Aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils for improving or maintaining health and beauty, is a wonderful and yet often misunderstood form of alternative health care. It is both a practice that people can dabble in at home and at the same time is a form of treatment practiced by professional Aromatherapists.
Whether you use essential oils at home or seek the care of your local Aromatherapist, integrating Aromatherapy into your life is a fantastic act of self-care. Of course, we could all use a little more self-care in our lives, but as women dealing with so many external expectations and pressures, the practice of taking time for oneself is particularly important – especially during our periods!
Essential oils are effective in treating some of the discomforts associated with the menstrual cycle in two ways: first, essential oils can be inhaled (eg. diffusing) and are absorbed directly into the olfactory system, ultimately assisting the hypothalamus to control hormone production. Second, essential oils can be diluted in a carrier oil and applied directly to the skin to be absorbed into the body’s tissues (muscle, blood, etc.) which can help with physical discomfort.
In North America, essential oils can be found on store shelves due to a lack of regulation over the product. This means that many different oils can be purchased and used at home; however, it’s important to remember that essential oils are a natural health product that affects every body differently and should be used with care. Overuse or improper use can tax the liver and cause severe adverse reactions. The reality is that not every oil is safe for every body, and so the absolute best way to understand the spectrum of oils that are safe and effective for you as an individual is to seek the care of an Aromatherapist.
If you’re keen to find a DIY solution to eliminate the discomforts associated with your period, the good news is that there are a few essential oils that are safe to use at home.
Here are four ways to use essential oils at home for period care:
- Lavender in the bath for relaxation and sleep: if you like to take baths, you can mix 10 drops of Lavender essential oil in with 1 cup of Epsom salts and allow this to dissolve in the bath. Alternatively, you can just add the 10 drops to your bathwater. Soak for at least 20 minutes and enjoy the calming, soothing effect on both mind and body. If you suffer from period-related sleep issues, this is particularly helpful to do just before bed as lavender is an effective oil used to treat insomnia.
- Diffuse a blend to improve your mood: using a hydro diffuser (one that you fill with water and does not heat the oils), take a little time to sit and relax, perhaps with a good cup of tea. Drop in 5 drops of your essential oil blend and turn on the diffuser nearby, sit for at least 20 minutes for maximum benefit. Lavender + Sweet Orange is an effective blend for helping you relax while also uplifting a low mood. Sweet Orange + Grapefruit is a great blend to help energize you if you’ve been feeling a bit lethargic, and Peppermint is excellently stimulating if you’ve been feeling a bit of a brain fog.
- Tea tree to treat the skin: for hormonal breakouts, there’s no better essential oil for skin than Tea Tree. In a small container, mix 2 tbsp of alcohol-free witch hazel with 5 drops tea tree oil. You can dip a cotton swab or cotton ball (dip only once to prevent contamination) into the mixture and wipe on areas of concern (face and/or body) to help soothe and dry the breakout. If you are worried about or dealing with acne scars, Lavender is one of the best topical healing oils and could be used in witch hazel or in your regular toner or moisturizer to speed healing.
- Peppermint for hormonal headaches: if you experience hormonal headaches during your period, Peppermint could be a life-saver. In a small container or dropper bottle, mix 2 tbsp of carrier oil (liquid coconut, grapeseed, avocado, or sunflower oil work well) with 5 drops of peppermint essential oil. Using your fingers, rub a bit of the oil into temples and onto the back of the neck right at the hairline at the first sign of a headache to stop it in its tracks.
These at-home treatments are easy to whip up with just a small collection of essential oils. There are many more oils that can be used for period care and treating symptoms such as muscle soreness, cramping, and other mood fluctuations. For best results, an Aromatherapist can create specific blends and products tailored to your individual experience.
Kate Murray-Fuerth, B.A., CAP
Kate is a Kitchener, Ontario-based Aromatherapist who is passionate about helping people to better understand how to use essential oils safely and effectively. She works with clients both in-person and via Skype on a variety of health and skincare concerns and specializes in women’s health – particularly Aromatherapy for pregnancy and motherhood. She is also the creator of NB Naturals, a line of professional aromatherapy products and certified organic essential oils. For more information or to book an appointment, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nbnaturals.org.