Researchers in Iran recently concluded that massage with aromatherapy eases the symptoms of menopause, and that even without aromatherapy massage offers more relief than doing nothing.
Women undergoing menopause live with some combination of irritability, depression, poor sleep, fatigue, hot flashes, increased perspiration and headaches. While hormone replacement therapy is the most effective way to treat these symptoms, it dramatically increases the risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. Researchers continue to explore alternative methods, trying to find solutions that are both safe and effective.
This study observed 90 women, who were scored from 0 to 44 on such menopause symptoms as irritability, depressed mood and sleep problems, with an average score of 22. After four weeks of massage twice a week, the group receiving massage combined with aromatherapy had an average score of 13; those receiving only massage scored 19; and the control group remained at 22.
The essential oils used with the aromatherapy group were lavender, rose, rosemary, almond and evening primrose. Aromatherapists often use other essential oils to reduce the symptoms of menopause.
Chamomile, clary sage, cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli, rose maroc and sandalwood offer relief for general symptoms of menopause, according toEssential Aromatherapy by Susan Worwood and Valerie Ann Worwood. In addition, bergamot and rose otto may help with depression; marjoram, spikenard and vetiver reduce insomnia; and eucalyptus radiata, fennel, lavender and yuzu relieve hot flashes.
The aroma from combining all of these essential oils would be overwhelming and unpleasant. Massage lotion or oil for menopausal symptoms doesn’t have to contain all of these to be therapeutic. The formulation I use, for example, contains only four essential oils.
The study is flawed by the small size of the research sample and the fact that each group knew what treatment they were receiving. Researchers can’t prevent subjects from knowing if they received massage or aromatherapy.
Even so, the message seems clear: Aromatherapy massage reduces the symptoms of menopause without hormone replacement therapy’s side effects.
Aromatherapy isn’t about pleasant aromas that improve your mood, although that sometimes is an additional benefit. Rather, aromatherapy is about using essential oils from aromatic plants therapeutically, usually through either inhalation or topical application.
Because essential oils are extremely condensed, only a few drops of the appropriate oil are mixed into an oil, cream, or lotion for application. You may already use a cooling lotion that contains eucalyptus oil as an active ingredient to ease muscle aches, a warming lotion that lists cinnamon oil, or a foot cream that has peppermint oil. These products are all available at mainstream retail outlets – hippie dresses and New Age music are not required.
People use several methods for inhalation of essential oils. You can put a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball, place it in a small zipper food storage bag, and inhale the scent as needed for nausea from motion sickness. You also can add a few drops of an essential oil to water in the top of a potpourri warmer, purchase candles scented with essential oils, or use a room scent diffuser.
You even can combine the topical application and inhalation methods. When you’re coughing or congested from a cold, put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the floor of your shower and close the drain. Then inhale the essential oil through the shower steam as you take it in through the thin skin on the arch of your foot.
As with other natural products, essential oil quality varies from brand to brand and sometimes even from harvest to harvest. The government doesn’t regulate or inspect manufacturing and packaging essential oils, allowing more variety in quality and purity. Without regulation, the best tip to buying higher quality and more consistent quality essential oils is to purchase products from companies that have good reputations.
The therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy shouldn’t replace formal medical care or medications. In some situations, aromatherapy coordinates well with medical care; the Cleveland Clinic uses peppermint and ginger to ease nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
But even natural ingredients can interact with over the counter or prescribed medications. Grapefruit, as an example, makes some medications ineffective, so people on those medications should avoid aromatherapy products that include grapefruit oil. Ask your doctor questions and read ingredient lists to be an informed aromatherapy consumer.