Birth is a threefold process. I am not speaking merely of the trimesters of pregnancy. I refer to the 3-4 weeks in preparation for the birth, the birth itself, and the post-birth. The benefits of viewing birth this way are countless. For it allows the woman to focus on something more than the growth of the baby or becoming a larger family or a mother. It sets the event in the context of a transformative life process. With this in mind, I bring you an aromatherapy formula to assist with this threefold process, Intoxicating Rose.
In a birth, we achieve that which we strive to attain in life. As our strength and will are tested, we attempt to allow ourselves to be brave and fearful at the same time. We put faith and trust in what is meant to be, no matter what the outcome. Birth becomes a spiritual, physical and emotional journey.
But the birth itself is only one part of an involved process. In preparation for it, we learn about birth and babies; our mind is engaged. Emotions run deep during this period, as waking dreams and meditations on what may come follow us through our days.
A part of the birth process that is easily overlooked is the after birth. We learn about the new baby and its needs, but often not enough of the healing and recovery for the mother. Even if one is coached cognitively, there are no words to fully prepare a new mom for the wounds of birth, be they physical, emotional or spiritual. The spirit that may have traveled during the birth must be re-integrated into a new woman. We must process our emotions and heal our body. The challenge is to do this while caring for a helpless being.
The stress of birth needs balance and relief if one is to fully engage in the process of labor. And I believe there is much solace to be found in aromatherapy. For when awareness and aromatics are combined, we are better capable of transforming difficult energy, thus creating a more supportive environment for ourselves and our new addition.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the art of using essential oils distilled from plants for healing. There are multiple ways of choosing which oils to administer when. For example, in clinical aromatherapy, we consider the chemical structure of the essential oil and its historical use. While in spiritual aromatherapy, it is the energy and vibration of essential oils that speak to the formulator.
Aromatherapy is effective in cases of emotional distress, because scent triggers an immediate physical and emotional response. Messages are received in the olfactory lobe of the brain, and sent hormonally to corresponding organ systems in less than a second. A person’s mood and mind can change quickly. Scent creates an alternate reality which encompasses and transports the person. Stress is relieved, perhaps an incident gets quicker perspective, or liveliness arrives where listlessness once reigned. There are other effects, but those details are beyond the scope of this article.
Essential Oil use and Pregnancy
Despite its effectiveness, not all are in favor of employing essential oils during pregnancy. To an extent, it is with good reason. Most are not skilled at administering essential oils clinically for pregnancy, nor do they fully understand the oils.
There is also the fact that in pregnancy hormones should be allowed the independence to move and shift at will creating an environment that supports life. And essential oils have the capacity to inspire hormonal movement. In certain individuals, this could bring about premature labor.
It is therefore important to educate yourself. Be aware of essential oils that are contraindicated during pregnancy, and use caution when employing safe oils. It would be in the best interest of all involved to consult with a trained practitioner before doing so. In my experience, I have used essential oils successfully with my clients and myself during pregnancy. It is with this experience I can honestly say it depends on the oil, the amount, and the person. And when in doubt, abstain from aromatherapy for the first 4 months of pregnancy.
The Formula: Intoxicating Rose
Intoxicating Rose is a culmination of my efforts to come up with a birth oil for myself. But its roots lie in my previous experience of helping many women find essential oil formulas that were beneficial to their birth process.
The formula consists of rose, clary sage, cardamom, and eucalyptus. These essential oils were chosen for their multidimensional effects. They form a bond that addresses and supports the mind, body, spirit, and emotions.
The Essential Oils
What drew my attention to rose was a teaching from Rosita Arvigo. In class she once spoke of the importance of rose in the healing process after birth. The Mayan’s use a steam bath of rose flowers post birth to draw out the afterbirth, astringe, heal and sooth the swollen tissue. A pot of steaming rose flowers is placed under a bottomless chair. The woman sits on the chair, and with a tarp settled around her for 20 minutes or so, is encompassed by the scent and power of the rose.
It would be inappropriate to use essential oil of rose the same way, but it also has a place in pregnancy and birth. Rose essential oil (Rosa damascene) is an excellent nervine tonic, and powerful anti-anxiety agent, giving respite to the heart and nervous system. It is a scent which brings a sense of freedom from our stress. It instills confidence and inner vitality, thus inspiring our will
Rose has no known contraindications, making it an appropriate ally in small dilutions throughout pregnancy. I have successfully used it for women who suffer from anxiety during pregnancy.
