What’s with the Menopause?
For a vast majority of women, menopause symptoms are mild and do little to disrupt daily life. However, the discomfort of hot flashes, irritability and fatigue can make life exceptionally difficult. Thankfully, for the growing number of women who wish to avoid prescription hormone medications to manage their symptoms, remedies like essential oils for menopause can provide natural and effective relief!
Every middle aged woman will go through a major life change where her body transforms from being fertile to infertile by stopping the menstruation process. This is a major life change that can take several months or years, and the completion of the process is known, clinically, as menopause. However, menopause has been the name most people give to the process of this change, and the symptoms it produces.
When a woman’s body starts the process of menopause, estrogen levels begin to drop. This change in hormone levels causes a number of symptoms, including hot flashes, irritability, insomnia and fatigue. For many women, these symptoms make enjoying normal daily activities difficult. In addition, the changing hormone levels can increase a woman’s risk of osteoporosis, which can increase the risk for fractures. This is why it’s more common for elderly women to fracture a hip than other populations.
On that note, it should be of interest that using essential oils for menopause such as juniper, sage, rosemary, pine, dwarf pine, turpentine, and eucalyptus have been found to inhibit bone resorption when added to the food in animal studies. Pine oil, specifically, can protect from bone loss.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR MENOPAUSE: EMBRACING MENOPAUSE
If you asked the average woman what she knows about menopause, she would likely give you an answer relating to hot flashes and mood swings. It’s no wonder, as our society and media have made this to be one of the most prominent parts of this life change. These are some of the symptoms of menopause, but they are not the actual change itself.
Interestingly, menopause is a major life change that can bring uncomfortable symptoms, but for many women, it’s also a freeing time. Once a woman has been without menstruation for 12 consecutive months, she is considered no longer fertile and the all-too-familiar hassle of her monthly “blessing” becomes a distant memory. For those who no longer want to take birth control or manage natural family planning any longer, menopause is also a welcomed event.
It is no wonder that many women find themselves celebrating the end of a very long chapter of their lives where they are forced to use pads, tampons and the inconvenience of unsightly stains from menses every month!
SEVEN ESSENTIAL OILS FOR MENOPAUSE RELIEF
Research is clear on one thing: essential oils for menopause work well for many women during their change of life. A 2008 article published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal summarizes what we do know quite well:
• “Many studies have found that aromatherapy improves psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression and mood swings, and induces more relaxed states in young and middle-aged women”
• “Several aromatic oils have been recommended as phytoestrogens because they include components related to the sex hormones.”
• “Some of these oils have similar structures and functions such as clary sage, fennel, cypress, angelica and coriander.
• “It has been proposed that geranium oil balances hormones and that rose oil strengthen uterus function.”
• “Evening primrose is recommended as a base oil in aromatherapy for menopausal women.”
This article goes on to report how 60 menopausal women aged 45 and 54 years old responded to a series of essential oil massage treatments in light of these 11 menopausal symptoms: hot flushes (vasomotor), paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, melancholia, vertigo, weakness, arthralgia or myalgia, headache, palpitations, and formication. Each woman received one 30-min aromatherapy treatment session each week for 8 weeks with essential oils for menopause using lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine diluted in almond and evening primrose oil. Compared to controls, the measured menopausal symptoms were greatly reduced in the women who enjoyed regular aromatherapy massage.
Whether one essential oil has more benefit over another still remains to be seen. However, these essential oils for menopause are usually some of the most popular…
1. LAVENDER OIL
The changing and shifting hormones of menopause can cause feelings of anxiety and problems with sleep. Lavender has long been known to promote feelings of relaxation while lifting the mood, also promoting better sleep in people dealing with insomnia. Adding lavender aromatherapy to the night time routine can help improve sleep and relaxation.
It is also suspected that lavender can help calm the body so that hormone levels naturally balance, and a cold compress with one drop of diluted lavender oil can help reduce discomfort in the perineum during menopause.
2. CLARY SAGE OIL
As women continue to share their store, clary sage oil has been known to effectively help with hot flashes. Those who are feeling a hot flash coming on can get fast relief by rubbing 1-2 drops of diluted clary sage oil on the back of the neck or on the feet. It also is effective when inhaled during episodes. Additionally, clary sage has been shown clinically to be more effective than the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and can specifically menopausal women by:
• Reducing thyroid stimulating hormone
• Decreasing depression
• Significantly decreasing cortisol (i.e. stress levels)
3. PEPPERMINT ESSENTIAL OIL
Peppermint is another essential oil that can lessen discomfort during a hot flash. Misting one’s face with a water spritzer or using a portable inhaler during an episode can mitigate the symptoms instantly. Since hot flashes are one of the most noticeable symptoms of menopause, having some peppermint oil on hand is a good idea.
