbreak. Stress also leaves us vulnerable to hormonal fluctuations, and in this way lavender can be of great assistance for issues of menstruation and depression. Lavender’s anti-anxiety properties can help us communicate our sexual needs with our partners, reducing the worry that comes with these sensitive conversations. The fear and muscle ache associated with labour can all be addressed with a lavender massage oil. Lavender can also be used as a natural remedy for yeast infections without disturbing the vaginal bacterial culture thanks to its antifungal properties. There is no shortage of useful applications!
Marjoram Origanum majorana
Marjoram’s special combination of actions on the nervous system as an analgesic, calming, balancing, neurotonic, work in conjunction with the alcohol (50%) and monoterpene (40%) content keeping us calm and stimulated. With marjoram we can be relaxed and on!
Marjoram is also noted to help individuals manage addictive behaviour. In my experience, addiction often plagues those who feel less secure and supported by others in the world. Addictions are a goal-oriented focus to numb pain. Marjoram can help us open-up to others and shift our focus. It’s this combination of opening and focusing that simultaneously makes marjoram a versatile oil for aphrodisiac blends, helping us stay emotionally available and present with our partner(s).
Marjoram is also a strong antispasmodic and can be applied to the skin in a carrier oil for muscle aches and pains. This in combination with its opening and focusing properties makes it a powerful labour aid.
Rose Rosa damascena
It’s a cliché and it’s accurate: Rose is the symbol for love. If there are any issues relating to lost love, unrequited love, self-love, compassion- rose will get to the heart of the matter.
Rose is considered an aphrodisiac and sexual tonic, simultaneously releasing dopamine in the brain, increasing blood-flow to the genitalia, and increasing sperm production. As a neurotonic with antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties, rose is an effective hormone-balancer; relieving stress and aiding in symptoms of menstruation and menopause. For those who carry stress in their chest or heart chakra, this is the oil for them.
Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia
Tea Tree is less about making us feel sexy, and more about addressing sexual health conditions so we can get back to the fun stuff. This oil’s incredibly strong antiviral and antifungal properties make it a fantastic genital aid, particularly for the vagina. Using tea tree oil in combination with lavender oil increases the effectiveness of the antiviral and antifungal properties. I’ve also found this oil combination particularly helpful when addressing large, aching pimples and acne (a sign of hormonal imbalance), speeding the healing process.
Vanilla Vanilla Plantifolia
Jasmine is linked to oxytocin, rose is linked to dopamine, and vanilla is linked to serotonin. When we smell vanilla our bodies release serotonin, one of the feel-good chemicals in the brain. Vanilla’s warm, sweet, smooth scent makes it readily pairable with any essential oil adding body and depth to a blend. Like jasmine and rose, vanilla is also an antidepressant and aphrodisiac. Vanilla in the base of any blend is nearly always a safe-bet if you’re trying to stimulate the libido!