Aromatherapy–breathing in specific aromas to prompt certain helpful effects–may seem too easy to have any real impact on your mood, pain or health.
But, truth is, numerous studies show that it really can work. That’s because when you take a whiff of a fragrance from essential oils, flowers, herbs or other natural sources, you’re actually inhaling microscopic particles that get absorbed into your bloodstream through your nasal passages–and they then go on to prompt changes in the brain and/or body that have specific beneficial effects.
In a similar way, we’re adding substances and compounds to our bloodstream all the time that affect us, such as in what we eat (say, a sugary doughnut or salty chips), drink (such as caffeine or alcohol) or rub on our skin (for example, ).
Inhaling is just yet another route for chemicals to make their way in and produce an effect.
Cycle scent series
Since I’m a fan of aromatherapy, all throughout this week, I’m going to share my favorite study-backed aromatherapy solutions for common cycle-related issues.
I’ll be covering each menstrual cycle phase including your Week 1 (Day 1, first day of your period, through Day 7), Week 2 (week leading up to and including ovulation), Week 3 (8 days following ovulation) and Week 4 (final 6 days of your cycle).
If you missed any of these tips, you can find them here.
Today we’ll start with menstrual cramps. Yep, you can actually breathe away menstrual cramp pain. Let’s discuss….
K-O cramp pain with a whiff
When you start to feel menstrual cramp pain, you might run for pain pills, a heat patch or another cramp-erasing remedy.
But, you may also want to try inhaling the scent of lavender.
Turns out, breathing in a lavender aroma for a few minutes to up to 30 minutes daily during your period reduces pelvic pain caused by cramping, according to a 2014 study and 2016 study.(1, 2)
Why it works? Aromatic compounds in lavender (such as linalool) curb spasming in the uterus, increase blood flow, lift mood and lower stress–all key for reining in menstrual cramps and reducing sensitivity to pain.
Not a lavender fan? A 2016 study shows that breathing in a rose scent has a similar cramp-easing effect. It may be because rose triggers a surge of endorphins in the brain, which help mask pain, and reduces stress hormones (such as cortisol and noradrenaline), which leads to greater muscle relaxation.(3)
You can reap the benefits of lavender or rose with fresh plants, dried potpourri, essential oil or candles or incense that are scented with natural lavender or rose oils.
You can find them at your local health food stores or online at Amazon.com.
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(1) “Effect of lavender inhalation on the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea and the amount of menstrual bleeding: A randomized clinical trial.”, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, April 22, 2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24731891
(2) “The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on the Pain Severity of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Triple-blind Randomized Clinical Trial”, Annals of Medical & Health Sciences Research, July – August 2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5405632
(3) “Investigating the effect of rose essential oil in patients with primary dysmenorrhea”, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, August, 2016, sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1744388116300330?via%3Dihub