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is typically contraindicated during pregnancy. It has emmenagogic properties—having the capacity to cause premature birth or labor pains. But when used in small dilutions 3 weeks before labor, it has the ability to prepare the body for what is to come physically, emotionally and chemically.
While clary sage warms a cold and fearful constriction of the womb, it inspires euphoria and can be intoxicating. In fact, it was at one time used to make beer in Germany. Its benefits are seen here as a relaxant and tonic to the nerves and to inspire labor.
One weekend workshop I taught in essential oil use was attended by a wonderful body worker. Following our first day of classes, she approached me about her daughter-in-law, who was a week overdue, suffering from high blood pressure, stressed out, and unable to achieve active labor. I mixed a formula of lavender, clary sage, and grapefruit. My student went to her daughter-in-law, rubbed her feet, and told her the benefits of the formula. Within an hour, the woman was in active labor, and 24 hours later had a healthy baby.
Clary sage is appropriate for use after birth to support hormonal rebalancing and calming the nerves and spirit. But the oil has other contraindications to be aware of: breast cancer, pregnancy (as stated), and epilepsy.
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a cousin of ginger and turmeric. It is a plant of the Zingiberaceae family. Clinically it is seldom used, but is one of my favorites. It is employed mainly as an anti-spasmodic in the digestive tract, mental stimulant, and has the capacity to increase respiratory circulation.
Its purpose in this formula was at first non-specific clinically. I admit to merely enjoying the nicely paired pungent scent of cardamom with that of the sweet rose. But I quickly found that its stimulating effect on the mind helps keep focus on the task at hand, thus balancing the relaxing effects of clary sage and rose. Cardamom also increases the capacity of the lungs in birth, thereby supporting the work of labor.
Eucalyptus globulus is clinically used in recovery from acute respiratory infections. It is an expectorant and respiratory stimulant. The analgesic properties make it an effective treatment for headaches of cold constriction via inhalation. But it is also used topically in formulas to reduce pain and inflammation in cases of muscle strain and joint pain.
Eucalyptus in this formula supports the respiratory tract. But it also acts as an energetic. In herbalism, an energetic stimulates and increases circulation in the body, thus opening a wider channel for the specifically indicated herbs to move through. For example, ginger is an energetic.
Energetic herbs/essential oils may be cooling or heating and stimulating. Eucalyptus as an energetic has warming properties, lessening constriction.
It also has a pleasing scent that alleviates emotional pain as well, thus finding itself in good company with rose, clary sage, and cardamom.
The Making of the Formula and Application
Intoxicating Rose is used in a weaker dilution 3 weeks before labor. I usually begin formulation at 1%, meaning that in 1 oz. of carrier oil (jojoba or sweet almond oil), one would add 6-8 drops total of pure essential oils.
A good formula is 1 drop of rose, 2 drops of clary sage, 2 drops of cardamom, and 1 drops of eucalyptus. It is best applied to the neck, feet and rubbed into the hands. A massage oil of the same formula can be increased to a 5% dilution closer to the due date, and used similarly to bring on labor, and during labor.
A smaller 2% dilution is effective support post-birth for as long as is needed. Intoxicating Rose reduces stress, helps relieve some aspects of post-partum depression, and helps rebalance hormones. When ready, it is also an excellent aphrodisiac formula.
Aromatherapy clients were my favorite to see while I was pregnant. The scents wafting under my nose transported and comforted me, and helped me accept the change that was occurring. The circumstances also motivated me to try new scent combinations, thus inspiring many formulas that were unique to my clinical and spiritual practice.
Even if you don’t have an affinity for the formula Intoxicating Rose, I hope this article inspires women to move through their fears about essential oils and pregnancy. Educate yourself, and get the guidance of an experienced professional to help you formulate a combination applicable to your situation.
Kathy Eich is an herbalist, aromatherapist and shamanic practitioner. She has over 14 years experience working with plants and people. As a former classical musician, her perspective has as much to do with listening to the plants, and employing them spiritually as it does working with the clinical and specific indications of the plants. She is former co-owner and founder of Weeds of Eden Herb Store and Clinic in Louisville, KY, and later head of the Herb and Aromatherapy Department at the New Mexico College of Natural Healing. She currently resides with her family in Madison, WI where she sees clients out of her home and writes for Sustainable Times. She can be reached via her blog at www.redrootmountain.com.