Hormones are all over the place during adolescence. Reaching puberty and starting your periods is a massive landmark in a girl’s life. As her body starts to manufacture the hormones that will encourage monthly ovulation, a young woman can experience pain and embarrassment.
For many women, understanding what is happening inside the body is the first step to gaining control of the hormones. Several oils can help. These are Rose, Geranium, Lavender, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Ylang Ylang, Melissa, Myrrh, and Jasmine.
Today we’ll look at essential oils for menstrual cramps and ways aromatherapy can support some of the other associated delights of femininity.
History tells us that in days of antiquity, women congregated for rituals to consecrate the rites of passage into womanhood. Together, women celebrated the wonders of their difference and supported each other through the transitions from maiden and mother to crone. Seeing their physiology as being connected to the fertility of the land, their reverence bore witness to the beauty of Woman as creatrix.
That we have lost this observance seems like a significant loss for women. In our quest to be treated equally to men, we ignore how lovely a woman’s cycles can be. While I’d be the last person ever to say “enjoy” menstruation, I believe the more we accept menstruation as part of our journey and embrace its opportunities as truth; the more likely our experience will be better.
Essential oils allow us to spoil ourselves and show us hormonal support.
Though this article is about cramps, aromatherapy groups menstrual problems as a holistic issue; put more simply: if the body is in balance, there shouldn’t be much pain. Pain is the body’s signaling system that something is wrong.
So, a clinical aromatherapist (I am) looks at the patient to ascertain if there might be something else underpinning the cramps. For some, it might be stress or trauma; for others, there may be a skeletal misalignment (chiropractor or osteopaths can help quickly, especially if the pelvis is sitting on a nerve and causing pain) or even dietary or nutrition deficiency related.
In the same way, for many women, the cramps do not happen in isolation. As stated, there may be PMT and issues with mood and aggression, water retention, bloating, painful breasts, and backache.
It is reported that three-quarters of women suffer PMS symptoms at some point. Thankfully, For most women, PMS symptoms are relatively mild. Less than 5% of women of childbearing age can suffer from a more severe form of PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). While essential oils for hormonal balance may help, this is most certainly a condition you should consult your physician about.
Some of the critical challenges in the menstrual cycle.
- Menstrual Pain
- Ovulation pain
- Hefty periods
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9 Best Essential Oils for Menstrual Pain
Let’s cut right to the chase on this one. Several oils can help. These are Rose, Geranium, Lavender, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Ylang Ylang, Melissa, Myrrh, and Jasmine.
They can be used alone or in combination. The combination is often the most effective course of action.
Rose will always come at the top of any list of essential oils for hormonal support. That said, it carries a massive price tag, so if you cannot afford it, I’d encourage you to look at Rose Geranium essential oil instead. It’s not as good, but if you are suffering, it’s good enough.
Since the dawn of recorded history, the rose has been associated with love and womanhood. So we see it as the symbol of the goddess of love. Aphrodite, Venus, Astarte, Innana, and Ishtar all have associations with the rose. But the goddess of love had other areas of power—usually sexuality and fertility, and often war in her earliest incarnations.
Rose makes you feel like a woman. It has a very feminine nature. But more than that, it is a uterine tonic. Toning the womb helps sustain a pregnancy, but good musculature also means the tissue has good circulation. Here, then it can relax better, which may reduce pain.
Rose is instrumental if you find your mood alters a lot during PMT week. Rodent's research demonstrated that rose is not only hypnotic, helps you sleep, reduces pain perception, and has an anti-conflict nature. It also possesses antidepressant properties. (Mohebitabar, 2017)
Geranium makes an excellent replacement for rose. However, while they work similarly, they don’t work well together in blends. Their fragrances are too close in similarity. It’s almost like you played two keys next to each other on the piano.
Geranium is one of the most important essential oils in treating stress-related conditions. Stress can undoubtedly harm your menstrual cycle, altering the length of the process, affecting your mood, and making cramps more painful. However, if you can get a hold of your stress levels during the intervening months, you may find your pain diminishes dramatically.
I love geraniums. I always say if I could only take one oil to a desert island, geranium would be mine.
It lists stress from your shoulders and makes you feel more resilient. It’s not the pretty golden girl Rose for skin, but she comes second. She’s not at the top of the list of essential oils for menstrual cramps because she is a genius at hormonal balance, but she’s good enough. Geranium is a reliable, fragranced plodder.
I'd heartily recommend it if you’ve not tried working with geranium. She’s inexpensive, dependable, has a great cross-section of skills, and blends with almost everything.
In the bath, massage oils, diffusers, aroma pendants whatever, you cannot beat a bit of geranium.
So, lavender isn’t on the list of essential oils for menstrual cramps for any specific action on hormones per se. Still, she is so soothing and relaxing, both emotionally and physically.
If it aches or is sore, a bit of lavender is lovely.
Are you narky and easily upset during PMT week? Then chamomile is the perfect ally. I always say she dances in the wind and sings Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be…
Chamomile persuades you to loosen your grip a bit. In the same way, it relaxes cramps, soothing and cajoling sore bellies and backs.
The chamazulene in blue chamomile probably makes it the most beneficial essential oil for menstrual cramps because of its anti-inflammatory nature. Still, Roman chamomile will do you just as well.
