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PMS and Essential Oils

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Essential oils once enjoyed prominence in alternative medicine. Currently, they are only popularly used in perfumes and aromatherapy. But these oils are soothing and calming. They can help reduce stress, depression and migraine headaches experienced by women with PMS. Therefore, essential oils can complement your PMS therapy. This article identifies the major essential oils used to help PMS and provides a matching set of oils and aromatherapy formulas for the major symptoms of PMS.

The Health Benefits of Essential Oils

Essential oils are also known as volatile oil or ethereal oil because of the ease with which they can be turned into vapors when heated.

Essential oil is water-insoluble liquid extracted from a plant and with a distinctive and pleasant odor.

Essential oil can also sometimes be referred to as the “oil of” a certain plant. Therefore, clove oil is also the oil of clove. The oil is essential because it carries the essence of the plant which is the part that gives it the distinctive, pleasant and medicinal scent.

To remove the essential oil from the plant, the appropriate plant part can be distilled with steam or expressed with specific solvents.

These oils are sold as supplements but can also be added to foods and drinks as well as serve as ingredients of cleaning products, incense, perfumes, and cosmetic products.

The medicinal uses of essential oils have suffered in recent years except among those who practice aromatherapy. Rather than use the oils themselves, most drugs and supplements simply include the most bioactive ingredients of essential oils.

However, researchers have confirmed that essential oils are particularly effective in the treatment of certain diseases.

They may not be the cure-all they were previously believed to be but they are definitely effective for specific purposes.

For example, essential oils are especially effective for breaking the transmission of drug-resistant microbes including common ones from the bacterial families, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, as well as the yeast family of Candida fungi.

This potent and unique antibacterial property of essential oils has made them popular in recent years as prescribers and patients try to avoid overuse of antibiotics and the attendant increase of drug-resistant microbes.

Medicinal Uses of Essential Oils
  • Antispasmodic (to reduce muscle spasm in the gut and relax the sphincters) – Menthol, Camphor
  • Carminative (to ease the passage of gas in the gastrointestinal tract) – Eucalyptus oils
  • Antiseptic (to help disinfect contaminated surfaces and clean open wounds) – Thymol, Eugenol
  • Antibacterial
  • Antitussive (to relieve cough by removing irritants from the upper respiratory tract)
  • Diuretic (to promote the removal of water from the body)
  • Soothing and numbness

How Essential Oils Can Help PMS

Essential oils can help relieve the symptoms of PMS and unlike prescription drugs, they are mostly free of side effects.

These oils can soothe and help you relax as well as relieve irritability. Although there are very few studies investigating the effectiveness of essential oils for reducing the symptoms of PMS, past users report that these oils can help with mood swings, fatigue, aches, cramps, food cravings, bloating and depression.

Essential oils can be used in warm compresses, soothing baths or simply rubbed on the skin. Other methods of administration include the addition of these oils to inhalers, infusers and medicinal teas.

However, care should be taken when ingesting these oils. Oral administration of essential oils in high doses can be dangerous. Even certain topical applications require that essential oils should be added to a carrier oil to dilute it and ease its absorption through the skin or mucosal surfaces of the nostrils.

Major Examples of Essential Oils Used to Treat PMS

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is the most popular essential oil. It is extracted from the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree by steam distillation.

The oil is used as an insect repellant, fragrance, flavor, and an antiseptic.

The antibacterial and decongestant properties of eucalyptus oil make it useful in treating upper respiratory tract infections ranging from cough and asthma to flu and cold. The oil is also an immune stimulant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent.

These latter medicinal properties can help reduce the symptoms of PMS. Therefore, eucalyptus oil can relieve pain and aches while boosting the immune system.

Rose Oil

Rose oil is extracted from the petals of a number of rose species.

When the method of extract is steam distillation, the resulting oil is known as rose otto but when solvent extraction is used, the rose oil obtained is rose absolute.

Important bioactive compounds in rose oil include geraniol, citronellol, farnesol, pinene, and eugenol.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is obtained from the flower spikes of certain lavender plants.

Lavender oil is commonly used in aromatherapy because its pleasant scent produces calming and relaxing effects on the body. Therefore, it can be used to relieve stress and anxiety.

However, lavender oil has other medicinal properties that are also useful for managing PMS. Its analgesic property can help relieve tension headaches.

Lavender oil can be rubbed on the skin or inhaled as vapor. This oil is rich in terpenes such as linalool, eucalyptol, camphor, and pinene.

Geranium Oil

Geranium oil is obtained from Pelargonium graveolens, a plant native to Southern Africa.

The plants in this family are known for their variety of smells. P. graveolens has a rose scent. Therefore, the plant is also sometimes called rose geranium and the oil extracted is commonly used to adulterate rose oils because it is less expensive.

