Considering essential oils are effective for everything from getting a better night's sleep and honing concentration to treating anxiety, it should come as no surprise that they're also a game-changer when it comes to soothing menstrual cramps.
What Are Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps refer to cramping pains in the lower abdomen or back. They occur just before and during a menstrual period due to contractions in the uterus.
To effectively tame cramp-related pain, it's important to realize why you get cramps during your period in the first place in order to see if essential oils can be a go-to home remedy. When you're not pregnant, your uterine lining sheds. "If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels and cut off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissues in the uterus," says Ramona Fasula, a certified holistic health coach and CEO of Wellness by Ramona. "When the oxygen supply is cut off, pain results."
Meet the Expert
Ramona Fasula is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and owner of Wellness by Ramona, designing customized wellness programs to help people reach their health goals.
Taking into consideration why you get cramps, here are four essential oils for menstrual cramps that might just have the ability to change your life (or at least how you feel during your time of the month).
Perhaps you didn't realize there were two types of chamomile. Roman chamomile and German chamomile come from plants of a different genus and species and therefore have different chemical makeups, although both have calming properties. "Archaeologists tell us aromatherapy was used for pain management by the ancient Egyptians, and one of their go-to oils was Roman chamomile," says Dr. Ryan Neinstein of NYC Surgical Associates. The doctor suggests putting a few drops of Roman chamomile into a bath and soaking your feet—it's an ancient method of calming cramps.
This sweet spice also comes in oil form and does more than just help you when you're baking. Why does it work? "Cinnamon oil alone has been studied as a treatment for menstrual cramps, and was found to be very effective at reducing uterine contractions," says Dr. Jennifer Stagg, who is a naturopathic physician. Use the oil to massage your lower abdomen—it should help with the inflammation and lessen the pain.
Clary sage can also be rubbed on your abdomen for relief. "Clary sage works to regulate the menstrual cycle by balancing hormone levels naturally and stimulating the opening of an obstructed system," clinical nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe says. "It has the power to cure symptoms of PMS as well, including bloating, cramps, mood swings, and food cravings."
Massaging in readily available lavender oil has proven to relieve cramping symptoms. Or, if you want to get creative, you can even mix together several essential oils for relief. According to a 2012 study, women who used a combination of lavender, sage, and marjoram mixed with a cream on their abdomen reported less pain during menstrual cramping. (Of note: They massaged the oil into their skin from the end of their last period to the beginning of the next.)
Menstrual Cramps and Medical Issues
While it never hurts to explore natural ways to treat health conditions like essential oils for menstrual cramps, if you have any questions or concerns about pain during your period, consult a doctor as it could be indicative of a serious medical problem.
Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine of the Past with Bright Future. Mol Med Rep. 2010;3(6):895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377
Hur MH, Lee MS, Seong KY, Lee MK. Aromatherapy Massage on the Abdomen for Alleviating Menstrual Pain in High School Girls: A Preliminary Controlled Clinical Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:187163. doi:10.1155/2012/187163
Apay SE, Arslan S, Akpinar RB, Celebioglu A. Effect of Aromatherapy Massage on Dysmenorrhea in Turkish Students. Pain Manag Nurs. 2012;13(4):236-40. doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2010.04.002
Ou MC, Hsu TF, Lai AC, Lin YT, Lin CC. Pain Relief Assessment by Aromatic Essential Oil Massage on Outpatients with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2012;38(5):817-22. doi:10.1111/j.1447-0756.2011.01802.x