9 Best Essential Oils for Constipation

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

While many people don’t think of using essential oils for constipation, they can be extremely effective for boosting digestive efficiency and improving the overall health of the gut.

Constipation can mean everything from painful or strained bowel movements to simple infrequency. However, constipation can be extremely uncomfortable, generating bloating and cramping, stomach upset and other gastrointestinal issues, in addition to poor nutrient uptake, hemorrhoids (due to bowel movement straining), blood in the stool and a higher risk of conditions such as ulcers. Spending a lot of time on the toilet is unpleasant for everyone, so understanding why your constipation has occurred is the first step towards proper treatment. [1]

Using essential oils for constipation is effective due to their anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, carminative, antibacterial, sedative and relaxant properties.

List of Best Essential Oils for Constipation

Of the many effective essential oils for constipation, some of the best include fennel, turmeric, peppermint, rosemary, black pepper, ginger, lemon, sweet basil, orange and marjoram oils.

Ginger Oil

Benefits – Ginger oil is useful in elimination constipation. It is one of the most well known natural oils for soothing the stomach and promoting better digestion. This oil is also known to release excess gas and release tension in the bowels, which may be the source of your blockage. [2]

How to Use – You can add 3-5 drops of ginger oil into a fresh cup of ginger tea for a serious stomach stimulant, as this should get your bowels moving normally if used 1-2 times per day for 2-3 days.

A young woman in pain lying on a couch

A young woman going through intense stomach pain. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Black Pepper Oil

Benefits – As an anti-inflammatory and stimulant substance, black pepper oil is able to kick-start your digestive processes and prevent excess buildup of waste matter and gas in the gut, which can readily eliminate constipation. [3]

How to Use – Like its more popular namesake, black pepper oil can be added to dishes to add a bit of a spicy kick, but only a small amount is necessary, as this oil is highly concentrated.

Fennel Oil

Benefits – The highly concentrated fennel oil functions as a laxative, stimulating peristaltic motion and getting your bowels moving as they should. Fennel as a spice is thought to be useful in stimulating healthy digestive processes and has been used for many years. [4]

How to Use – Unlike other essential oils, which are consumed orally, fennel oil can be mixed with a carrier oil and then rubbed on the abdomen, where it will be absorbed and deliver its desired effects.

Peppermint Oil

Benefits – The anti-spasmodic abilities of peppermint oil can help to soothe the muscle tension in the bowels, which can often lock up and cause peristaltic motion to cease. The relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties of this oil can rapidly soothe your bowels, while also easing the pain associated with constipation. [5]

How to Use – You should add 2-3 drops of peppermint oil into a glass of warm water and drink it when you wake up and before you go to bed, as this can help your body function normally all day. Furthermore, using 1-2 drops of peppermint oil sublingually can help eliminate these uncomfortable symptoms.

Turmeric Oil

Benefits – Turmeric oil, like the spice from which it is derived, is high in antioxidants and functions as a stimulant for the body, including for the metabolism and digestive system. Even a small amount of this anti-inflammatory oil can begin to re-balance gastrointestinal bacteria and optimize digestion, as well as improve nutrient uptake. [6]

How to Use – It is common to add a few drops of turmeric oil to savory meals, as it will not only enhance the flavor of the meal but also benefit your digestive processes as the food is eaten.

Sweet Basil Oil

Benefits – Traditionally, sweet basil oil has been used to soothe the pain of constipation, and also help stimulate the movement of the bowels. Sweet basil as a herb has long been used to soothe stomach upset and release excessive gas. [7]

How to Use – Aside from adding a few drops of this oil into a savory dish, you can also add sweet basil oil to your bathwater and soak in the tub for 20-30 minutes. Although this isn’t an internal remedy, the anti-inflammatory properties can be delivered through absorption on the skin.

Marjoram Oil

Benefits – In traditional medicine, marjoram and its essential oil have been known as laxative substances, which can help quickly stimulate peristaltic motion and get your digestive system back into functioning shape.

How to Use – This oil is often used as an additional flavoring in soups and savory stews, but it can also be used in steam inhalation, as the aromatic compounds of this oil alone can help stimulate digestive action.

Note: However, don’t use this oil too often, and only as a treatment, not a preventative measure against constipation.

Lemon Oil

Benefits – Lemon oil is packed with limonene and a number of other antioxidant compounds that can optimize digestion and soothe inflammation. This makes this inexpensive oil excellent first options for relieving the symptoms of constipation. [8]

How to Use – Many people choose to simply inhale lemon oil for its therapeutic effects, while others choose to mix it with a carrier oil and massage it gently into their abdomen. The topical application can quickly be absorbed so it can start working its anti-inflammatory magic.

Rosemary Oil

Benefits – Well known for its stimulant effects on the gastrointestinal system, rosemary oil can help increase circulation in the gut, which will bring freshly oxygenated blood to the stomach. This will increase peristaltic motion and ensure normal contraction and function of muscles in the digestive tract. [9]

How to Use – Mixing 3-5 drops of rosemary oil into herbal tea is an easy way to benefit from this essential oil, or it can be topically rubbed into the abdomen for its effects to take hold and finally get your bowels moving!

Causes of Constipation

Constipation can be caused by many different things, including the following: [10]

  • Use of certain medications
  • Improper diet
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Excessive laxative use
  • Extended illness or infection in the colon or stomach
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Dehydration
  • Substance abuse

At its very core, however, constipation is caused by the slowed or delayed movement of waste matter through the colon, so increasing peristaltic motion and moving the bowels is always the goal. [11]

Constipation can be acute or chronic, but extended periods of constipation can be dangerous, and even life-threatening, so it is important to speak with a doctor if basic remedies and self-treatment isn’t effective. [12]

A Word of Warning

While the use of essential oils for constipation is a popular and well-proven approach for this condition, there are a number of potential side effects that should be taken into consideration.

  • Consuming any essential oil can result in gastrointestinal distress or allergic reactions, depending on your specific allergies or sensitivities
  • Furthermore, self-treatment of constipation can only go so far
  • If you experience extended periods without passing a bowel movement, it can result in more serious damage to your bowels or colon

Constipation may also indicate a more serious health concern that is causing this blockage, in which case it is important that you see a doctor for a more formal treatment strategy.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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