Clary sage is one of aromatherapy’s favorite oils for premenstrual tension and menstrual pain, and for post-menopausal issues, as well as being cited more often than any other essential oil for starting labor. Studies show that even inhaling clary sage can have marked effects on how we feel, but it can be used easily in baths, massage oils, creams and lotions, and of course diffusers. Today we’ll look at how to use clary sage oil for hormone balance.
Introducing Clary Sage
In the garden, clary sage is one of the prettiest plants, with lovely soft, purply blue flowers usually surrounded by hundreds of pollinators. A biennial, it has been used as a herbal treatment for hormonal imbalance since at least medieval times. Like other herbal medicines, it does, of course, have other attributes too. Its Latin name Salvia sclarea, for example, relates to the clear eye that the plant was used to treat. If someone had something in their eye, the herbalist would place one of its seeds close to the eye, and the mucilage collects up any debris, cleaning the eye.
In addition, in 16th century Britain, it was common to adulterate beer with clary sage flowers because they were cheaper than hops. You’d get very drunk quickly and cheaply but would wake up the next morning feeling like you had an axe in your head. Be warned that clary sage and alcohol do not mix. If you have PMT, a choice must be made. Red wine or clary sage. Mark our words. The best-case scenario is hallucinations, the worst is a migraine that lasts for weeks.
Understanding Clary Sage Essential Oil’s Hormonal Effects
Clary sage is so clever at these kinds of hormonal conditions because one of its constituents mimics estrogen. That’s an important distinction. It doesn’t make more estrogen, nor does it boost it, what it does is trick the body into thinking there is more.
It should be noted that when we speak of hormonal balance, and indeed conditions like PMT, we might think that the oil would be exclusively for women. But that is not so. Estrogen also plays a part in male arousal and libido and their bodies use it to create sperm.
The distinction that clary sage mimics estrogen is important because as soon as you stop using it, the trickery will stop. You’ll often find that when the body no longer has any clary sage molecules to dance with, symptoms may come back.
In addition to this nature, it also contains constituents that are powerfully antispasmodic. This is wonderful for menstrual cramping of course, but it also makes clary sage one of the aromatherapist’s favorite ways to treat restless legs.
Clary Sage for Teenagers
We don’t know about you, but we wouldn’t want to be teenagers in this day and age for anything! The pressures to decide what you identify yourself with seem huge, and this poor generation is having to navigate all these biological changes while going through long periods of isolation.
They must be scary and unsettling times. Estrogen has a large part to play in the mood swings they experience and we all remember them, right? Inhaling clary sage or adding a little to a bath or massage oil may help support a healthy hormonal balance. Diffusers can be very good here.
In addition to its effects on mood and in the reproductive cycle, it is worth mentioning how useful it can be for greasy and spotty skins. It has an astringent nature and cleans up troublesome complexions brilliantly.
Just a couple of drops in a cleanser and moisturizer can have powerful effects on teenage skins or actually any oily or greasy skins.
Clearly too, the better they look, the more their confidence will grow.
How to Use Clary Sage for Hormonal Balance of The Menstrual Cycle?
This essential oil mimics estrogen, helping to maintain a healthy cycle, and it is antispasmodic, soothing menstrual cramping. It’s worth mentioning that there are numerous trials done into various essential oils for periods and the results are resoundingly the same. The effects during the first cycle are noticeable but the second cycle shows marked improvements. Essential oils tend to work cumulatively, to become more pronounced the longer you use them.
As women, we have strange relationships with our cycles because Aunt Flo invariably gets in the way of things we want to do. But a clearly defined, the regular cycle is vital for maintaining fertility.
If the cycle is too short, perhaps ovulation does not take place, or more commonly there is inadequate progesterone made, in the time available to support a pregnancy.
Balancing estrogen helps to normalize the menstrual cycle which may support better fertility.
The Healing Chemistry of Clary Sage for Hormones
We often cite the abilities of linalyl acetate and linalool for their relaxing properties and for their soothing and analgesic skills when we speak of lavender essential oil. In fact, these two typically make up around 65% of clary sage, too. Immediately we start to see why it’s calming and where its pain-killing abilities will derive from.
However, in 202o, researchers from the University of Taipei zoned in on a different constituent, sclareol. This is the molecule that donates its name to the plant but makes up just less than 3% of the essential oil.
When they studied how the molecule interacted with the lining of the womb, researchers observed how it interacted with potent mediators of inflammatory and immune responses called prostaglandins. These are involved in pain responses and inflammation. Once released from the lining of the womb, they supercharge the force of uterine contractions during those first couple of days of your period. The higher prostaglandin levels are, the more severe the cramping. 
If prostaglandins escalate considerably, you might also feel nauseous or experience diarrhea. As the lining comes away, prostaglandins levels then subside, easing the cramps after those first initial difficult days.
The Taiwanese study showed that sclareol’s anti-inflammatory nature was able to halt the cascade of prostaglandins, thus calming the painful onslaught that affects women suffering from dysmenorrhea or painful periods.
Aromatherapy Massage for Menstrual Cramps
In 2012, a Korean study measured the effects of essential oil massage on women suffering from menstrual pain. The trial has flaws from a scientific perspective because it tries to measure too many things. It fails to separate the effects of how massage helps, versus essential oils, or indeed which oil is doing what, because it uses a mixture of them. However, what it does demonstrate is that if you massage a blend of oils into your abdomen, you are likely to experience some relief from period pains.
