by Dr Christoph Streicher, Ph.D. and Annalisa Fredrickson
Do you suffer from painful periods or menstrual cramps? Painful periods, also referred to as dysmenorrhea, can be debilitating for females of all ages, causing them to miss work or school. While the root cause of dysmenorrhea should be addressed by looking at lifestyle and dietary habits, essential oils have been shown to relieve pain and ease cramps during painful periods.
One study of 67 female college students put the theory to test. The researchers found a group of female college students who rated their menstrual pain higher than 6 on a 10-point scale and whose condition was not caused by any other underlying disease, and who did not use contraceptive drugs like the pill.
The females were then split into three groups: the experimental group, the placebo group and control group. The females in the experimental group were given abdominal massages during their menstruation with two drops of lavender (Lavandula officinalis), one drop of clary sage (Salvia sclarea), and one drop of rose (Rosa centifolia) in 5 cc of almond oil. The placebo group were given massages with just almond oil and the control group received no treatment. In the end, they found the experimental group, with the essential oils, had a significant relief in their pain.
Another study, in Egypt, tested 95 nursing students with a menstrual cramps rated higher than 6 (out of 10) with primary dysmenorrhea (so not caused by underlying disease, disorder, or structural abnormality either within or outside the uterus) and who were not having hormonal treatment. These females were split into two groups, one group was given an abdominal massage once daily for seven days prior to menstruation with cinnamon, clove, rose, and lavender essential oils in a base of sweet almond oil. The second group had the same daily massages but with only the sweet almond oil.
The outcome was similar to the study above; those who had the essential oil massage found relief from the cramps, around 1.5 lower on the scale compared to the other group. Both the level and duration of menstrual pain and the amount of menstrual bleeding significantly decreased. The decrease in bleeding was attributed to the effect of cinnamon which helps decrease excessive menstrual bleeding and to support the actions of estrogen, and to the rose oil which has a positive effect on the uterus and helps regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce excessive bleeding.
The great thing about these studies is that they are easy to replicate at home. Essential oils do not have any side-effects, as opposed to Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) that most women take when suffering from menstrual cramps, and the massage on the lower abdomen increases circulation and soothes the contractions of the uterus. The blends in the two studies are easy to create or another option is to try out Amrita’s A Woman's Balance Roll on Relief, which contains clary sage and other balancing essential oils. In our experience, roman chamomile has an even stronger cramp relieving effect than the oils studied.