Using essential oils to treat health problems is not something new. For thousands of years, various cultures have used essential oils to support healthy digestion and help with treating digestive issues, including constipation. In this article, I’m going to share 8 of the best essential oils for constipation and tips on how to use them.
Most of us become constipated at least once in our lives. It’s a relatively common digestive complaint. In the United States alone, there are more than 4 million people who have recurrent constipation.  Constipation is defined medically as a condition in which a person passes hard, dry stools after 3 days or longer.
Your stool becomes hard and dry because it has stayed in your large intestine (colon) for too long. This causes your large intestine to soak up too much water from your stool. After around 3 days, your stool becomes hard, dry, and difficult to pass.
It’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of constipation. However, most cases of constipation could be caused by the following:
- 1 What Causes Constipation
- 2 Best Essential Oils for Constipation And Digestion
- 3 How to Use Essential Oils for Constipation
What Causes Constipation
A Diet That Lacks Fiber
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance, making your stool softer, harder, and pass through your intestines easily. Insoluble fiber, which you’ll find in the seeds and skins of fruits, makes your stool more solid to help it go through your intestines faster.
Foods rich in soluble fiber: legumes, flaxseeds, certain fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, nuts, lentils, oat bran, nuts, barley, peas, and beans.
Foods rich in insoluble fiber: most vegetables (okra, broccoli, kale, cabbage, lettuce, and asparagus), brown rice, wheat bread, beans, and fruits (raspberries and strawberries).
Not Drinking Enough Fluids
Dehydration or insufficient intake of fluids is a common cause of chronic constipation. When you don’t have enough fluids in your body, your large intestine will withdraw water from your food waste. This will make your stool dryer and harder, which results to constipation.
Underactive Thyroid Gland
Constipation is one of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism. When you don’t have enough thyroid hormones, your small and large intestines move digested food a lot slower. This causes excessive water being absorbed.
Living a Sedentary Life
Little to no physical activity is a risk for constipation. It causes weak contraction of your intestinal muscles and excessive withdrawal of water from your stool into your body. A good solution is to perform light to heavy physical activities to improve your gut motility.
Taking Certain Dietary Supplements
One of the common culprits is iron supplements. If you take iron supplements in large doses, they can affect the balance between your good bacteria (majority) and bad bacteria (minority).
The bad bacteria feed on the excess iron and start to reproduce rapidly, at the expense of the good bacteria. This leads to different gastrointestinal troubles, such as constipation and bloating.
Taking Certain Medications
Some medications that may cause constipation include :
- Strong painkillers, such as narcotics
- Antacids that contain aluminum or calcium
- Antihistamines and other cold medicines
- Blood pressure medications
Being Underweight or Overweight
Underweight people usually experience constipation because they don’t eat or drink enough for their digestive organs to work properly. The link between weight gain and constipation is still under debate. However, the most likely reasons overweight people experience constipation are poor food choices and inactive lifestyle.
Short-term use of laxatives can help with constipation. However, taking them for long-term or in large doses could cause dependency and minor to serious bowel function issues, such as constipation, pancreatitis, intestinal paralysis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Stress is a normal part of our lives. But when it becomes overwhelming, it can affect the body in many ways, including decreased movement of the bowels.
What’s more, people tend to reach out for unhealthy comfort foods (burgers, ice cream, French fries, etc.), drink insufficient amount of water, and exercise less when they’re under a lot of stress.
Chronic constipation can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience constipation more than once per week. Avoid self-treating with laxatives without your doctor’s approval.
Meanwhile, if your constipation is just occasional and there’s no underlying health problem that’s causing it, essential oils might be a good home remedy.
Best Essential Oils for Constipation And Digestion
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil aids digestive health in a variety of ways. It’s used as a remedy for mild indigestion (dyspepsia), which causes different problems, such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and bloated stomach.
It works by easing muscle spasms and pain and lowering the stomach acidity level.
Clinical evidence also shows that peppermint essential oil might help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine.  People with this condition often experience abdominal pain (main symptom), gas, cramping, and frequent constipation or diarrhea. 
The refreshing and minty aroma of peppermint essential oil helps relieve mental fatigue, depression, and stress.  Stress is one of the most common reasons for IBS flare-ups. According to 62% of sufferers, stress (and other emotional troubles) is one of the reasons they experience recurrence or worsening of IBS symptoms, which may last and improve between two to four days. 
Cautions: Speak with a qualified healthcare provider before using this essential oil, especially if you’re pregnant or have a serious medical condition, such as diabetes and gallstones. Using it in large amounts or frequently may cause breathing problems, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and convulsions.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil has numerous benefits, not just as a natural hair grower. According to Organic Facts, it can relieve symptoms of indigestion, such as constipation, gas, and stomach cramps. 
It improves the elimination of waste from digestion of food by supporting the muscle contractions in the small and large intestines.
