Does Aromatherapy Help Relieve Menstrual Pain?

The aromas of certain essential oils seem to have a calming effect on ailments such as menstrual pain. We'll tell you what the research says and how to try it at home.
Does Aromatherapy Help Relieve Menstrual Pain?

Last update: 25 December, 2020

People have used aromatherapy since ancient times as an adjuvant to relieve menstrual pain and other types of pain. This involves using essential oils from various plants, which have anti-inflammatory and calming effects according to some research.

Although it’s not a first-choice treatment for dysmenorrhea, many women have chosen to apply it during the days of their menstruation, as they experience a pleasant sensation of relief. So, what does research have to say about all this? And how can you perform aromatherapy at home? Keep reading!

What’s aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a complementary treatment that uses various plant compounds and essential oils whose properties promote relaxation and pain relief. Their use involves inhalation or application to the skin (in combination with a carrier oil).

Aromatherapy is popular in traditional Chinese medicine, as it’s believed to contribute to the relief of rheumatoid arthritis, muscle pain, and respiratory conditions, among other ailments. However, they’re not considered part of conventional medicine due to a lack of evidence supporting their effects.

A woman pouring essential oils into an aromatherapy diffuser.
Essential oils offer aromas that contribute benefits through their mixture and use.

How does aromatherapy help relieve menstrual pain?

One of the most relevant applications of aromatherapy has to do with the relief of menstrual pain. For years, many women with primary dysmenorrhea have used this method as an adjunct to symptom relief. And, although studies on its effectiveness are lacking, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that speaks about its benefits.

Both through inhalation and massage, this therapy could help to decrease the severity of menstrual cramps and other symptoms associated with menstruation. How does this occur? According to some scientists, the explanation lies in the placebo effect.

However, there are hypotheses that suggest that the oils used have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Consequently, they contribute to the mitigation of the pain and inflammation that appears in the abdomen during the period.

What does research say about aromatherapy and menstrual pain?

As we’ve mentioned, there’s not enough evidence to prove that aromatherapy relieves menstrual pain. Despite this, there’s research that suggests positive effects against dysmenorrhea.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that the therapeutic use of essential oils in aromatherapy can calm primary dysmenorrhea. Such effects occur both in application through massage and inhalation.

Meanwhile, a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that topically applied lavender, sage, and rose aromatherapy is effective in decreasing the severity of menstrual cramps.

In addition, research found that massage with a combination of essential oils (cinnamon, clove, rose, and lavender) with almond oil was helpful in relieving pain and even excessive bleeding during a woman’s period. For now, more studies are needed to prove this.

How to perform an aromatherapy session at home?

One of the main advantages of aromatherapy is that it’s considered safe for most people. In addition, you can perform a session at home with few ingredients. All you need are the basic essential oils and a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, or almond.

Ingredients

  • 5 drops of essential oil (lavender, roses, sage, chamomile)
  • 1 tablespoon of carrier oil (15 grams)

Instructions

  • To start, combine the drops of essential oil with a spoonful of carrier oil (coconut, olive, or almond).
  • Once the mixture is ready, rub the oil into the abdominal area with a gentle massage.
  • Make circular movements for 5 or 10 minutes.
  • If the pain persists, you can reapply the massage 3 or 5 times a day.

Optional

  • Dilute 5 to 10 drops of the essential oil in a pot of boiling water
  • Then, inhale the vapors from the pot
  • You can do the same with an aromatherapy diffuser
A woman with her hands over her abdomen and an anguished look on her face.
Menstrual pain and cramps are uncomfortable for many women, to the point of preventing them from carrying out everyday activities.

Warnings about aromatherapy

In most cases, aromatherapy sessions are safe. Despite this, it’s best to conduct a small test of the oils before applying them in their entirety. To do this, rub a minimal amount on the skin and wait a day. If, after this time, there are no signs of irritation or discomfort, it can be used without any problems.

Some inhaled oils can also cause allergic reactions in certain people. Therefore, if congestion, sneezing, or other allergic symptoms occur while using them, it’s best to discontinue use.

Aromatherapy: A supplement for menstrual pain

When it comes to relieving menstrual pain, aromatherapy can be a useful supplement. However, it’s not a first-choice treatment and its effects may only be temporary.

If dysmenorrhea is frequent and disabling, it’s best to see a doctor. The professional will determine if complementary tests are necessary and will guide you towards other therapeutic options.

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