Aromatherapy and the menopause

Image of aromatherapy oils

Too many women experience menopause in silence, with a sense of quiet shame at their changing bodies and emotions. Why is this, I wonder? Surely a profound change that’s experienced by half the people on the planet deserves attention? Thankfully, I think the conversation around menopause is slowly changing, with more women, employers and health care professionals no longer seeing menopause as a taboo subject. About bloody time (excuse the pun!).

Last year I took part in a workshop about the menopause, with lots of useful discussions about what menopause is, how it can affect us and what we can do to help ourselves through it. I spoke about how essential oils can help, and I thought I’d share the main points here too.

What is the menopause?

We reach menopause when we haven’t had a period for 12 months or more. However we start to experience menopausal symptoms when the balance of the body’s sex hormones begins to change. This is known as the perimenopause. The ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen and we no longer release an egg each month. Changing hormone levels, particularly a decrease in oestrogen can have a big impact on a woman’s body. We can start to experience a number of symptoms, for example:

  • Dry skin
  • Hot flushes
  • Low mood or anxiety anger or irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Bloating
  • Heightened sensitivity to stimulus

These symptoms are often interlinked, for example: night sweats can lead to disturbed sleep and tiredness which in turn can lead to low mood and anxiety which in turn can lead to more tiredness – then the cycle continues…

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve our physical and emotional well being. Essential oils are extracted from plants, trees and flowers and possess many different therapeutic properties due to their chemical makeup.

They can be absorbed into our bodies via the skin and through the nose and work on both a chemical and psychological level.

The oils interact with the chemistry of our bodies. Our hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters are all chemicals, and receptive to the chemicals in the oil. This can affect how the body works. For example if you are feeling stressed you could use an oil with relaxing or sedative properties. That could help to relieve the symptoms of stress by changing the impulses sent around the body, resulting in slower breathing, a slower heart rate and your muscles relaxing.

They also work on a psychological level because each oil has a distinctive aroma and our sense of smell is very much linked to memory. Certain smells can cause particular responses. For example jasmine reminds me of warm summer evenings so that has a positive impact on me. Even if you don’t have an existing association with the smell of an essential oil, by using it in a therapeutic way you create a positive association for yourself, which you can return to every time you smell that oil.

There are a number of essential oils that could help with menopause symptoms. Here I’ve chosen five to talk about and have summarised some of their properties:

Rose (Rosa centifolia)

  • Hydrates and soothes dry and mature skin
  • Works with the nervous system, can lift depression, calm nerves, ease insomnia and stimulate positive emotions
  • Works with the reproductive and endocrine systems, so can calm premenstrual tension

Neroli (citrus aurantium)

  • Helps cell regeneration so is good for dry and mature skin
  • Works with the circulatory system – can ease palpitations
  • Works with the nervous system – lifts depression, relieves stress related conditions especially insomnia and anxiety, calms the central nervous system, can soothe emotional states such as irritability and tearfulness
  • Rejuvenates body and soul

** Caution- this can be very relaxing so be careful using it if a clear head and concentration is needed**

Cypress ( cupressus semipervirens)

  • Controls water loss and oil and sweat production so good for excessive perspiration
  • Good for mature skin
  • Regulates menopausal problems- hot flushes, hormone imbalance, irritability
  • Can have good effect on painful and heavy periods
  • Can be diuretic, helping with water retention
  • Can have a soothing effect on anger
  • Can have cooling properties

Clary Sage (salvia sclarea)

  • A warming and relaxing oil that can uplift and promote a feeling of wellbeing
  • Works with the endocrine system to help hormone balancing
  • Can help with excessive perspiration

**caution – very sedative so don’t use before driving and don’t use with alcohol**

Geranium ( Pelargonium graveolens)

  • Works with the adrenal cortex – lifts the spirits and relieves anxiety, depression and stress
  • Regulates hormones
  • Can help with depression associated with menopause
  • Balances both mind and body
  • Stimulates circulation

**caution- don’t use on very sensitive skin**

How to use

Firstly, remember that essential oils are volatile, extremely powerful when neat, flammable and soluble in oil. They should never be used internally or drunk. If you’re in any doubt about whether to use an oil, consult with someone who has been trained. They can be applied in a variety of ways including massages, baths, inhalations and compresses.

For Massage

Use 8 drops of essential oil in 20mls of carrier oil for body massage. Use 1-2 drops of essential oil in 5mls of carrier oil for facial massage. Essential oils will last 3 months if in a carrier oil.

Baths

Need to be mixed with a small quantity of emulsifier. This can be a fragrance free mixture or in a few drops of milk (any variety) this is to ensure that the oil does not just sit on the surface of the water. Use 1-6 drops in a bath, or 1-3 drops if you have sensitive skin.

Diffusers

Follow instructions for each individual diffusers as they can be different but as a general guide add 1-2 drops of essential oils into the water.

Compress

Soak a cloth in 100ml of water and add 1 drop of essential oil. Squeeze out excess water and use on your body.

Steam inhalation

Add 1 drop of essential oil into a bowl of hot water and inhale. For a stronger effect use 1-3 drops.

Inhalation

Put 1 drop on a tissue and inhale or 1 drop on your pillow. For a stronger effect use 1-3 drops.

It is always a good idea to talk to someone trained in aromatherapy to ensure you are using the oils safely and with maximum benefit for your symptoms.

I offer 60 minute and 75 minute aromatherapy massages. We have a full consultation before treatment and I make a bespoke blend to meet your needs on the day. Just contact me to discuss what you need.

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