From an aromatherapist’s point of view, the inhalation and dermal application of essential oils is a proven way to provide symptom relief (e.g., pain, nausea) from dysmenorrhea while also assisting mind-states (e.g., irritability, anger, depression) and stabilizing a woman’s terrain (some say “hormone balance”) by affecting the neuro-endocrine network.
Following are select essential oils and their key characteristics regarding dysmenorrhea:
Chamomile, German (Matricaria recutita)
Therapeutic actions: Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, emmenagogue, sedative
Indications: Aches/Pains/Cramps, PMS, cracked nipples, postpartum anxiety, all phases of a woman’s life and cycle
Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile)
Therapeutic actions: Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic emmenagogue, sedative
Indications: Cramps, spasms, tension, sore breasts, PMS, relaxing, calming, soothing
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
Therapeutic actions:Anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, Antispasmodic, emmenagogue, muscle & uterine relaxant
Indications: Aches/Pains, harmonizing, cramps, menopause, irritability
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Therapeutic actions:Antispasmodic, restorative
Indications: Calming, excess blood flow, cramping, contracting (when feeling overwhelmed), endocrine modulator
Fennel, Sweet (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce)
Therapeutic actions:Antispasmodic, emmenagogue, galactagogic
Indications: Balancing to hormones, PMS, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, lack of or reduced sexual drive, lack of or reduced milk flow in lactating woman, cramps, menopause, perimenopause
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
Therapeutic actions:Analgesic, Antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, emmenagogue
Indications: Balancing, relaxing, PMS, adrenal cortex stimulant influencing the HPA-axis.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Therapeutic actions:Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, nervine, sedative
Indications: Balancing, calming, cramps, PMS, soothing
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Therapeutic actions: Analgesic, anti-emetic, antispasmodic, stimulating
Indications: Aches/Pains, spasms, stiffness, swelling, invigorating
Rose Otto (Rosa x damascena)
Therapeutic actions: Anti-depressant, antispasmodic, emmenagogue, sedative
Indications: Hormonal regulator, uterine tonic, regulating
Spruce, Black (Picea mariana)
Therapeutic actions: Immune stimulating, nervine
Indications: Adrenal exhaustion, supports HPA axis, emotional exhaustion
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
Therapeutic actions: Analgesic, antispasmodic, nervine sedative,
Indications: Stress, calming, cramping, nervous system tonic
Ylang ylang Complete (Canaga odorata)
Therapeutic actions:Antidepressant, antispasmodic, nervine
Relaxing, harmonizing, PMS, tension relief
When taking theory into action, it is necessary to approach an individual’s entire constitution and lifestyle. Following is a sample aromatic plan that not only focuses on alleviating pain but also promoting balance in the mind-body and through working with essential oils and addressing nutritional needs.
Essential oil Blend for Inhalation:
- Intention: To assist in calming the mind and stimulating the HPA axis with has direct impact on body processes.
- Base: Pure essential oils to be added to an inhaler, to diffuse or used with direct palm inhalation.
- Essential oils: Combine the following oils in a 5ml glass bottle with an orifice reducer and screw-top cap: Black spruce (10 drops), Cypress (10 drops), Fennel (5 drops), Geranium (5 drops) & Ylang ylang (5 drops).
Usage directions: Using an aromatic inhaler, inhale the blend for 3 to 5 minutes, 2 to 3 times per day at the onset of PMS symptoms. Continue to use the inhaler thorugh menses. Then discontinue use until the start of your next cycle.
Aromatic Body Oil:
- Intention: Fixed and volatile oils to assist with pain management, calm the mind and ultimately promote balance along the HPA axis.
- Base: 2 ounces total of arnica infused jojoba oil and tamanu oil
- Essential oils: Combine the following essential oils in a 2 ounce glass bottle with pump top: Roman chamomile (4 drops), Clary sage (12 drops), Lavender (30 drops), Rose (5 drops) & Sweet Marjoram (12 drops). Then add 1 ounce each of the arnica and Tamanu oils to the bottle and secure the top.
- Usage directions: Apply to the abdomen 2x daily for 3 days before menses. To address pain during menstruation, massage the aromatic oil into pain sites as needed. Discontinue use after the pain has tempered, usually the 3rd or 4th day of menses. Start the same protocol the next month, continuing for 3 months.
Additional Actions to Consider:
- Consume a plant-based diet with a focus on adequate fiber intake to help process/pull excess estrogen from the body.
- Love your liver—eat bitter foods (e.g., arugula, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, radicchio, kale, grapefruit and cranberries) to help with bile production and digestion as the liver is highly involved in metabolizing hormones and creating cholesterol, the backbone of hormones.
- Increase foods high in magnesium (e.g., bananas, beets, broccoli, peas, almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds) to help relax smooth muscles, optimize cellular respiration and enzyme production and address compromised bowel movements.
- Increase omega 3’ EFAs (e.g., pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds) to aid with inflammation and curtail the effects of prostaglandins.
By incorporating a simple protocol such as the one above into daily life, a woman empowers herself to take control of her body, manage her symptoms and bring harmony to the dance between estrogen and prostaglandins.
Perhaps, oddly enough, this burgeoning field of scientific research on aromatherapy will bring us back in touch with scents, our senses, and ultimately, ourselves.