Lovely clary sage, balancing and rational. It’s particularly significant for teenagers because it’s so good for greasy skin, but most women benefit from clary sage.
It has an antispasmodic nature, and I love using it for people with restless legs syndrome or other cramping issues.
It’s also beneficial if the mood is an issue.
One of the key constituents in the oil sclareol (reflected in the Latin name Salvia sclarea) has a very unusual action on the body. You’ll often see it written that it encourages estrogen in the body; that’s not quite right, but the distinction is semantics. However, the molecule is similar, so it mimics estrogen in the body. It’s thought that PMT can be made worse by the low estrogen levels before we menstruate.
A little note of caution about clary sage, though, strike it off your list of essential oils for menstrual cramps if you are red wine and chocolate craver. Clary sage and alcohol are not good bedfellows. Where typically clary sage has quite a euphoric action, alcohol turns that into a vile headache and hangover from Hell. Mixing the two can sometimes also cause hallucinations.
Seductive, euphoric, and delicious.
Picture the scene. You’ve sailed across the Indian ocean on a calm day. The sun is shining, a cloudless sky, and as you approach the beach, you can see beautiful locals ready to greet you with leis of gorgeous fragranced flowers.
As they place them around your neck, you are engulfed by the sensuous breeze of the ylang ylang flowers, and as the musicians strike up a hula, you feel your hips begin to sway and dance.
Forgotten about your hormones now, haven’t you? Ylang ylang is one of the best essential oils for menstrual cramps not only because it balances the hormones or even softens the aches and pains but also because the most significant skill is a distraction.
I’ve recently written a book about Melissa and was astounded at the impressive results of using the lemon balm herb as a tea or in capsules for menstrual issues. I’d never thought about using the oil, but I am a convert.
The essential oil is expensive, so unless you intend to use it for other things, I’d recommend drinking lemon balm tea, which is scientifically proven to be more effective than taking the usually prescribed mefenamic acid. (Dehcheshmeh, 2016)
I’m a bit of a fragrance advocate on behalf of myrrh. The world has gone frankincense mad, but nobody seems to love myrrh. It is one of the best essential oils for menstrual cramps because of its tonic action on the uterus. It’s such a cleansing oil. I wouldn’t use it on its own, but it blends. It is marvelous and utterly lovely. Rose and Myrrh are one of my very favorite fragrances. So soothing, so relaxing, and incidentally, if you are unsure what to do with the rest of the bottle, nothing comes close to it for healing cuts and abrasions. Fantastic stuff.
It’s a big, fat, heavy oil, so don’t be tempted to put it into your electric diffuser. It’s going to gunk it up completely. Fine in inhaler sticks, gorgeous massage oils, creams, lotions, and baths.
I love Jasmine so much. Not only does it smell heavenly, but it also cools things hot. So if you feel like your menstrual cramps burn, this is the best oil to try.
It has excellent action on clotting too. Menstrual cramps are often worse if the blood is thick, I have no idea how, but jasmine sorts that out so well. Likewise, I like the combination of jasmine, blue chamomile, and yarrow for ladies with endometriosis.
How to Apply Essential Oils for Menstrual Cramps
I see the best results using massage oil. This can be applied to the lower abdomen, the back, and the inside of the wrist, for easy access to get the oils into the bloodstream. In addition, it can be beneficial to massage it onto the back of the neck and shoulders, especially during PMS week, so the oils can have speedy access to the brain, hoping to support mood.
As is always the case with aromatherapy, this is a great deal of flexibility. You can try them in your bath or use them in an inhaler or diffuser. A combination of all opportunities works very well.
Recommended Reading: Essential Oils for Menstrual Mood Swings
How Often To Use Essential Oils for Menstrual Pain
Many people find that using essential oils for menstrual cramps helps them immediately feel better. However, research shows that they have a cumulative effect. When we see evidence from clinical trials, there is an improvement in the first month’s symptoms, but the second month is better, and the third month is even better.
The secret is to keep using essential oils for menstrual cramps even if you don’t see huge improvements, to begin with. Many people report feeling much better very quickly, and I hope that will be the case for you.
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I’m just going to add a moot point here about safety. If you are looking for essential oils for menstrual pain, it’s doubtful that you are pregnant, but of course, there are a couple of weeks where that may not be true. After that, you can be pregnant and not even realize it.
I’m not going to add the safety of each of these oils in turn because it would be ridiculous in the context of this article. Still, if you are trying to get pregnant, I suggest avoiding using clary sage, rose, ylang ylang, myrrh, or jasmine.
All of these oils have tonic actions on the uterus. However, this might not be the best plan if you are trying to create a comfortable embryo implantation substrate.
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DIY Essential Oil Recipe for Menstrual Cramps Proven by Science
This recipe was used in a clinical trial by the wonderful aromatherapist Jane Buckle with the School of Nursing in Won Kwang Public Health College, Iksan, Korea, in 2016. It was found to be effective in reducing menstrual cramps.
Applied topically to the experimental group in the form of an abdominal massage.
Your main essential oils for menstrual cramps are rose, clary sage, and ylang ylang. However, the effects of essential oils are cumulative, and you should use them on an ongoing basis. The most effective way to do that will be to tackle stress by adding some other oils to make a multilayered approach using abdominal massage, baths, and inhalation.
Recommended Reading: Clary Sage Oil For Hormone Balance