Like most essential oils, rosemary essential oil provides relief from stress. In a 2007 study published in the Psychiatry Research, smelling lavender essential oil and rosemary essential for five minutes can markedly decrease the level of cortisol hormones in the test subjects’ saliva. For years, scientists have known that excessive amounts of cortisol hormones could have negative effects on the mind and body. 
Cautions: Inhaling or topical application of rosemary essential oil seems to be safe. However, you still need to use it cautiously because it might sometimes cause allergic reactions. Never ingest it because it can cause vomiting and spasms. Again, this is not recommended for pregnant women because it can cause a miscarriage. Always speak with a healthcare provider before using it.
Turmeric Essential Oil
Turmeric essential oil is usually extracted from turmeric root. It’s yellow in color and has a fresh, woody, and spicy scent. You can use it alone or blend it with clary sage, ylang-ylang, citrus, and ginger essential oils.
Turmeric essential oil contains various properties that aid digestion and treat digestive ailments, such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers.  Two of its active components, Zingiberene and 6-gingerol, stop gas from forming in your stomach and intestines.
Turmeric is also a liver protector. This is partially due to its anti-inflammatory nature. The compound responsible for its anti-inflammatory activity is alpha-curcumene. 
In a few studies published in the BMC Complementary & Alternative, results have shown that turmeric was able to protect the liver from the toxic effects of a strong chemical called methotrexate.  Researchers concluded that it’s an effective liver aid. In some cases, constipation is caused by liver problems, such as hepatitis C.
Cautions: In food-safe amounts, turmeric essential oil is generally safe. Although it may still cause a few side effects, such as low blood pressure, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, bleeding, and kidney stone formation (for those prone to kidney stones formation). Again, pregnant women are discouraged from using this because it can stimulate the uterus (womb).
It may also stain light-colored materials and clothes. To avoid this, make sure to dilute it properly.
Rose Essential Oil
Rose essential oil comes in two varieties: Rose Absolute essential oil and Rose Otto essential oil. Aromatherapists normally prefer to use Rose Otto essential oil for topical preparations because Rose Absolute essential oil has traces of unwanted residual solvent.
However, since Rose Otto essential oil is expensive, Rose Absolute essential oil is a more practical choice.
If you’re having trouble defecating due to overwhelming stress, rose essential oil is an ideal choice to help you relax.
In one study, healthy participants applied this essential oil to their skins. This lead them to feel more relaxed—as evidenced by their low blood pressure and decreased breathing rate—compared to using a placebo oil. 
It also eases spasms in the intestines.  When your intestines are spastic, it could affect your bowel movements, depending on what part of the large intestine is affected.
People who experience large intestine spasms, which is another term for irritable bowel syndrome, might experience an alternate between constipation and diarrhea.
Cautions: Rose essential oil has no known serious side effects. However, when used topically undiluted, it might irritate your skin. Perform a skin patch test before applying it on your skin to make sure you don’t have any allergies or sensitivities to this essential oil. Children, breastfeeding mothers, and pregnant women should avoid using this essential oil.
Marjoram Essential Oil
Marjoram is a close cousin of oregano. Depending on the species used, the oil extracted from this herb is greenish-yellow and turns brown as it ages. It has a spicy, herbaceous, warm, and woody scent.
In ancient cultures, marjoram essential oil is valued for its ability to lessen the feelings of stress and positive effect on the nervous system (if you take it by mouth).
Whenever you’re feeling anxious or stressed out, simply put 2 to 3 drops of the essential oil in your diffuser or handkerchief. You could also apply the diluted essential oil to the back of your neck.
People often use marjoram essential oil to relieve constipation or diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, and irritable bowel syndrome. It helps with the digestion process in two ways:
One, it stimulates the secretion of bile and stomach juices, which break down food.
Second, it stimulates the muscle contractions of the esophagus and intestines and facilitating proper elimination of waste products. 
Cautions: Although it’s generally safe, people with health issues, infants, children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers should avoid or cautiously use rosemary essential oil. Mix it with milder carrier oils because it might cause hypersensitivity reactions.
Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel essential oil is extracted from ground fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare). It’s an energizing and balancing essential oil that has a sweet, licorice-like, and earthy scent.
Today, fennel essential oil is used to support healthy digestion. It’s a good cure for acute and chronic constipation because of its laxative properties. Compared to over-the-counter laxatives, it has little to zero side effects and can be used regularly.
Aside from clearing the bowels of waste materials, it also expels gas from your intestines, cures an upset stomach, and regulates the secretion of bile and digestive juices. 
Cautions: Fennel essential oil may cause dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), photosensitivity, seizure, vomiting, hallucination, and pulmonary edema if you ingest it or apply it on your skin in large doses.
The following people should avoid this essential oil:
- Children younger than the age of 5 years old
- People diagnosed with bleeding disorders, epilepsy, diabetes, and hormone-linked diseases (such as breast cancer)
- Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers
Sweet Basil Essential Oil
Sweet basil essential oil is a colorless to light amber liquid with a scent that’s the same with the basil herb. Most aromatherapists prefer to use sweet basil essential oil than other basil varieties because they consider it to be safer. This is due to its low amount of methyl chavicol, which is supposedly cancer-causing.
