One of my favourite therapies that I have been practising for years is essential oils and they are now suddenly fashionable in the wellness world. Whilst these power plant medicines can have some incredible effects on your health and wellbeing, I always like to mention first, that they are not a substitute for good quality nutrition and a healthy balanced lifestyle.
That being said there is a lot that they can be used for including as first aid for period pain. Unfortunately, research in essential oils and other "natural medicines" is not quite as broad as that for allopathic medicines, there are some studies about essential oils and in this blog, I am sharing oils more from the point of what I see as effective in my clinical practice and what I recommend to my clients.
In reality there are a good 10 or so oils that I use for clients who suffer period pain, (I mention many of them in my course Periodology: Love Your Period).
Just a quick note, I have included with some oils the botanical names where there are multiple kinds of essential oil. This is because some oils are blends which can have several different varieties of that oil which may not have quite the same effect.
1. Lavender Essential Oil (Lavender Augustifolia)
I think everyone should have some lavender in their medicine cupboard. It is such a versatile oil with many therapeutic properties. I have used it to help my skin recover after surgery, when I was recovering from burns and for various infections. It is an incredible oil.
It has a very interesting scent profile in that it has the astringent high notes and the floral, mellow notes too. Many people use lavender for a sedative or a sleep aid. Pro tip: if you do this, use sparingly as too much will end up stimulating you instead!
I also use it for women who have dysmenorrhoea (painful periods in plain English) with some great results. It is one of the oils that I recommend women use at home. There was even a study showing that inhaling lavender essential oil reduced dysmenorrhoea so it is a great one to have around.
2. Frankincense Essential Oil (Boswelia Carteri)
This is another key essential oil I believe everyone should have in their medicine cabinet. Frankincense is famous for its anti-aging properties, and also for the nativity story, but it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory essential oil too.
Made from a resin, it has a spicy and woodsy aroma and is often found in churches or places where deep meditation, prayer or connection you the higher self or divine is happening.
I often recommend women with period pain try using this oil for period pain, especially the more cramping type pain. It also blends very well with lavender for a power double whammy. It is often used by my doula friends during birth too. there is also some research on Frankincense essential oil helping to regulate the menstrual cycle.
3. Copaiba Essential Oil
This is a new oil that has only really come to popularity in later years. It is a blend of four Copaifera species: Copaifera reticulata, officinalis, coriacea, and langsdorffii. Like frankincense, it comes from a resin and so has a woodsy scent to it.
If you have been following health and wellness blogs for a while, you will have seen that there are a number of blog posts comparing Copaiba to Cannabis Oil. Cannabis oil contains three active compounds, THC, CBD and BCP. Some oils only have one of these and some have multiple constituents (I recommend checking the label before you buy any cannabis oil to check it contains the active constituents you want and not the ones you want to avoid). Copaiba contains just the BCP element, but no THC, so you can't get "high". It is a different plant to cannabis.
Copaiba is used for pain relief and whilst studies are limited to conditions such as arthritis, I am finding great success with it as a pain reliever with my clients. It is also thought to be anti-inflammatory, have a relaxing effect and I really hope some studies are done on it soon.
I have been using it with clients who suffer period pain with some great success, and so it has fast become an essential in my medicine bag.
What What About (Insert a Load of Other Oil Names Here)?
There are many essential oils that can help with period pain, and it was hard to narrow down. However, essential oils are a bit of an investment to start with, so for this article, I have picked my top 3 as they are so versatile and effective (in my experience) for period pain.
If you would like the full list of oils I use for period pain as well as in an depth safety class and how to use them class, then you can enrol on my Periodology: Love Your Period Course here.
Essential oil safety is important to me and I am in the process of creating some essential oil safety videos on the Womb Tube Youtube channel. You can also check out this blog post.
But the quick version for the most safe way of using essential oils is:
Dilute them with a base/carrier oil such as grapeseed, sweet almond, coconut or jojoba to avoid reactions.
Store them in a dark and cool place.
If you get a skin reaction to them, then wash off with soap of base/carrier oil.
If you have a severe reaction then go to your local emergency department and take the oil you used with you.
Don't ingest essential oils unless you have consulted with a qualified aromatherapist and internal medicine prescriber. Not all oils are safe to ingest and the ones that are can cause issues with existing medical conditions, medications or may need to be prepared in a specific way to be safe. It's easier just to inhale, diffuse or apply topically.
Some oils work in one way for some people and in the completely different way for others. It is often a matter of experimentation in order to figure out which ones work for you.
If you'd like to purchase these oils, I have an online shop from which you can purchase these oils (and help support this blog). Otherwise, there are plenty of health food shops, wellness centres and pharmacies that sell essential oils.
2. Buckle, Jane. “Essential oils: Management and treatment of gynecologic infections and stressors.” Sexuality, Reproduction and menopause 4, no. 1 (2006): 38-41.
Find Out More
1. Read more about Essential Oil Safety
2. Read more about Why Your Period Might Be Late
3. Read more about Stress and Your Cycle