By Laurie Chance Smith
Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2008.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) encompasses up to 150 emotional and physical symptoms and affects almost 90 percent of women. Some of the most common complaints during PMS are headache, backache, sore breasts, bloating, acne, fatigue, mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. Whatever your PMS complaints may be, essential oils like rose (Rosa damascena), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), lavender (Lavendula officinalis), clary sage (Salvia sclarea), and bergamot (Citrus bergamia) can offer safe, gentle, and effective help.
In aromatherapy, distilled essences of plants, trees, and flowers—known as essential oils—offer healing aid through massage, baths, and inhalation. Aromatherapy relies on your sense of smell to help treat your PMS symptoms.
Bergamot is a spirit-lifting oil. This cheerful citrus smell reduces fatigue and releases pent-up emotions. Bergamot oil has a regulating effect, making it ideal for PMS. The scent of bergamot reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and also instills confidence. The analgesic qualities of bergamot reduce muscle aches and pains when used in massage. One caution: do not go into direct sunlight after applying bergamot oil, as it can cause changes in skin pigmentation.
Another way to utilize essential oils is to add a few drops to a bowl of hot water. Drape a towel over your head and lean over the bowl for a refreshing facial steam. Delight your senses and keep your skin healthy at the same time. Rose, geranium, lavender, clary sage, and bergamot can all help clear acne and heal the skin. Choose your favorite oil or combine two or three.
Aromatherapy is a simple and natural way to nurture yourself every day of the year, but especially on those most difficult PMS days.
Clary sage, the great balancer, can help restore equilibrium to out-of-control emotions. “Clary sage impresses with its aroma,” says Kurt Schnaubelt, author of Advanced Aromatherapy. It contains plant estrogens that support the female body during times of hormonal imbalance. Inhaling clary sage can relieve tension, ease headaches, and reduce fatigue. Clary sage diluted in massage oil can ease shoulder tension and backache.
When you are home or at work, try diffusing the scent of clary sage. Fill a bowl with warm water and add a few drops of clary sage to create a peaceful environment.
Geranium oil is a girl’s best friend. It smells rosy and can be used to treat the majority of PMS complaints. In The Ancient and Healing Art of Aromatherapy, author Clare Hill says, “Geranium is thought to balance the mind and body because of its strong ability to regulate hormonal and emotional swings.”
For bloating, make geranium massage oil for your stomach. Mix one or two drops of geranium in one tablespoon of base oil, like jojoba or sweet almond oil. The same massage recipe can be applied to sore breasts. Geranium massage oil is also helpful in relieving the fatigue that accompanies PMS.
Lavender oil’s soft floral scent soothes. A couple of drops can be massaged on the temples for a headache. Lavender massage oil eases backaches or stomach pains. For a calming bath, add three drops of lavender to your tub of warm water. If you are short on time, try a footbath. To a bowl of warm water, add three drops of lavender essential oil. Turn on your favorite music, sink your feet in, and relax.
During the two weeks before your period starts, try a bath scented with rose essential oil each day. Run the bath water first, turn off the faucet, and then add a few drops of rose essential oil. Climb in and relax. One drop of rose dabbed behind the ears is a lavish perfume, and the calm, uplifting scent imparts a feeling of tranquility and balance.
Gabriel Mojay, aromatherapist and author of Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit says rose has been “long considered a tonic of the uterus.” Rose has a particular affinity for balancing hormones in any stage of life. Also ideal for the skin, soothing rose massage oil helps alleviate dryness and acne. Mix five to 10 drops of rose essential oil to one ounce of jojoba oil for a luxurious facial or body oil.