Menopause signals the end of menstruation. However, menstruation and menstrual cramping can still occur. In addition, even after menstruation, as many as 50 percent of women experience menstruation-related cramping, a condition known as dysmenorrhea, during the beginning stages of menopause. Peppermint oil may help reduce some of the pain and discomfort of this type of cramping.
4. BASIL ESSENTIAL OIL
It has been suggested that basil (the estragole chemotype) contains an estrogen hormone-like component. This means that it can potentially help the body adjust to changing estrogen levels, reducing some of the discomfort of menopause. Traditionally, basil oil has been used to help fight hot flashes when diluted oil is applied to the feet or back of the neck, and aromatic use can help boost the mood during menopause.
However, before women jump on the essential-oils-can-balance-my-estrogen-levels bandwagon, please keep in mind that essential oils chemist Robert Pappas, PhD says that this is not likely. In the context of a discussion over clary sage and the chemical sclareol:
“Hopefully, even without a chemistry degree, anyone can see that, based on the structural parameters of both systems, there is no way that sclareol could ever perform the function of estrogen in the human body….I think the chemical evidence is pretty clear that sclareol is not a steroidal estrogen, does not mimic the function of any estrogen molecules, does not stimulate estrogen production (why would it?), and would not appear to have any mechanism by which it can “balance hormones” at least not by a pathway that has anything to do with estrogens.
If you see anyone making these types of claims, simply ask them to site the research that can propose a chemical mechanism that is remotely plausible to accomplish any of these tasks. I don’t think they will be able to produce anything credible to support the claims. If clary sage oil does actually work in any of the above capacities then it has to do it by some other mechanism, unrelated to how estrogens perform in the body. I am not saying that it’s impossible that clary sage can have some of the effects that have been claimed, but just be aware that its not really possible that the oil can mimic estrogens or that the oil contains estrogen like molecules.”
Pappas’ statement seems well-supported by research as King’s College London researchers confirmed that, “None of these compounds showed estrogenic or anti-estrogenic activity in the estrogen-responsive human cell line.” However, this is not to say that essential oils for menopause cannot trigger the pituitary gland to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which causes the release of estrogen.
5. NEROLI OIL
In one 2014 study, 63 healthy postmenopausal women inhaled neroli oil for five minutes twice a day. During this time, they answered a questionnaire specific to quality of life during menopause. The women who were given the neroli oil instead of a control an increased desire for sexual intimacy, improved estrogen concentrations and improved blood pressure. They also reported less stress after inhaling the neroli oil. Women who are frustrated with a lack of libido, high stress levels and increased blood pressure can also get relief from this oil.
In addition, neroli has anti-inflammatory properties. This can help with many of the aches and pains that come from getting older and the menopause process.
6. GERANIUM OIL
Geranium oil can help with many of the symptoms of menopause. It helps improve dry skin, which can be a common problem during menopause. It also may help balance hormone levels. Research has also found that the antidepressant properties of geranium oil can benefit women who are struggling with depression and mood swings.
VITEX AGNUS-CASTUS OIL
An oil you’re probably not too familiar with, Vitex agnus-castus is a shrub that is native to Central Asia. The plant has blue-violet flowers, long, finger-shaped leaves, and dark purple berries and it’s the fruit and seed are used to make medicine while the leaves and berries are distilled to make essential oils.
Vitex has been traditionally consumed for a variety of female health concerns such as:
• Controlling bleeding
• Female infertility
• Helping the body force out the placenta after childbirth
• Increasing breast milk production
• “Lumpy” (fibrocystic) breasts
• Menstrual cycle irregularities
• Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a more severe form of PMS)
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
• Preventing miscarriage in women with low levels progesterone
Of the studies that have evaluated the essential oil, it was discovered that, compared to the oil extracted from the berry, the leaf oil appears to have a broader range of actions.
HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS FOR MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS
If you are looking to use a mixture of these oils for your menopause symptoms, there are a number of ways to benefit.
• Create a body moisturizer by mixing five to eight drops of your essential oil of choice to an unscented carrier oil like sweet almond oil. Apply to the skin two to three times per day. A liquid carrier oil can be used to create a massage or bath oil.
• Place a couple of drops of your chosen oil on a tissue, and hold it under your nose to inhale when you start experiencing symptoms.
• Add 10 drops of essential oil in 2 tablespoons of 190 proof alcohol to two ounce spray bottle and fill with distilled water to spray in the air in your home.
• Mix eight drops of oil with 120ml (half a cup) coconut milk (use the thickened milk from the can) and pour into a hot bath.
To find out more about how essential oils can work for you, visit www.wellbeingliving.co.uk
With grateful thanks to the following publications for resources/evidence