However, HRT has been linked to some forms of cancer, and many women are concerned about the safety of taking artificial hormones.
Some evidence suggests that essential oils might help with menopause symptoms. The evidence is scattered and inconsistent, so what works for one woman may not work for another.
It is important for women to work with their doctor to assess whether alternative remedies are right for them. With medical supervision, essential oils could be an alternative to traditional menopause treatments.
Common menopause and perimenopause symptoms
For most women, menopause symptoms are annoying, but not severe enough to undermine overall quality of life. Women who experience debilitating menopause symptoms should consult a physician before trying home remedies.
Many symptoms associated with menopause begin during perimenopause, the transitional phase into menopause. This period can last for 8-10 years. Many people refer to this time as menopause, although the term menopause technically refers to the time when a woman has not had a period for 12 months.
When artificial hormones are a safety concern, essential oils may help with menopause symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with menopause include:
- irregular periods during perimenopause
- changes in sleep, including insomnia
- anxiety, depression, irritability, and other mood changes
- changes in libido, especially a decreased interest in sex
- vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse
- weight gain, particularly around the waist
- bone loss and brittle bones
- muscle loss
As menopause continues, some women notice other changes, such as growing more facial or body hair, changes in voice, thinning hair, or changes in hair or skin texture.
Can essential oils help?
Folk remedies have used essential oils for generations. Mainstream medicine, however, is only beginning to consider their effects. That means that research on their effectiveness is limited.
Although a handful of studies point to the power of essential oils, not all essential oils have been tested. This means that researchers do not yet fully understand which essential oils are the most effective, why some oils seem only to work for some women, or whether lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, can affect how well essential oils work.
In some cases, there is uncertainty about the correct dosage, or there is a debate about whether an essential oil is safe to consume or use on the skin.
Women interested in using essential oils should adopt a trial and error approach. A good option is to try different oils and doses under the direction of a doctor and an essential oil expert.
Essential oils to try
Some research suggests pine oil may help to protect against osteoporosis.
The following essential oils may reduce the discomfort associated with menopause. Specialists recommend that women begin with just one essential oil at a low dose to test tolerance, gradually adding more oils or a higher dosage as needed.
Research carried out on rats whose ovaries had been removed, found that pine oil reduced bone loss, protecting against osteoporosis. This research suggested that pine oil could also work in humans.
Vitex agnus-castus oil
Vitex agnus-castus oil from the chaste tree also called chaste berry and Abraham’s balm is the essential oil that researchers probably know the most about. Research suggests oils from both the berry and the leaf can address a variety of menopausal symptoms, including irregular periods and mood swings.
Contrary to the belief that the oil from the berry was the most beneficial, a 2002 study found that oil from the leaf was, in fact, the most effective part of the plant.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based estrogens. Essential oils containing phytoestrogens may help balance hormones.
Since many of the changes associated with menopause are due to declining estrogen, phytoestrogens may improve a range of symptoms, including mood swings, hot flashes, and irregular periods.
Clary sage, fennel, cypress, Angelica, and coriander oils may support hormone balance, according to one study.
Lavender has long been used in aromatherapy to promote feelings of relaxation and support healthy sleep.
In addition to reducing the anxiety of menopause, lavender may help reduce menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, headaches, and heart palpitations.
Some researchers have proposed that rose oil strengthens the uterus, potentially addressing menstrual cycle issues. In menopause, rose oil may improve mood and reduce hot flashes by balancing hormones.
Geranium has shown similar benefits to rose oil, balancing the hormones, supporting menstrual cycle regularity in perimenopause, and improving mood.
Using essential oils
Essential oils diluted with a carrier oil can be used in massage which may help with menopausal symptoms.
Concentrations of essential oils in different formulas can vary. As a result, it is safest to follow manufacturer recommendations when using them, since two oils might substantially differ in concentration.
Supporters of essential oils find that using them for aromatherapy is enough to get good results. Diffusing 3-5 drops of essential oil in a solution with water can help promote relaxation during the day. Essential oil diffusers are widely available at natural health stores and online.
Essential oils can also be used in massage. Users should dilute the oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or jojoba oil. The mixture can then either be applied to pulse points or used during a massage.
A 2007 review of several essential oils in menopausal women found that a weekly massage of the abdomen, arms, and back over 8 weeks was enough to see results.
Risks and considerations
Essential oils are natural, but that does not mean they are safe in every formulation and dosage. Consuming essential oils is controversial, particularly since some essential oils are poisonous in large doses.
Over time, consuming essential oils may cause stomach or mouth irritation, and could even trigger more serious symptoms. Even in smaller doses, some essential oils can irritate the skin. The safest way to use essential oils is in aromatherapy or applied to the skin in a massage oil.
People should treat essential oils like any other medication and take the following precautions:
- Avoid using more than the recommended dosage. If a person accidentally uses too much, they should contact a poison control center.
- Perform a patch test on a small area of skin before using essential oils for massage.
- Introduce only one essential oil at a time. Otherwise, if an allergic reaction occurs, it is impossible to know which oil caused it.
If someone has an allergy to the plant from which the essential oil is derived, the essential oil will also likely cause an allergic reaction.
Other menopause treatments
For women who wish to avoid HRT, essential oils are not the only alternative. Lifestyle remedies can also help with many menopause symptoms. These include:
- consuming foods, such as soy, which contain phytoestrogens
- eating a healthful, balanced diet and limiting caffeine
- getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5 days per week
- quitting smoking
- maintaining a healthy weight
- adopting stress management techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing