Cramps are quite possibly one of the worst types of physical pain a woman can experience (and they can last for almost an entire week, too). I've polled my friends, and we've tried pretty much everything to ease the pain, including heating pads, aspirin, exercise, acupuncture, and chamomile tea. Another option, one that I'd previously never considered but that I've since heard works wonders, is essential oils for menstrual cramps. Honestly, I shouldn't have been that surprised, considering essential oils are effective for everything from getting a better night's sleep and honing concentration to treating anxiety.
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."
Now, taking into consideration why you get cramps, here are five 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).
If you're anything like me, perhaps you didn't realize there were two types of chamomile. The difference between Roman chamomile and German chamomile is that they 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 Ryan Neinstein, MD, 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 Jennifer Stagg, MD, who is a naturopathic physician. This is what to do: Use the oil to massage your lower abdomen—it should help with the inflammation and lessen the pain.
LAVENDER, SAGE, AND MARJORAM
Do you know how you mix essential oils in your oil diffuser to get the ultimate scent medley? Well, with essential oils for menstrual cramps, sometimes it's not just one essential oil but a combo of a few that really does the trick. 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.)
Cindy Santa Ana, an AADP integrative nutrition health coach and the author of Unprocessed Living, says she recommends clary sage essential oil and that it should be massaged onto the abdomen like other oils. "It works just as well as an ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but it's safer," she says. "It regulates estrogen and acts as an antispasmodic." And Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, agrees: "Clary sage works to regulate the menstrual cycle by balancing hormone levels naturally and stimulating the opening of an obstructed system. It has the power to cure symptoms of PMS as well, including bloating, cramps, mood swings and food cravings."
You probably remember that cypress oil is great for treating varicose veins because it helps increase circulation. It also relaxes your muscles (long story short, cramps occur when the muscle layer contracts). Unlike the other essential oils we've mentioned, cypress oil is best used to treat menstrual cramps through aromatherapy (you can also try a diffuser or candle to breathe in the scent).
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, we suggest that you consult a doctor as it could be indicative of a serious medical problem.