Geranium oil is used in aromatherapy and massage because of its soothing and relaxing effects. Major ingredients in geranium oil are nerol, citronellol, and geraniol.

Clary Sage Oil

Clary sage or Salvia sclarea is a plant native to the Mediterranean region as well as North Africa and Central Asia. Its medicinal properties have long been recognized and it was commonly used by the ancient Greeks.

Clary sage is cultivated for its essential oil which is used in perfumes and for flavoring wines and alcoholic drinks.

In aromatherapy, clary sage oil is used to relieve anxiety, treat insomnia and reduce the symptoms of PMS.

Ylang-Ylang Oil

Ylang-ylang oil is extracted from the leaves of cananga or ylang-ylang tree, Cananga odorata.

Major constituents of ylang-ylang oil are linalool, caryophyllene, methyl benzoate, and sesquiterpenes. Ylang-ylang oil is used in perfumes and as a medicinal agent in aromatherapy. Its fragrance is similar to those of jasmine and neroli.

In aromatherapy, this oil is used to reduce high blood pressure and excessive sebum production. Therefore, it can help calm women suffering from PMS as well as relieve PMS-related skin diseases especially acne.

Essential Oils and PMS Symptoms

Specific essential oils are sometimes recommended for certain symptoms of PMS.

  • For Depression – Oils of clary sage, jasmine, neroli, and ylang-ylang
  • For Mood Swings – Oils of lavender, clary sage, and ylang-ylang
  • For Anxiety – Oils of lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang
  • For Cramps – Oils of lavender, geranium, and marjoram
  • For Aches – Oils of geranium and marjoram
  • For Food Cravings – Oils of fennel and patchouli
  • For Water Retention – Oils of grapefruit, juniper berry, cypress and carrot seed
  • For Digestive Complaints – Oils of ginger, peppermint, and chamomile
  • For Fatigue – Oils of rosemary, basil, and grapefruit

Studies on Essential Oils and PMS

A review of past medical literature shows that only very few studies have been done to investigate the effectiveness of essential oils in the treatment of PMS.

Even when these oils were the subject of studies, researchers often failed to recognize that each essential oil provides specific benefits. Therefore, they are a lot of negative early studies that must have discouraged other researchers from investigating the benefits of essential oils further.

However, renewed interests in the health roles of essential oils have produced a handful of positive studies recently.

One of these recent studies published in the journal, BioPsychoSocial Medicine, in 2013. In this well-designed crossover, randomized trial, the researchers investigated the benefits of lavender oil for relieving the symptoms of PMS.

The researchers recruited 17 women with mild to moderate PMS and then divided them into 2 groups during their late luteal phases.

By delivering lavender oil through inhalation, the researchers found that the essential oil increased the activities of the parasympathetic nervous system compared to water as the placebo. Their results showed that aromatic lavender oil reduced confusion and dejection and relieved depression for as long as 35 minutes after it was inhaled.

The researchers, therefore, recommended lavender aromatherapy for relieving the symptoms of PMS and called for further studies to determine the benefits for other essential oils for women suffering from premenstrual syndrome.

Aromatherapy Formulas for PMS

Essential oils can be combined in a number of ways for the treatment of PMS. You can make your own essential oil mix at home by selecting oils known to help with the major symptoms you are experiencing.

A number of such PMS essential oil formulas are available and a few of them are described below.

PMS Mood Formula

This formula of essential oil can help lift your mood and fight depression and mood swings. It should be used as a massage oil or added to your bath.


  • 9 drops of geranium oil
  • 6 drops of chamomile oil
  • 3 drops of clary sage oil
  • 2 drops of marjoram oil

This formula can be added to an infuser or kept in a vial for inhaling. If you want to use it as a massage or bath oil, add 2 ounces of vegetable oil to serve as the carrier oil.

PMS Bloating Formula


  • 6 drops of lavender oil
  • 3 drops of juniper berry oil
  • 2 drop of birch oil

Use this combination as a massage oil. You can also add 1 – 2 teaspoons to your bath to help reduce bloating.

PMS Cramps Formula

Combine a total of 12 drops of the oils of lavender, clary sage, chamomile, ginger, geranium, and marjoram. You can add an ounce of a carrier oil too.

The oil mixture should be rubbed on your abdomen, back and hips to help reduce aches and cramps.

PMS Hormonal Balance Formula

Because PMS is the result of the interaction of hormones and neurotransmitters, it can be relieved by influencing the balance of hormones and the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.

This simple formula includes 2 drops of clary sage oil, 1 drop of geranium oil and 1 drop of ylang-ylang oil.

Clary sage oil can promote the release of dopamine in the brain and, therefore, help lift your mood. It also modulates the level of estrogen in the body. Geranium oil influences the release of adrenal hormones and also reduces fluctuations in hormone levels.





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