Their mix was clary sage, marjoram, cinnamon, ginger, and geranium in a base of almond oil. Their studies showed that those women who used essential oils had better effects than those who simply massaged their bellies with a blank carrier oil. 
We’ve included our own DIY recipes for how to use clary sage oil for hormonal balance at the end of this article, including details of how to administer, etc.
Clary Sage and Menopause
So this is a strange one. You’ll see this cited a lot, but only with cursory details.
Menopause is such a strange concept because it’s a whole syndrome that evolves over time. Depending on your age, it might be defined as being 12 months after your last period, or 24 if you are under the age of 51. The problem is of course, who knows when that last period is? It’s not really something you can sit and say “goodbye old friend” to, is it? It can be difficult to know which will be your last. Not least because the time before, that we call perimenopause, can be full of stops and starts.
We relate some of the symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats to menopause. Actually, though, they might be more accurately associated with perimenopause.
Clary sage is wonderful for symptoms associated with menopause like vaginal dryness or mood swings, but it can make the perimenopausal symptoms a lot worse.
How To Use Clary Sage Oil for Hormone Balance During The Change?
So, that’s difficult, isn’t it? You use it for period pains and mood swings, but then suddenly you might find yourself in a whole new stage of life that you weren't even aware was on the horizon. Our advice would be that, if your menstrual flow changes color going from red to pale pink then stop using clary sage for a while. Likewise, if you find that they are not as regular as they were. And clearly, although it's not an exact science because some women do go through menopause earlier, this would usually be when you are in your late forties to fifties. Then, try using rose, geranium, ylang ylang, or better still a more unusual ChasteBerry essential oil also known as Vitex agnus castus. This serves perimenopausal issues far better.
Incidentally, research shows that massage, in particular, can really improve perimenopausal challenges.
Clary Sage Essential Oil for Pregnancy
At Vinevida, we take safety concerns very seriously and always try to consider the effects essential oil may have if you are pregnant. With an oil like clary sage, the issues are far-reaching.
Consider this. Clary sage is a uterine tonic, and as such, it is both wonderful if you are trying to get pregnant, and dreadful if you do. There are dangerous few days where you don’t know that you are pregnant, and it may be you are asking your uterus to do things you absolutely would not want it to do if you were.
If you are using essential oils like clary sage, ylang ylang, or rose to try to tighten things up a bit to get pregnant, great. But best practice would be to spend six months doing so, whilst also using contraception. It makes zero sense to use clary sage oil for hormonal balance when actually you want the hormones to rush everywhere to support your pregnancy.
Clary sage is not suitable for use until 37 weeks of pregnancy, and even then, the issues remain complex.
How to Use Clary Sage for Labor
Clary sage has always been one of the go-to oils for people who are sick of waiting for labor to start. It should be clear to see why. The clary sage tones the uterus to trigger contractions. However, midwifery stories tell a different story. They say that if women use clary sage too early, all it does is slow labor down to a stop. And that actually would tally with the Taiwanese study we spoke of earlier, wouldn’t it? Prostaglandins start labor to bring on contractions, but the sclareol switches it down.
By all means, add clary sage into your massage oil for labor. It will be wonderful for increasing the strength of your contractions while helping to make you feel calmer. However, under no circumstances use it before you are 37 weeks and then only when full labor has been confirmed by a midwife.
DIY Recipes of How To Use Clary Sage Oil for Hormonal Balance
Massage Oil for Menstrual Cramps
- 9ml Grapeseed carrier oil (Vitis vinifera)
- 10 drops Rosehip carrier oil (Rosa canina)
- 3 drops Rose essential oil (Rosa damascena)
- 2 drops Clary sage essential oil (Salvia sclarea)
- 1 drop Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
Method of use: Massage into your abdomen three times a day, through your entire cycle, and as and when you need it during your period.
Safety: Moot point, but is not safe to use during pregnancy.
As a point of interest, you might find it useful to know that Lemon Balm Tea is also shown to have tremendous effects on menstrual cramps.
Menopausal Bath Treatment
- 1 tsp Rosehip carrier oil (Rosa canina)
- 1 drop Geranium essential oil (Pelargonium graveolens)
- 1 drop Clary Sage essential oil (Salvia sclarea)
- 1 drop Ylang Ylang essential oil (Cananga odorata)
Method of Use: Add to your bath and languish for at least 20 minutes to half an hour
Safety: Not advised if you are perimenopausal, and (again, moot point) not suitable for use during pregnancy.
- Salvia sclarea L. Essential Oil Extract and Its Antioxidative Phytochemical Sclareol Inhibit Oxytocin-Induced Uterine Hypercontraction Dysmenorrhea Model by Inhibiting the Ca2+–MLCK–MLC20 Signaling Cascade: An Ex Vivo and In Vivo Study
- Aromatherapy Massage on the Abdomen for Alleviating Menstrual Pain in High School Girls: A Preliminary Controlled Clinical Study
Learning how to use clary sage for hormonal balance is one of the most intricate things in aromatherapy. Follow the guidelines, do not use it in pregnancy, avoid it if you are menopausal but for any other condition, lash it on. Remember though...not with a glass of wine. You will most certainly regret it!