PMS or premenstrual syndrome encompasses a group of symptoms that affect women in the days prior to and up to the beginning of their menstrual flow. It can affect women starting on their menarche or first menstrual flow in adolescence, and symptoms can continue until menopause. Although, typically PMS affects women between their 20s and 40s more significantly.
PMS affects women differently, and some have more distinct or severe symptoms than others. Symptoms include emotional distress, mood changes, depression, aggression, anxiety, stress, and mental state alteration, among others. Physical symptoms of PMS include fatigue, bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, fluid retention, and headaches.
I have successfully used essential oils (EOs) to treat PMS, including some of the EOs listed here, such as lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, and clary sage, Salvia sclarea, although many other EOs can also provide relief of PMS symptoms.
Patience is key to any alternative form of healing. Alternative healing, including aromatherapy, works to support the body by allowing the body to correct itself, and this requires time and patience. But, if you’re willing to try, some of these EOs can significantly relieve PMS.
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
In a study conducted on 17 women who were an average of 20 years old, lavender essential oil was given to be inhaled. After 10 minutes, the participants showed a decrease in emotional symptoms of PMS, including depression or dejection and confusion, and this effect lasted for up to 35 minutes after the essential oil was inhaled. Lavender also reduced autonomic nervous system activity, lowered anxiety and stress, and thus further supporting the positive effects of the essential oil in reducing PMS (Matsumoto, Asakura, & Hayashi, 2013).
Lavender is beneficial in helping to calm dysmenorrheal or painful menstruation. In a study conducted on 200 Iranian women perceived menstrual pain to be less severe. They were given the essential oil for 30 minutes a day during the first three days of menstruation. However, pain severity was more effectively decreased after being used consecutively for a 2-month period (Nikjou, Kazemzadeh, Rostamnegad, Karimollahi, & Salehi, 2016).
EOs with Hormone-like Properties
EOs with hormone-like properties that have been studied in relation to benefiting PMS symptoms include Scotch pine, Pinus sylvestris, and myrrh, Commiphora myrrha. In addition, EOs with estrogen-like properties that are believed to be effective include fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, sage, Salvia officinalis, and clary sage, Salvia sclarea. Clary sage is also an anti-inflammatory and can aid in additional symptom relief (Buckle, 2003).
Salvatore Battaglia (2003) lists the following EOs as useful in pre-menstrual tension:
- Bergamot, Citrus bergamia
- German chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla
- Roman chamomile, Anthemis nobilis
- Carrot seed, Daucus carota
- Clary sage, Salvia sclarea
- Sweet fennel, Foeniculum vulgare dulce
- Geranium, Pelargonium graveolens
- Juniper berry, Juniperus communis
- Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
- Sweet marjoram, Marjorana hortensis
- Neroli, Citrus aurantium amara
- Rose, Rosa damascene
- Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
- Ylang ylang, Canaga odorata
He also recommends using evening primrose oil, not just as the carrier oil for these EOs, but also as a supplement. Studies have shown that evening primrose oil supplements have decreased PMS symptoms when taken daily for two or three months. In these studies, 60% of women experienced “a reduction of depression, irritability, breast pain, bloating, and headaches” (Battaglia, 2003, p. 449).
Once again, I feel it is important to note that with any type of use of aromatherapy, essential oils are beneficial in the relief of PMS symptoms if they are used over time. While it is possible to feel immediate relief of PMS symptoms shortly after the use of essential oils, in most cases relief is achieved after essential oils have been used continuously over a few months.
This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of AromaCulture Magazine and has been adapted for use here with permission from the publisher.
Battaglia, S. (2003). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy(2nd ed.). Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.
Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils In Practice(2nd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone.
Matsumoto, T., Asakura, H., & Hayashi, T. (2013). Does lavender aromatherapy alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms?: a randomized crossover trial. Biopsychosocial Medicine, 7(12). doi:10.1186/1751-0759-7-12
Nikjou, R., Kazemzadeh, R., Rostamnegad, M., Karimollahi, M., & Salehi, H. (2016). The effect of lavender aromatherapy on the pain severity of primary dysmenorrhea: a triple-blind randomized clinical trial. Annals of Medical & Health Sciences Research, 6(4), 211-215. doi:10.4103/amhsr.amhsr_527_14