Clary Sage: Another non-medical option for pain relief and stimulating labour

Many of us have experienced the theraputic effect of essential oils whether it was through massage, scented candles or heat packs containing herbs. Doesn’t it make sense then that the same oils would help us to relax and feel centred during labour?

I’ve heard many a great thing about the effects of Clary Sage during labour and recently interviewed aromatherapist, shiastu therapist and former midwife Guiomar Campbell about its positive effects for birth. Below is our conversation.

A: What is Clary Sage exactly and where does it come from?

G: Clary Sage or Salvia sclarea is a plant native to Italy, Syria and Southern France and grows in dry soil. The essential oil is distilled from the flowers and flowering tips.

A: I’ve heard that Clary Sage is pretty impactful in helping labouring parents relax in labour. Have you found this to be true?

G: Yes, one of the numerous health benefits of clary sage essential oil is to promote relaxation and pain relief during labor. It is specially useful where muscular tension arises from mental or emotional stress.

What I realized is that unprocessed emotions can block the process of labour. [A parent] in labor experiences a lot of fear which affects the Kidney and Bladder energy flow. The energy gets stagnated in the colon making it difficult for the cervix to ripen.

The scent of Clary sage oil along with acupressure treatment can help labouring parents feel more connected with the intense emotions. Specially when it is applied during last stage of labor, as it may calm and enhance the dream state, helping to bring about a feeling of euphoria.

A: Yes, that ‘dream state’ you referred to is what we call ‘labour trance’ or ‘labour land’ as doulas. It’s when one’s awareness drops into their bodies and they really begin going with the flow of their body. It’s so important to let this transition happen to allow labour to unfold.

G: Oh yes! So important! In fact, a study at Oxford explored the effects that essential oils can have on helping a [labouring parent] mentally cope with labour and more effectively relax into that trance state. During the eight-year study involving 8,000 mothers, they found that Aromatherapy was effective in managing labour pains. The study was conducted by Oxford Brookes University during 1990-98 and they found that using essential oils lessened maternal anxiety and fear while inducing a sense of well-being. Fear and anxiety are two things which can slow labour and make the mother to be unable to cope with the pain of labour. The study showed a drop in the use of opiate pain relief by those mothers who used aromatherapy during labour. The normal uptake of opiate pain relief would have been expected to be 30% in the Oxford study this dropped to 0.4%.

The oils that were used included, Lavender, Clary sage. Frankincense, Rose, Jasmine, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lemon, Mandarin and the methods of delivery used were massage, added to baths and foot baths and then as drops on the forehead and palms of the hand

A: Some midwives have told me that Clary Sage can help to bring contractions on. Have you found the same to be true?

G: Certinaly, Clary sage can be used during labor to help contractions become more effective, or to induce labor during the later part of the third trimester. It may induce contractions and stimulates the release of oxytocin on pregnant women. Therefore it is highly recommended during labor.

A: Is there a particular way of using Clary sage in labour?

G: You can dilute in gentle carrier oil and rub it into the skin over the reproductive organs, acupressure points in the legs and feet. Either during or between contractions. More specifically between contractions it can be best to apply one to three drops of the essential oil in the palm of your hands and inhale deeply three times. In my experience [labouring parents] generally can fit two deep inhalation before next contraction.

The other choice is to place a few drops of undiluted oil in a cotton balls, once the oil is absorbed, place the cotton balls under the pillow or somewhere near where that person is labouring.

During contractions you’d apply 1-3 drops of Clary sage essential oil blend to the acupressure points SP6, Ki1, Bl 28 and massage with finger. Important to hold the pressure for 1-2 breaths. Than stroke along the meridian line. i.e. Sp meridian continue massaging the lower legs towards the inner side of the foot towards the big toe.

A: What about if contractions have slowed down and we’re trying to help them to become more effective? Is the application different for this purpose?

G: Inhalation is the best remedy. The pungent fragrance helps quicken the labor process by intensifying the muscle contractions. You can also rub diluted (see recipe below) Clary sage essential oil on her belly while in labor. It releases muscle tension and provides the necessary calm and comfort to the [person in labour].

It also helps in muscle dilation, required for the baby to come out.

A: You’ve mentioned that combining the use of Clary sage with acupressure points can be particularly helpful for labour. What acupressure points would you use?

G: The KI 1 point, located in the bottom of foot. Hold that point while applying deep pressure. It helps to ground and bring the energy down to the legs.

A: It sounds like Clary Sage really does have quite a lot of effect on a person’s body. What safety precautions should parents take when using the oil?

G: Of course, parents should consult their midwife or doctor before using an herb or oil that has an impact on their body’s systems. Herbs and essential oils have been used for hundreds of years for medicinal and therapeutic purposed but that doesn’t mean someone should self-medicate.

I’ve provided a recipe for Clary sage dilution that is safe for parents to use for their labour. Parents can bring this to their health care provider to consult them on it’s use. If they experience a headache or a feeling of euphoria, they should take a break from using it.

A: Thank you Guiomar! This has been amazing to learn that Clary sage is a great option that parents can make use of as pain coping support AND contraction stimulation for their birth! Is there anything else you’d like to add for the parents who’ll be reading this?

G:If parents would like to buy a ready-made version of the Clary Sage oil for labour, they can contact me at

*Recipe from Guia’s Lotus Blends.*

I put this formula together for my second pregnancy and and loved it! I added fennel for nausea and Ylang ylang to increase pleasure and feeling of sensuality. It also balances yin energy male and female energy in the body


*Labor oil*

10 drops of Clary Sage oil

10 drops of lavender

4 drops of fennel

4 drops of Ylang Ylang

50 ml of either Grape seed oil, Coconut oil, Sweet Almond oil or Jojoba oil

This blend can be massaged on the palm and the feet of the person in labor.

It releases muscle tension and thereby provides the necessary calm and comfort to the mother. It also helps in muscle dilation, required for the baby to come out.


Burns, E., Zobbi, V., Panzeri, D., Oskrochi, R., Regalia, A. Aromatherapy in childbirth: a pilot randomised controlled trial. School of Health and Social Care, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK. Jul;114(7):838-44. Epub 2007.

Burns, E., Blamey, C., Ersser, SJ., Lloyd, AJ., Barnetson, L. The use of aromatherapy in intrapartum midwifery practice an observational study. Oxford centre for health research & development, Oxford Brooks University,
U.K. 2000 Feb;6(1):33-4.

Essential Oils Reference Desk by Gary Young- Compiled by Essential Science Publishing-Third edition-Clary Sage- pg 44.

Aromatherapy an A-Z by Patricia Davis published United Kingdom 1988. pg 76.

Healing with Aromatherapy by Marlene Ericksen- pg 155

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