Clary Sage To Induce Labor?

Clary sage essential oil does not apppear to prompt labor but is harmless, say researchers.
Clary sage essential oil does not apppear to prompt labor but is harmless, say researchers.
Clary sage essential oil does not appear to induce labor, says new Japanese study.

A very small pilot study finds that while a whiff or two of clary sage probably does nothing harmful to expectant mothers or their unborn babies, it likely doesn’t actually work to induce labor, either.

This was a very small study of only 11 women. All of the women were in their last days of pregnancy and none had any reason to expect to need medical induction SELRES_a7920e93-1771-4e3d-81e9-3422088b1b58during delivery. SELRES_a7920e93-1771-4e3d-81e9-342The study was specifically designed to test the efficacy, practicality and acceptability of clary sage to induce labor.

The women were put into 2 groups. Six of the women were in the control group and smelled no clary sage while the remaining 5 were asked to inhale air scented with clary sage essential oil that had been diluted 1:50 with a carrier. All the women’s oxytocin levels were then evaluated.

Oxytocin is, of course, a hormone that plays various–and vital–roles before, during and after pregnancy. During labor it works to dilate the cervix and stimulate contractions.

Clary sage essential oil has long been used to “ripen” the cervix, strengthen contractions, spur milk production and improve mother-child bonding by increasing oxytocin levels. There is, however, scant scientific evidence that it does any of those things.

This study found that women in both groups did see a temporary increase in oxytocin but the difference between the clary sage users and the control group was statistically insignificant.

No woman reported feeling contractions.

That no study volunteer experienced contractions was a surprising find for the researchers because aromatherapists have for years claimed that clary sage essential oil contains the compound sclareol, which is believed to have estrogen-like effects in the body. But, say the scientists, perhaps the essential oil was simply too dilute in this study to produce such an effect.

This study was funded by MEXT/JSPS KAKENHI B and A, the Society for Women’s Health Science Research, and the Yamaji Fumiko Nursing Research Fund. It was published at the website for the journal BMC Research Notes.


Photo by Chiến Phạm