I love hearing from you, my readers, and this post is courtesy of reader requests from a poll on my Instagram Stories a few weeks back. Finding ways to manage period pain is one of your biggest concerns – it comes up in so many of my blog posts and your emails to me. Today I’m excited to introduce you to an option you may not have considered – essential oils!
Essential oils are plant-based compounds that have been extracted from plant stems, barks, petals, leaves or roots into an oil form, somewhat a similar concept to the herbal medicines I use in the clinic. However, where they differ is that they’re the “smelly” bit of most plants or flowers, but they don’t just smell nice (but lets be honest, some do actually smell like an old dude’s dirty feet). Essential oils are composed of the concentrated compounds from many plants you’d be familiar with that are used therapeutically, cosmetically or in cooking to help support our bodies. The supportive compounds are found in an oil – and in the oil form, they’re super concentrated, which can make them powerful allies in your health care.
Period pain is one of the most common health complaints which causes women to feel unable to keep up with ‘normal’ things during their bleed. Oils can be a great addition to your period tool box, especially if medicalised treatments aren’t appropriate, or have failed you in the past. There’s a few oils I’ve found are particularly useful for managing pain. (keep reading to hear about my favourites). I’ve included links to scientific research on these oils for pain management – while its a pretty new area for science researchers, it’s great to see a complementary therapy being given the spotlight too.
Clary sage: This powerhouse is my go-to for period pain, as well as PMS & hormonal mood swings, and hormonal headaches. In a research setting, its been found to be more effective than paracetamol for pain relief . That’s certainly worth paying attention to! With a herbal scent, this oil has a calming, relieving and relaxing effect, so it perfect for period pain. It can also make a lovely oil as a perfume or part of a perfume blend.
Lavender: Perhaps the best known and most widely used oil, many people are familiar with its relaxing properties. Who hasn’t heard of lavender eye masks or balms helping with getting to sleep? Lavender has also been widely studied for its relaxant properties, but is also effective at reducing period pain. Because it helps with calming your body and mind, it can assist your body in relaxing rather than tensing muscles around your abdomen. Not to mention – its one of the oils which is regarded as safe to apply undiluted to skin. It’s perfect for skin issues, so it can also help with those PMS/period pimples that may be popping up.
Frankincense: Frankincense has more uses than I can possibly list in this blog post, however for period pain, there’s one that is most relevant – Frank is a wonderful anti- inflammatory. There’s even a growing number of studies on its efficacy as an anti-inflammatory. If inflammation is something you experience with your pain, this might be a good addition to your toolkit.
Peppermint: In TCM, we like to ensure your abdomen is kept warm, especially during your period. For some women, the cooling effect of peppermint essential oil is perfect for their pain. In particular, lower back pain may benefit for having the heat taken out of it by peppermint oil. Also, for those of you who experience digestive tract symptoms during your period, peppermint could be a powerful pain reliever.
Best way to use essential oils?
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging! If you’re not quite sure how to get the best out of essential oils, you could be understandably confused! Here are my favourite ways to effectively get the most out of your oils:
Use a diffuser and breathe them in – So simple. You can just breathe in oils to get their benefits! Sounds a bit like magic, I know, but I promise it’s true! Essential oils are regarded as ‘volatile aromatic compounds’, meaning they move from a liquid state to vapour with ease, making inhalation a great way to take in their goodness. What does this look like? Well, have you ever crushed herbs or spices, and without putting your finger to your mouth, you’ve been able to taste them? That is the essential oil component of the herb vaporising into air. The easiest way to inhale oils is to put a few drops in a diffuser and sit it next to you, then breathe deeply. With high quality essential oils, you often only need 2-3 drops in your diffuser at a time.
Massaged in to your skin – not every oil is safe to put onto skin, even diluted, so this will not be an option in every circumstances, however the oils I’ve mentioned above are generally regarded as safe to use as part of a diluted massage blend. Lavender, in particular, can be safe to use neat (without dilution) under some circumstances. The easiest way to have a “Period Pain Buster” blend on hand is to put just a few drops of your oils in to an empty 10ml rollerball, fill with a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil or almond oil, then pop in your pocket or bag so its always on hand for application. You can then roll the blend on to your skin and gently massage in. If you have a trusted friend or partner nearby, getting a massage from them might be the perfect relief for you.
This post is a great guide on how to dilute your oils. Where in doubt, less is more with oils. If you have highly sensitive skin, I’d recommend using a diffuser over application – period pain is bad enough without also having skin reactions.
At the Pagoda Tree, we love and use DoTerra oils in clinic, and recommend them for our patients. DoTerra have the highest quality product I’ve come across, and I wouldn’t want you using anything but the best on your body. If you’d like to know more, please contact myself or my team – we can even help you order some for your home. If you’re interested in finding out more about essential oils and their value for hormonal health, I did a great episode of The Period Party podcast with Dr Mariza Snyder back in 2016 all about this topic.
A note on safety & science: As with anything being used therapeutically, from an essential oil to medications, each individual can have differing results, or can have reactions or negative side effects. As always, work with a practitioner to ensure your health is being supported in the best way possible.