Aromatherapy/Essential Oils for Menopause
Menopause is a natural part of aging that begins for women between their mid- to late-thirties and their late fifties. Menopause is triggered when the ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. As the levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease, other hormones produced by endocrine glands are altered as well. Accordingly, menstruation slows and eventually ceases altogether.
Although the timing and path of menopause varies, many women have similar symptoms. These can include: hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, disrupted sleep patterns, memory loss, increased urinary tract infections, weight gain, and osteoporosis. Standard Western medical treatment focuses on the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to alleviate menopausal symptoms. Aromatherapy and essential oils provide a natural way to address imbalances and relieve menopausal symptoms without the side effects seen in synthetic hormone treatment.
How Can Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Help Menopause?
Aromatherapy is the use of plant essential oils for healing purposes. Menopause symptoms are caused by alterations in the endocrine system’s production of hormones. Aromatherapy acts by stimulating the activity of specific brain cells that naturally influence a woman’s endocrine system. Aromatherapy directed changes in the endocrine system then lead to relief of menopausal symptoms.
When a woman seeks treatment from an aromatherapist, the therapist will design a topical or inhaled aromatherapy treatment plan that takes into account past medical history and current menopause symptoms.
Aromatherapy treatments for menopause can include:
- Inhaling essential oils directly from a piece of cloth or indirectly through steam inhalations, vaporizers, or sprays
- Massage using diluted essential oils
- Application of essential oils to key areas such as the breasts, hips, lowers back and kidney areas.
Different essential oils are suggested for relief of menopausal symptoms. These may include the following treatments for specific symptoms:
- Anxiety - Use soothing essential oils such as ylang-ylang or lavender.
- Hot flashes - Use stimulating essential oils such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, and peppermint.
- Fatigue - Use energizing essential oils like ginger or other stimulating oils such as peppermint or nutmeg.
- Menopausal fear - Use the essential oil of lavender, which has a calming effect.
- Hormonal imbalance - Use essential oils that have properties similar to estrogen to achieve hormonal balance including Spanish sage, Clary sage, and fennel.
- Hot flashes - Use stimulating essential oils in massage including clary sage, geranium, lemon, and sage.
- Irritability - Treat with a grounding and balancing essential oil such as patchouli, or a sedative oil such as cardamom.
- Poor Memory - Enhance memory with an energizing stimulate essential oil such as coriander or ginger.
- Mood swings - Treat with a grounding and balancing essential oil such as patchouli or soothing essential oils like lavender.
- Osteoporosis - Treat with a stimulating bath or massage including essential oils such as ginger and lemon.
Why Use Aromatherapy and Essential Oils to Treat Symptoms of Menopause?
The symptoms of menopause can significantly impact a woman’s physical and emotional health and lead to a decreased quality of life. Thus, it is understandable that women would seek to moderate their naturally occurring menopause symptoms. Conventional medicine’s standard treatment for menopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by using synthetic hormones. In some woman, HRT has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, stroke, and blood clots. Given these risks, many women are seeking a natural and safer treatment to manage menopause symptoms such as aromatherapy. Aromatherapy treatment stimulates the activity of specific brain cells in a natural sensory feedback loop. These brain cells will then gently influence a woman’s endocrine system to produce deficient hormones and relieve menopausal symptoms.
What is Aromatherapy and Essential Oils?
The use of essential oils for aromatherapy has been around for nearly six thousand years. At a typical aromatherapy session, the practitioner will ask about an individual’s medical history and symptoms, as well as any preferences for certain scents. Using this knowledge, the practitioner will then instruct the individual on how to inhale essential oils, massage oils into the skin, or, in some cases, take oils orally. Oral therapy of essential oils is less common then inhalation therapy and should never occur without specific instructions from a trained aromatherapist.
Aromatherapy is based on the belief that fragrances in essential oils stimulate the nervous system centers that control memory and emotion. Through the interaction of the oils and the brain, the endocrine system can be affected to alter the body’s hormones in ways that can regulate blood pressure, pulse, and other physiological functions.
What Causes Menopause?
Menopause is the scientific term for the cessation of the menstrual cycle. Menopause most often occurs as part of the natural aging process, but can also occur when a woman’s ovaries are removed surgically or damaged by medical procedures or disease.
In most cases, menopause is a gradual process that occurs as the ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone. Over time, this decrease results in the cessation of menstruation. The gradual reduction in hormones is called perimenopause. Once a woman has gone one year without a menstrual flow, she is considered to be postmenopausal.
Surgical menopause occurs when the ovaries are removed or damaged by medical procedures. In these cases, a younger woman can abruptly begin having the signs and symptoms of menopause.
Whether menopause has occurred through surgery, damage of the ovaries, or as part of the natural aging process, aromatherapy with essential oils can provide relief from the symptoms of menopause.
How Can I Find an Aromatherapist?
While there are currently no boards that certify or license aromatherapists in the United States, many professionals are members of complementaryand alternative medicine organizations. Aromatherapists may work only with essential oils or they may be trained in some other form of therapy or healing system, such as massage or chiropractic, and have incorporated the use of essential oils into their practice.
“Aromatherapy and Menopause“ from Aromatherapy Solutions.
Marilyn Glenville, “Natural Choices for Menopause: Safe, Effective Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy,” St. Martin's Paperbacks, April 15, 1999.
“Menopause, Essential Oils and Women of Power” from Gritman Essential Oils.