Sweet basil essential oil is an excellent essential oil that has a wide array of medicinal properties. You can put 3 to 4 drops of the essential oil in your diffuser and inhale deeply to help you overcome headaches, mental fatigue, or stress.
Your emotional state affects your body, particularly your digestive system organs.  If your distressed, your brain could send signals to your gut, causing a host of problems, such as diarrhea, heartburn, gas, bloating, and constipation.
Sweet basil essential oil has carminative properties. It helps digest the foods you eat, promote normal muscle contractions of your stomach and intestines, and eliminate waste materials out of your body.
Cautions: Sweet basil essential oil is generally considered safe. However, it’s still best to avoid using it if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from a serious medical condition. Dilute it with a milder carrier oil (coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, etc.) because it can cause skin reactions in people who are sensitive to one of its components, particularly methyl chavicol.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is another essential oil for constipation that you can add to your medicine cabinet. It has a fresh and citrusy scent that’s soothing and refreshing.
Since it’s a carminative essential oil, it helps relieve many digestive system problems, such as stomach acidity, indigestion, constipation, heartburn, bloating, and diarrhea. It contains high levels of d-Limonene and terpenine, which will supposedly help your liver and kidney eliminate various toxins and support general digestive health. 
Days Island suggests drinking a glass of water (8 ounces) with 2 to 3 drops of lemon essential oil.  To maximize its benefits, using it daily is best.
Cautions: Lemon essential oil is generally safe. However, if you use it full strength, it might irritate your skin. And since it can cause photosensitivity, you shouldn’t apply it on your skin if you plan to spend time outside.
How to Use Essential Oils for Constipation
There are different ways you can use essential oils to aid digestion and relieve constipation. Here are some methods you could try to see which is the best for your needs.
#1: Abdominal Massage
Massaging your belly helps with constipation because it stimulates muscle contractions of the stomach and small and large intestines and help mobilize stool that’s stuck in your large intestine.
- 3 drops of marjoram essential oil
- 2 drops of rose essential oil
- 4 teaspoons of any mild carrier oil (A carrier oil is a vegetable oil that’s used to dilute essential oils.)
- Amber glass bottle
- Glass or stainless-steel stirrer
- Pour the carrier oil into the amber glass bottle followed by marjoram essential oil, or rose essential oil if you prefer, then stir to mix. Next, add the other essential oil into the amber glass bottle one drop at a time. Again, stir to mix.
- Test for allergic reaction by applying a small amount of the massage oil on your inner forearm. Wait for 30 minutes to 24 hours to see how your body will react to it.
- Here’s how to massage your belly to help you defecate:
- Pour around 3 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon) of the massage oil on your belly. Spread it all over your belly before lying down on your back.
- Place one of your hands with your palm facing down on your belly. Using the tips of your fingers, massage the area in small clockwise motions. Use light pressure at the beginning before increasing the pressure, as well as enlarging the circles, as you go along. Repeat these circular massage motions three to ten times.
- While massaging your abdomen, allow yourself to relax by inhaling-exhaling deeply and slowly.
#2: Breathing Exercises
The great thing about breathing exercises is they work fast. They’re also easy to do.
How do controlled breathing exercises help?
According to Soviet and Russian medical doctors, people who have normal or sufficient amount of oxygen in their blood don’t experience constipation, which is caused by ineffective breathing. 
Breathing exercises help relieve constipation because they get rid of body tension and increases oxygen in the body, which in turn eases spasms.
- 4 drops of lemon essential oil
- 4 drops of rosemary essential oil
- 3 drops of peppermint essential oil
- Diffuser, vaporizer, or a bowl of steaming water
- Pour all the essential oils into your home diffuser one drop at a time. If you don’t have one, you can add them to a bowl of steaming water. Don’t forget to put your diffuser in the area where you plan to perform your breathing exercise.
- Find a peaceful area to perform this breathing exercise. You can sit on the floor or in a chair without wheels. You can also play soothing music if you prefer.
- Inhale deeply, and then pinch your nose and hold your breath for 20 seconds or until you feel a strong urge to breathe.
- Unpinch your nose, and then inhale through your nose. Avoid mouth breathing and taking big and successive inhalations. Also, use your belly only. Try to relax your entire body throughout this breathing exercise.
Also Read: Best Essential Oils for Warts.
Essential oils may help with constipation if you use them properly. And they will work better if you use them together with other natural home remedies and relaxation techniques.
However, essential oils are not without side effects. It’s important to observe the proper way of using them, especially if you plan to take them internally. Speak with your doctor if you’re regularly or occasionally constipated for more than three weeks, your symptoms (for instance, stomach pain) become worse, or your stools are black or have blood.
What do you usually do to relieve constipation? Have you ever used any of these essential oils for constipation? Don’t forget to leave your comments below.