Aromatherapy/Essential Oils for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Most women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to some degree; however, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 3-10% of women have PMS symptoms that are more severe and can disrupt their daily activities. Aromatherapy uses a variety of essential oils to help alleviate some of these severe symptoms of PMS.

How Can Aromatherapy Help with PMS?

During a woman’s menstrual cycle, she feels the effects of hormonal imbalances. A number of essential oils can be used to treat the imbalances that accompany premenstrual syndrome. For example, aniseed, clary sage, fennel, and sage have estrogen-like compounds that may make them effective in relieving symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Several types of essential oils can be used to treat the moodiness that tends to accompany menstruation and restore a woman to a feeling of emotional balance. Clary sage again, along with bergamot, help maintain mood stability and lift the spirits. Geranium assists with general irritability. Those tending more towards sadness and depression can benefit from rose.

For menstrual cramps, clary sage blended with lavender and/or Roman chamomile is useful. Lavender and chamomile are also proven to induce relaxation and restful sleep. These two oils combined with peppermint will provide relief from the debilitating headaches that sometimes accompany the fatigue and abdominal pain characteristic of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

A woman can use a combination of a citrus oil like lemon, orange, or grapefruit with essential oils of rosemary and basil to energize and rejuvenate. Grapefruit and lemon also address bloating, as does juniper. These three oils also promote proper digestion and regularity, and soothe a constipated or watery digestive system.

How to Use Essential Oils for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

There are many ways to use essential oils for premenstrual syndrome (PMS). One is to prepare a hot aromatherapy bath using five to seven drops of essential oil. With this method, a woman can inhale the steam off the water at the same time as she receives the benefits of the oils through pores opened by warmth. The heat of the bath will also sooth the cramping as well as joint and muscle pain associated with PMS.

Another option is to mix 20-25 drops of essential oil into 4 ounces of a base or carrier oil—a cold-pressed vegetable oil made from seeds, nuts, or kernels of a plant. Examples are jojoba, sweet almond, apricot kernel, or even extra virgin olive oil. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) sufferers can rub a teaspoon of this mixture on the lower abdomen and temples twice daily, or as often as needed. Alternatively, the oils can be stirred into a favorite brand of unscented lotion and applied as a daily moisturizer. A compress can easily be used for the abdomen, lower back, or other areas of cramping by soaking a warm cloth in the essential oil mixture and applying it to the affected area.

Another way to use essential oils is to diffuse the essential oils so that their aroma fills a room with the natural fragrance. Methods of diffusion include placing a few drops of an essential oil on a tissue or adding drops of oil to a bowl of boiled water. There are several commercial products on the market, such as lamp rings, in which a few drops of oil are poured on a ring placed around a lit light bulb. Clay pot diffusers have a receptacle for holding water. A few drops of the selected oil(s) is added to the receptacle and then warmed with a tea light placed underneath. The electric diffuser has a similar method, but is heated through electric current. The added heat serves to better diffuse the aroma of the essential oil.

In each of the above methods of using essential oils in aromatherapy, a woman can reap the calming, balance-restoring benefits of the natural oils and soothe her symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Is Aromatherapy Safe?

Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that can be harmful if not used carefully. They should always be diluted before being applied to the skin. Essential oils should only be taken internally after consultation from a professional aromatherapist.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for healing of the mind and body. Essential oils, the pure essence of a plant, are extracted from the bark, seeds, roots, leaves, or blossoms of plants. Each essential oil contains its own combination of active ingredients that determine the healing properties of the oil. Because essential oils are volatile and evaporate quickly, their molecules are easily inhaled. The oils, once inhaled, trigger the brain and affect emotions while also providing physical benefit.

What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a collection of mental and physical symptoms relating to a woman's menstrual cycle that can occur two days to two weeks prior to the onset of menstruation. The symptoms usually abate at the onset of the cycle.

The most common symptoms experienced by women around the time of their menstrual cycles are:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Appetite changes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Crying spells
  • Depressed mood
  • Fatigue
  • Food cravings
  • Headache
  • Irritability or anger
  • Insomnia
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Mood swings
  • Tension or anxiety
  • Weight gain from water retention

The exact source of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is unknown, although most experts believe there is a link to estrogen levels. It is possible that a combination of psychological, genetic, nutritional, and behavioral factors are also involved.

How to Find an Aromatherapist

Information on aromatherapy, essential oils, and certification and educational requirements for aromatherapists can be requested from the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists and the National Association of Holistic Therapy.

Additional Resources

Aromatherapy.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 2008.

National Women’s Health Information Center. “Premenstrual Syndrome.” MedlinePlus. August 6, 2008.

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